Thursday, July 03, 2014

Meanwhile...

Guys, you're not going to believe this, but this week? I read some comic books. And then I wrote about them. It's true!

I reviewed the latest volume in Fantagraphics' Carl Barks Library (i.e. the greatest and most noble venture humanity has going at this point), Walt Disney's Donald Duck: The Trail of the Unicorn, for Good Comics For Kids.

I wrote about the craziest story in the SpongeBob Comics Annual-Sized Super Swimtacular #2 for Comics Alliance; all the stories in that are good, but while one might expect all the Mermaid Man jokes and riffs on DC and Marvel characters, who would have predicted a Fletcher Hanks/Stardust send-up by Paul Karasik and R. Sikoryak...?

I reviewed Dark Horse's upcoming collection of The Star Wars, J. W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew's excellent adaptation of an early draft of George Lucas' script for Star Wars, for Las Vegas Weekly. That book is pretty bonkers, but in the best way possible. I don't think it would read like much at all if experienced in a vacuum, other than being very attractively illustrated space fantasy, as all the more Shakespearean/Greek tragedy stuff regarding the fact that a handful of characters turn out to be secretly related, for example, is absent. But who can really read that book in a vacuum? It's amazing to see how the Wookies were Ewoks who learned to fly spaceships over night, or to hear R2-D2 speaking English instead of blooping and beeping, and, most especially, to see the part of Han Solo played not by Harrison Ford, but by Dick Durock...in his Swamp Thing make-up.

And, finally, I reviewed a handful of June-released graphic novels that I didn't get a chance to review elsewhere this past month at Robot 6 today: Amazing X-Men Vol. 1: The Quest For Nightcrawler (good), Batman and Robin Vol. 4: Requiem for Damien (good), Batman—Detective Comics Vol. 4: The Wrath (very bad), Dog Butts and Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats. (very good) and Injustice: Gods Among Us Vol. 2 (more bad than good).

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I've never understood the aversion to the word "feminist" in certain circles, mostly media or political circles. All the word means is someone who believes in and/or advocates for equal rights between men and women, and I can't even imagine how one can find negative connotation to attach to the world. Not without being, I don't know, a time-traveling man from the 19th century whose steam-powered time machine broke down.

David Finch, the artist replacing Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman, stumbled over the word the other day, saying that he didn't want to call Wonder Woman a feminist. I may or may not have engaged on a mini-twitter rant no one read about this, but Wonder Woman is not, at least not as originally conceived, a feminist. She's the opposite of a feminist. She believes (or believed, really) that women and their ways were superior to men, and that women needed to dominate men in order to transform the world to a better place.

That was the original, Golden Age, pure, unadulterated, awesome Wonder Woman of her creators, though. Over the decades, she's softened into more of a traditional feminist, which, remember, basically just means "not a weird misogynistic asshole."

Janelle Asselin wrote a really great article on the subject of Wonder Woman and feminism and Finch's ill-considered comments at Comics Alliance yesterday. You guys should all read it. I wish I would have wrote that instead of this. (I've only read a few snippets of the Finch and Finch interview and defensive tweets, but I was alarmed that if he was reluctant to use the word "feminist," it meant he hadn't read the original stories. I'm really looking forward to Grant Morrison's original graphic novel, as he has one of the better track records of adapting Golden Age stories and concepts into modern story-telling modes).

Over at Robot 6, Tom Bondurant takes a very through look at the history of Wonder Woman creative teams, and comes up with some interesting points I hadn't considered, including the fact that while Batman and Superman's formative decade was the result of many hands in several different media, Wonder Woman was the work of a single creative team with almost no outside influence.

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This is neither here nor there, but over the past few nights I read the first three volumes of the Johnathan Hickman-written Avengers book.

I really liked it. It read like intellectual superhero comics to me, and in a very self-conscious way, as if Hickman sat down and said to himself, "Now to write some intellectual superhero comics." I also like how big and weird it is, with a huge roster full of some of the last characters one might expect to stock an Avengers line-up with.

It's sort of unfortunate he doesn't really have an artistic partner, though. The art team changes every few issues: Jerome Opena draws three issues then disappears, Adam Kubert draws the next three and then he disappears, Dustin Weaver draws three and he's out, Mike Deodato lasts four, and then Stefano Caselli takes over. I see the next issue, which wasn't in those collections, was by Leinil Francis Yu, so that means there were a half-dozen artists on the first 18 issues...? That's no good.

What struck me as really weird about the book though was the fact that I've also read the first few volumes of Uncanny Avengers. That book is about Captain America assembling a special Avengers squad that consists of traditional Avengers and mutant heroes pulled from the ranks of the X-Men (Wolverine, Rogue, Sunfire and Havoc), to help heal the divide between humanity and mutantity after the events of Avengers Vs. X-Men. This is "The Avengers Unity Division."

The line-up of Avengers in Avengers also includes a couple of mutant heroes associated with the X-Men rather than the Avengers:sup Sunspot and Cannonball. It's not entirely clear what they're doing on the team, as they haven't done much beyond supply much-needed comedy relief.

I have a hard time reconciling the two line-ups though. Why do some mutant superheroes who used to be X-Men appear in the "Unity Division" of Uncanny and not in the adjective-less Avengers line-up, while some who are on the adjective-less Avengers line-up not also take part in the "Unity Division"...? (Captain America, Thor and Wolverine, it's worth noting, are on both teams).

This was underscored a couple of times in Avengers, particularly in the third volume, when the huge and massively powerful (I think this is the biggest and most powerful Avengers line-up ever assembled, isn't it?) needs to call in reinforcements and, near its climax, Captain Universe/The Universe tells them they need to get bigger and more powerful, and they consider recruiting powerhouses they were fighting against for the fate of the earth just a few issues previously and not, like, calling up Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, Rogue and the rest of the Unity Division.

If like a third of the Unity Division wasn't in both books, and if a major plot point didn't involve the Avengers in Avengers fretting over the need for more Avengers among their ranks, I probably wouldn't have even noticed, but it sort of nagged at me while reading that last volume.

1 comment:

Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

I think the aversion to the word "feminist" comes from certain negative stereotypes about feminists and feminist thought that have propagated through popular culture over the last few decades. In particular there has been a tendency to define feminist as "someone who believes in certain extremely controversial ideas held by scholars in the Gender Studies departments of academia" instead of "someone who believes men and women should be equal."

I have no trouble calling myself a feminist, as I believe most of these negative stereotypes are untrue or exaggerated. But I can understand how someone who believed in these stereotypes, or thought that a large part of their audience did, would be hesitant to call themselves a feminist.