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Girl Fights: Three Female Superhero Comics Reviewed

Hey, a theme! I’m not letting that get away! Especially since I have never before bought (and may never again buy) three superhero comics starring two women, a woman who calls herself a girl, and a faceless zen Latina in the same week. Have to take advantage of that sort of thing.

Detective Comics #857- I wish I liked this more. You’re certainly not going to get a comic that looks better than this too often, especially not from DC. Williams’s work really ought to be enough to earn my $3.99. And it’s not like Rucka’s story is bad; it works perfectly well. It hits all its beats, there some characterization, a twist or two. What you’d expect from Rucka and no less.

But that’s the problem. It’s a perfectly acceptable superhero comic with spectacularly gorgeous packaging. I normally hate this criticism, but if anyone but Williams drew this, it would just be another comic. And for once, the Question back up (which, in a hypothetical world of no Williams on the main series, would be the draw for me) didn’t do much for me, either. If not for the fact that I don’t want to buy a trade to read each story that I’m moderately interested in (but still don’t want to miss out on), I could easily see dropping this.

That said, I feel like a jerk for whining about this well made comic. You don’t get many of those ever, so I hate to mildly prod it because it does not live up to my expectations/features too much Batwoman in a Batwoman story. I wish I could gush about this like I could Slott’s She Hulk. So I’ll move on to another comic. Maybe that will lead to a fresh opinion.

Power Girl #5- Aw crap, I feel the same way about this thing! I liked the last issue a lot, and certainly this one was about as good. The art’s exceptional, the story’s okay but nothing I feel I have to read, and hey, no rape, zombies, or angst! That said, I could really take or leave this. I was the same way about Blue Beetle, really. This is the kind of comic I buy off the rack at the LCS for a couple months and then drop when I lose interest or need room in my budget for more or less comics.

Still, it’s pleasant superhero comics with a strong female lead, and if that’s all you’re looking for, have at it. But on that front, it’s certainly no Dan Slott She Hulk (even if Palmiotti and Grey’s set up is pretty close, without the awesome supporting cast). So hey, it’s much better than I expected a Power Girl ongoing to be, but without Amanda Conner, I’d never give it another look. It’s slight, which is no bad thing, I just don’t need another lighthearted superhero book. I’m okay on those. That said, I do hope someone gives Conner an award for “Best Depiction of Cats In A Female Superman Derivative Comic Published By DC.” Between this and Supergirl in Wednesday Comics, she totally deserves it.

Spider Woman #1- I went in to this with the lowest expectations of the three comics, because I find Bendis hit and miss, and count his Daredevil run with this book’s artist, Alex Maleev, as one of his misses. (Or, at least, I was as fond of it as I was of the Flash in Wednesday Comics; I can see why people love it, and think it’s solid, I’m just not crazy about it). I bought it because it was a new number one and I do have a little fondness for the character.

So, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t my favorite of the three. Of course, expectations influenced this a lot, and I’m not saying it’s any better than ‘Tec. It’s certainly not as spirited as PG, either. The plot sees Jessica Drew (understandably) at rock bottom following Secret Invasion, with the requisite world weariness and self loathing involved in that. So, the fun comics coalition can go ahead and sit this one out, I’m thinking. Since they were waiting for me to tell them that they wouldn’t like a Bendis comic.

While it reminds me of Alias a bit, this does not look like it’s shaping up to be another Bendis street level noir tinged story (which I happen to think is his milieu, as my favorite Bendis comics fit that bill). Well, okay, it is tinged with noir. Jessica is hanging out in a seedy place. But that place happens to be Madripoor, home to such realistic characters as Razorfist and Sapphire Styx, vampire bar skank.* Given all the sci fi and Skrull imposters in this one, it seems like it’s going to be a balance between Bendis’s wheelhouse a sci-fi/superhero/espionage comic that someone like Matt Fraction or Warren Ellis would be more ideal for.

Still, I liked this enough to at least consider getting the trade, if not keep buying it in single issues (the $4 will probably force my hand on that decision, although I’ve noticed trades are not as cumulatively cheaper than singles than they used to be). The setup is interesting; SWORD gives Drew a chance to tie up the loose ends of the Skrull Invasion and other alien incursions on Earth on her off time from the Avengers. Seems like there’s legs there, which is nice; this could last for a while and have a purpose beyond “Bendis really liked this character when he was 12.”

You’ve also got a fine team in Bendis and Maleev here. While I was pretty underwhelmed by their DD, I’m not contending that they aren’t one of the better creative partnerships in mainstream comics. They’re not on a Brubaker/Phillips or Morrison/Quitely level, at least in my pantheon of great modern comics duos, but they’re not too far off either. I mean, they’re no Slott and Bobillo on She Hulk, but they’ll do.

