Monday, 11 April 2011

Girl Comics

Girl Comics- By Various

Recently it occurred to Marvel Comics that they are somewhat of a sausage-fest, the vast majority of their writers and artists, including all of their big names, are men. The same can be said of Marvel’s characters, one only needs to look at the current Avengers line-up and its single female member to see that women aren’t that well represented by the company. With the 30th anniversary of the first appearance of She-Hulk, Marvel’s most consistently successful and popular heroine, Marvel decided to celebrate in style with the ‘Women of Marvel’ banner, putting the spotlight on its sadly overlooked creators and characters. At the heart of this idea would be a three issue miniseries made up of over a dozen (18 to be exact) short stories by a variety of female writers and artists, Girl Comics.

Girl Comics. They called it Girl Comics. Really.

Seriously, that might well be the worst name for a comic I’ve ever come across. For one thing it implies that all other comics are by extension ‘boy comics’, which surely is the exact opposite of what Marvel has tried to achieve with this project. Name related nit picking aside how does the series hold up?

Inevitably with a wide collection of different stories by different people Girl Comics is a mixed bag, some stories are good and some aren’t, but none of them are terrible. In all I’d have to say Girl Comics is definitely a success and shows that the women of the industry really know what they’re doing and need to be given more chances to shine.

Because I can’t write about every single story in each issue I’ll talk about my favourites and the ones that didn’t work as well.

The series starts out rather disappointingly with two less than stellar opening stories. The first, a story about Nightcrawler (one of the few male protagonists of this collection), is just sort of there without leaving any real impression and the following story about Venus has an art-style that I dislike and a rather vapid and uninteresting plot.

Ironically the following story that kept me reading is about that most masculine of characters, the Punisher, a man who spend his time mowing down criminals with his big throbbing gun. I’ll admit right off the bat that I’m a sucker for a good Punisher story and ‘A Brief Rendezvous’ ticks all the right boxes, solid art with a darkly funny and memorable story make this a stand-out story well worth reading.

The second issue is for the most part a very light-hearted and borderline ‘cartoony’ affair, and it makes for a nice light read, none of the stories are hugely memorable but they’re all entertaining and nicely drawn enough to make reading them a very pleasant experience. The final story of the issue starring Dr. Strange is notable darker and was actually a quite jarring tonal shift when I originally read the issue. However the story works better now it has been collected with all three issues as it paves the way for several dark stories in the third issue.

Overall the third issue is by far my favourite of the three, mostly because of the presence of two different but similar stories featuring everyone’s favourite over exposed Canadian (no, not Deadpool) Wolverine! You might be rolling your eyes reading that but bear with me here, the two stories deal with Wolverine’s relationship with his two young protégés, Jubilee and Kitty Pride.

The Jubilee story is probably my favourite of the entire series, despite the fact that I’ve never been a fan of her as a character. The story basically showcases what she is up to these days, having been depowered on M-Day, and having a heart-to-heart with Wolverine. From that simple set up comes not only a scene between the two so touching it can un-ironically be called adorable but it gives me a new respect for the character to see her continuing to fight the good fight despite no longer being a mutant and feeling like an outsider amongst her former teammates.

The Kitty Pride story is less emotional in favour of a lighter tone, telling the story of Wolverine taking Kitty out for her first drink on her twenty-first birthday. From there inevitable drunken shenanigans ensue and although it lacks the sheer heart of Jubilee’s tale we still get a good sense of the genuine love between the two characters. Although many jibes have been made in the past about the fact that Wolverine seems to be overly fond of spending his time with young/underage girls (Ultimate universe Wolverine really was overly fond of teenage girls, attempting to sleep with 15 year old Mary-Jane during his brief stint in Peter Parker’s body during a body-swapping story), these two stories both show the side of Wolverine we don’t get to see that often what with all the Bubs Wolverine is too busy Snickting, the father figure that truly cares for his young friends.

The book also features several full page pin-ups of various Marvel women by various artists and they are for the most part solid. Unfortunately the first of them, a She-Hulk picture, irks me. It’s definitely well drawn and the presence of a jump-rope harkens way back to THAT page from Sensational She-Hulk #40 (look it up) the fact that it’s essentially and almost nude She-Hulk posing suggestively reeks of unnecessary fan service and diminishes the book as a whole. It’s rather ironic that it’s the She-Hulk picture that does this since it was She-Hulk’s anniversary that led to this series’ creation. It’s also odd that there wasn’t a single She-Hulk story in this series, yet we got three Wolverine stories and a Punisher one. Huh.

To get to the point, despite the odd stumble and a terrible name Girl Comics is a solid collection that does what it set out to do, give Marvel’s female writers and artists to show off what they are capable of and I give it a solid recommendation. It isn’t anything you need to read but it’s well worth a look.


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