In summary, of these three solid comics featuring female protagonists, I liked Spider Woman the best, but I like none of them as much as Dan Slott’s She Hulk, my gold standard for female superheroes (because it is the only run of its kind I own). That it took me over 1,000 words to say that is a portent of bad omens, I think. You may want to find a bomb shelter.

36 Comments

FWIW: I say don’t apologize for Detective Comics.

I bought the first two issues, and Williams’ art IS outstanding. A leap from even his previous, extraordinary, work. (Though I also feel like Dave Stewart’s coloring must deserve at least some of the praise; but in any event, the result is beautiful.)

But the story? What was the point? The events of these two issues would have taken up, like, three pages in a golden age comic, maybe several in a silver age. And what little did happen wasn’t even particularly interesting. I couldn’t think of buying a third issue of the series, no matter how gorgeous the pictures are.

And by all means, if people are enjoying it, I make no suggestion that they are “wrong.” But I don’t think those who have been disappointed need to be shy about saying so.

Apparently, your opinion of the Slott/Bobillo SHE-HULK is at least as high as my own, which is saying something.

Only SPIDER-WOMAN I’ve ever really paid attention to is the Luna Brothers’ mini-series a few years ago expanding on the origin.

POWER GIRL I’d still be buying without Conner’s art — the character is one of my favorites, period — but I probably wouldn’t be loving it.

I’m on the oposite end when it comes to Bendis: I generally dislike his stuff but I love his Daredevil run. It’s decompressed as hell but unlike the rest of Bendis’ superhero work, I think the slow pace benefits the story.

(Why did so many people seem to hate Bobillo’s art on SHE-HULK? Were they all insane? Or were you & me the insane ones?)

(Ack! “you & ME”)

(I meant “you & IIIIIIII”)

(Oh my god, I AM insane! Which means I’m starting to worry about you as well!)

Your writing style really improved with this piece. Usually it has this forced quality where it’s trying too hard to be too cool for school and create an air of easy-breezy barely interested hip detachment. This one was a lot more straightforward and earnest and as a result I was able to get into it better. It felt more sincere somehow.

The mood is definitely more … subdued.

I liked the old Brad Curran too, though.

Whatever happened to that guy?

T. stands for teacher. And now T. has given Brad a Gold Star.

Spider-Woman is a $2.99 book; #1 is the only issue that will be $3.99.

Also, your She-Hulk love is disturbing, heh.

I liked the old Brad Curran too, though.

Whatever happened to that guy?

For me the old Brad Curran had the problem of trying so hard to be clever that he’d barely discuss the book with any real depth, just a passing review, almost like an afterthought. When it was all said and done, I didn’t feel like I knew much more about the book than I did before reading the review, and still had no idea about whether or not I wanted to try it. With this one though, I actually have an idea of what I want to try or not try and why. I actually got some good insight on the pros and cons of what was reviewed.

But that place happens to be Madripoor, home to such realistic characters as Razorfist and Sapphire Styx, vampire bar skank.*

There is an asterisk but no footnote.

What’s the deal?

I have tried SO HARD to like Greg Rucka’s writing, but to no avail. It’s not even something like Geoff Johns, where I can pick specific things I dislike. Rucka is structurally competent. He knows how to set up a mystery so that the reveals aren’t obvious…he…uhh…his dialogue doesn’t offend me?

That’s it – it’s that his work displays no personality. It doesn’t SAY anything. And that becomes more glaring when you pair him with an artist like JH Williams – an artist who seems especially equipped to handle artists who have Something To Convey (with Moore on Promethea, Morrison on Batman and Seven Soldiers, Ellis on Desolation Jones). It seems a waste to have Williams on a book where a less…intricate?…artist would do the job just fine.

And I’m not going to pick an artist, because I don’t mean that as a slight. It’s just – LOOK at Williams’ art – don’t you wish EVERYTHING looked like that? Not in comics, in REALITY ITSELF.

Err…”writers who have Something to Convey.” Fingers moving faster than brain. Move along.

Random Power Girl question… Is that cat the same cat that has been around since the Justice League Europe days? And didn’t it have some odd secret or something?

William’s name on a book definitely means I’ll be buying it. Even if the story is merely “competent.”

Spider-Woman IS going to be $2.99? Maybe I will buy it, then. (I can’t afford any more $3.99 books, at least not on a regular basis.)
I’ve never read the Slott She-Hulks. I flipped through a couple of his last ones at the bookstore (can’t do that at the comic book store near here, but you can at the regular bookstore, but they don’t have much of a selection), and it seemed like a confusing mess trying too hard to be silly. Maybe you had to read several issues to get into it. (I do like some of Slott’s Spider-Man stuff, so I know he can be good.) Am I the only one who liked Peter David’s She-Hulk? I thought it was pretty good, but then it got cancelled, which seems to happen to Peter David books I like. (Such as Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man.) I still haven’t got into his X-Factor much, though. If I do, though, they’ll probably cancel it.

What a surprise. The Marvel book turns out to be his favourite.

Mary:
I’m in the same boat as you concerning Slott’s and David’s She-Hulk. Only read one or two of them, didn’t catch my interest, but then Peter David started on it and I really liked it, but it got panned for not being the same as Slott’s She-Hulk.

“It’s a perfectly acceptable superhero comic with spectacularly gorgeous packaging.”

I think this sums up a lot of today’s comics in general. There’s lots of stuff that I like for the art. And without that, or had they been done by lesser artists, would’ve just been not as good. I mean, had Quitely done Batman RIP, it would’ve been regarded as a Modern Masterpiece, as opposed to what it was with Tony Daniel, which seems to be perceived as Well Intentioned Misfire.

“I can see why people love it, and think it’s solid, I’m just not crazy about it”

Maybe this is why a lot of modern comic writers just do nothing for me. I really want to like people like Fraction, Rucka, and Brubaker, but…it all depends on how much I like the art these days, to be honest.

“Bendis really liked this character when he was 12.”

Doesn’t that apply to much of Bendis’ work at Marvel?

“then Peter David started on it and I really liked it, but it got panned for not being the same as Slott’s She-Hulk.”

I personally liked David’s She-Hulk more. Not saying I didn’t like Slott’s run, just that I like David’s more.

Juan Bobillo’s art on Dan Slott’s She-Hulk, was, for me, an acquired taste. I did not like it, but as the series went on, it grew on me.

Peter David on She-Hulk turned me off almost immediately. Perhaps if his mission statement, literally given in the first issue, wasn’t “I’m going to walk away from everything that made this book work, because I’m intimidated by how well Slott did it and my ablity to match that,” it would have gone better for me. And I went into it excited, because Peter David on a Hulk book! That’s one of my favorite runs of anything ever, one of the few things I own that I won’t just snag a couple issues of, or, at least, when I do go for just a couple issues, I still seem to wind up reading the whole 13(?) year run!

And Gary just proved my point. Peter David got slammed for his work on She-Hulk, because it wasn’t like Slott’s. Apparently because he was “intimidated” or some such nonsense.

That asterisk was going to be something about “Save The Tiger” from Marvel Comics Presents that I just finished reading. I was going to cover my ass and say that maybe Madripoor is less ridiculous now than when Chris Claremont was running it.

“What a surprise. The Marvel book turns out to be his favourite.”

Well, I am more of a Marvel guy. I’m sorry if my bias ruins the objectivity a reviewer is supposed to have when sharing their opinion. Really, they were all pretty much the same comic with different characters, except Power Girl has no pretension.

Also, I will display T.’s gold star proudly.

“And Gary just proved my point. Peter David got slammed for his work on She-Hulk, because it wasn’t like Slott’s. Apparently because he was “intimidated” or some such nonsense.”

Yeah, I ignored David’s She Hulk because it wasn’t Slott’s, so it wasn’t what I was looking for in my Shulkie comics. Well, that and PAD isn’t my favorite writer ever.

Bobillo’s art on She-Hulk had real personality. It didn’t have 80 million lines per square inch, though, which may be why some people didn’t like it. I think many super-hero comic book readers still look for art with more detail and/or faux-realism. Jim Lee’s art sells books. Alex Ross’s art sells books. The art of Cameron Stewart, Brian Hurtt, Juan Bobillo, Rick Burchett, and other “cartoony” artists don’t usually have the same effect (exceptions include Ed McGuiness and Joe Madueira).

“FWIW: I say don’t apologize for Detective Comics.”

I say don’t waste your money on mediocre comics. You’re only encouraging DC and Marvel to continue publishing them.

“Usually it has this forced quality where it’s trying too hard to be too cool for school and create an air of easy-breezy barely interested hip detachment.”

Also, I really have to say that I find it flattering that anyone thinks I’m trying to do anything in my blogging, as I’ve always felt my internet writing career was defined by a lack of effort.

“But since then, there’s been something about She-Hulk that prompted creators to haul out their Indelible Stamp from their desk drawer (along with their Indelible Stamp Pad) and imprint an unmistakable… and, more to the point, inimitable… brand of storytelling all over the pages of her book.”

“Dan’s savvy sense of storytelling, his clever manipulation of the legal system that would have done F. Lee Bailey proud (…), and his frankly frightening detailed knowledge of Marvel continuity, created a body of work so comprehensively brilliant that, if I tried to write stories in the same vein, I would fail spectacularly. Best-case scenario: They’d read like watered down Dan Slott stories. Come to think of it, that’s the worst-case scenario as well.

So over the next months, we’ll be charting new directions, new avenues, and new adventures of Jen Walters. This isn’t to say that we won’t see some of the memorable supporting cast members from Dan’s run, or we won’t follow up on some of the plotlines Dan left dangling. We probably will, once I’ve got my feet more solidly planted.”

It’s written by Peter David, at the back of She-Hulk #22, his first issue on the title. It’s not like I made up the literal mission statement – it’s there, in the first sentence of the last paragraph. It’s not like I made up intimidated by, either. This was being written by a man who could break out every last thing that ever happened to the Hulk and show you a new angle on it (usually, the Hulk’s offended angle) that you’d never seen before, praising some other man’s continuity knowledge. The man who made a book that (I always thought, I didn’t read it much before he showed up, I admit) was about a green monster smashing things into an intense psychological research of the character. The man who decided that Rick Jones should be one of the most delightful meta-commentary characters ever without actually breaking the fourth wall until the end of his run on Captain Marvel. He’s not going to try to tell superhuman law thrillers because he knows or thinks he can’t do it as well as Dan Slott did.

So Peter David took the book in a new direction, and one that I didn’t care for. I gave it 4 issues, and most new creative teams on books I like only get 3. Maybe he turned it around. Maybe he started knocking it out of the park. I don’t know. But he took what I wanted She-Hulk for – light-hearted, goofy fun that arises from taking a kind of serious look at an aspect of the Marvel Universe – and stopped doing it. So I stopped buying it.

You didn’t think I’d made up my stuff about the “literal mission statement”, did you, Joe?

Gary, Joe didn’t say you made anything up. He just pointed out that you proved his point that people apparently didn’t like David’s Shulk because it wasn’t like Slott’s, which is unfair.

I enjoyed what I read of both runs. They were very different (art- and story-wise) so I find it difficult to compare them. Regardless, I think David did the right thing going his own way, rather than giving people “watered down Dan Slott stories”.

Morrison obviously wouldn’t do a Justice Leage like Giffen and JMDM, because he wouldn’t do it as well. But they couldn’t do what he did as well as he did. oth are good runs though.

“Also, I really have to say that I find it flattering that anyone thinks I’m trying to do anything in my blogging, as I’ve always felt my internet writing career was defined by a lack of effort.”

Correctly so, Brad. But I agree with T that these were better reviews than you’ve done in the past. And hey, you’ve got good taste in comics, so I’m always happy to hear your thoughts.

That said, my recent issues of ‘Tec have just been piling up waiting to be read. I’ve only read Rucka and Williams’s first issue, and it really didn’t grab me. I haven’t even flipped through the last one to look at JHW3’s pretty pictures. Maybe that means it’s time for me to drop this one and hope Williams gets a cool new assignment soon.

I was among those who dropped SHE-HULK a couple of issues into Peter David’s run because I wasn’t at all enamoured of the shift in direction. About 5 issues later I decided to check it out again & liked what I read, so I picked up the ishes I’d skipped at used prices, & back it went on my pull list …

Still, I vastly prefer Slott’s run. So it goes.

Count me in on the Dan Slott Shulkie.

I stayed on with Peter David’s run right to the end, but I felt it was really just a “roadtrip” story that didn’t really go anywhere…

I am enjoying both PowerGirl (who I love as a character anyway) and Detective Comics (which for a “Banner” comic is actually really pushing some new styles).

Spider-Woman? No. sorry. Just doesn’t get my attention. Even the Luna Bros mini couldn’t get me to enjoy the character…

“Gary, Joe didn’t say you made anything up.”

I suppose I took issue with the “intimidated” in quotes coupled with the statement “or some such nonsense.” Though “intimidated” was a direct quote from my post, coupling it with “some such nonsense” seemed to say that I was off in left field, postulating nonexistent reasons that Peter David would take such a different tack from Slott when I in fact drew it quite reasonably from David’s own letter to the readers.

I think it is interesting that the assumption is that everything “good” about ‘Tec is attributable to JHWIII. His work is amazing and deserving of praise, no doubt – but as a collaboration, why this mass determination that Rucka is only responsible for the plot beats and the dialogue? Isn’t it possible that the writer has input on some of the layouts, or the decision to depict the lead character in different art styles depending on setting, or any of the other things that are being touted as examples of Williams’ brilliance by the comics webosphere?

Eh, John Parker makes a more complete case for what I’m saying here: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2009/08/24/superheroes-and-sex-the-art-and-innuendo-of-batwoman/

As I guess is obvious, I dig the whole run to date a lot.

Even if that’s the case, he’s still majorly dropping the ball on writing an interesting story, emotionally connecting characters, or entrancing dialogue.

And all that’s enough to make the comic boring, despite the excellent artwork. I found myself skimming past the layouts and style changes because the story was dragging.

I dropped the book.

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