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She Has No Head! – Review: Girl Comics #2

Girl Comics #2 (of 3).  Jill Thompson (writer/artist), Colleen Coover (writer/artist), Stephanie Buscema Girl Comics 2 Cover(writer/artist), Faith Erin Hicks (writer/artist). Kathryn Immonen (writer), Abby Denson (writer), Christine Boylan (writer).  Emma Vieceli (artist), Cynthia Martin (artist).  Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist), Cris Peter (colorist), Emily Warren (colorist), June Chung (colorist).  Colleen Doran (pin-up artist), Ramona Fradon, Rebecca Buchman, and June Chung (pin-up artists). Marvel.  48 pages.  $4.99.

So Greg Burgas and I are in almost total agreement on the second issue of Girl Comics – the gist being that it’s still a mixed bag – like any anthology is – but that overall it’s stronger than the first issue.  As a bonus for me (and maybe also Greg?) there were certainly no overt objectifying land mine issues for me to step on like issue one’s ill-conceived She-Hulk pin-up.

Part two of Colleen Coover’s introduction is as beautifully illustrated as the first and seeing it here I think that it’s probably a really nice way to link and anchor the three issues together with some consistency considering the variety of creators, characters, and types and lengths of stories, etc.

The second piece, a sweet, lighthearted, and exceptionally illustrated six-page story “Dogged Pursuit” by Jill Thompson is excellent.  I think Thompson’s piece is the perfect example of a successful short story for an anthology such as this because Thompson doesn’t try to do too much.  Instead she takes basically a one line joke or premise – in this case “Lockjaw the giant teleporting dog doesn’t want to take a bath” and then peppers it with superheroes that fit the story and uses them in creative and fun ways to service the joke or premise.

Thompson’s piece is successful in the same way that Lucy Knisley’s Doc Ock story from GC #1 was successful – the idea was simply “Doc Ock goes shopping”.  Short stories, whether in prose or image – moving or still -  is a tricky balance.  While it’s wonderful to see artists like Thompson and Knisley nailing it here, I kind of hate taking others to task for not quite succeeding when it’s obvious how complicated and nuanced it really is.

GC 2 Dogged Pursuit 1

Jill Thompson's "Dogged Pursuit"

GC 2 Dogged Pursuit 2

Jill Thompson's "Dogged Pursuit"

hellcat 1

Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1 By Kathryn Immonen

Which leads us to the third piece in the collection, “Good To Be Lucky” written by Kathryn Immonen and exceptionally illustrated by Colleen Coover.  The eight-page story tries a little too hard I think and tries to do way too much and in the process loses whatever it was Immonen was trying to say.  But here I think is the time to come clean about my fraught relationship with Immonen’s work.  I think Immonen has a powerful voice that’s full of character – and I suspect that it’s a voice that works well for teens (and tweens) as it feels to me quite young and topical and fresh, but despite the power of her voice I almost always find myself lost from a storytelling point of view.  Immonen’s Hellcat series – which in issue #1 I was absolutely in love with – had confused me so much by the end of issue #2 that I never quite figured out what the hell was going on for the rest of the mini-series.  I had a similar problem with Immonen and Pichelli’s recent Pixie mini-series, except that in that case I had no idea what was going on from page one.  Her work with Pichelli on Runaways seemed a little more contained and clear – maybe the problem is less about Immonen’s writing than about magic as a driving plot device – which both Hellcat and Pixie featured heavily, but Runaways less so?  It’s possible I suppose.  But this short story suggests it’s unlikely, as I find myself a bit lost yet again with no magic present.  It’s strange to me to be so into a writer’s voice and style and yet have to admit a basic lack of understanding when it comes to the actual stories…I don’t recall ever feeling so split about a writer before.

Anyway, “Good To Be Lucky” is helped immensely by Coover’s very clear storytelling style but the story still tries to do way too much in too few pages and as a result all message or purpose seems lost.  The story merges Shamrock (who I worry may be a little too obscure to ask so much pre-knowledge of from the reader), The Invisible Woman, Hellcat, Black Cat, and Black Cat’s niece, Lou – five quite distinct and relatively disconnected characters through Shamrock’s hair salon which is apparently for “supes only”.  I never quite understood the concept of Shamrock’s supes only salon – I’m not sure how superpower equals super hair (unless you’re Medusa) and the eventual solution to the problem of not being able to work on non-powered Lou’s hair – by styling it with super villain glue seems equally as “off” as everything else.  It’s nice of course that “ordinary” Lou saves the day instead of all the heroines surrounding her, but it’s a bummer that she does so by punching the villain, not unlike any of the superheroines might have.  I have no problems with violence as a solution…especially in comics…hell that’s what we’re here for half the time…but it just seemed kind of lazy…like the easy way out.  But maybe I’m missing the point…like I said, there is A LOT going on in these eight pages.

What I will say is that there were several cute and funny moments that worked thanks to both Immonen’s witty dialogue and Coover’s adorable and expressive cartooning.  For example the page below – the panels with Hellcat playing with Lou’s hair – very cute and sold largely thanks to Coover’s excellent facial expression work.

GC 2 Good To Be Lucky 1

Kathryn Immonen and Colleen Coover's "Good To Be Lucky"

Like Greg, I found Stephanie Buscema’s two page “Doom Hearts Sue!” story to be refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable. The premise is simply “Johnny and Ben call Dr. Doom and pretend to be his friend Galactus”…the results are great.  Also like Greg, I too love some “behind the scenes/day in the life of a superhero (or villain)” stories – and like the Knisley Doc Ock piece from issue #1, Buscema takes a villain and shows a softer (and much more hilarious) side.   In addition to the solid idea and sharp writing, Buscema’s cartooning is rather brilliant – bringing more personality to Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm, and Dr. Doom in two pages than I’ve seen in years – if ever.

GC 2 Doom Hearts Sue Panel

Panel from Stephanie Buscema's "Doom Hearts Sue!"

Elsa Bloodstone and I apparently share a mutual and devoted love of sandwiches in “Do You Ever?” a Faith Erin Hick’s piece that has Tabitha (Boom Boom) and Elsa talking about if either had ever considered using their powers for evil, rather than good.

GC 2 Do You Ever 1

Faith Erin Hick's "Do You Ever?"

My only exposure to Hick’s work is her book Zombies Calling, which while fun and I can certainly see the appeal, I never really fell for, in part because the art wasn’t something I responded to.  However here, in full and vibrant color I find her art totally captivating and well-matched for the story she chose to tell.  The cartoony exaggerated style brings real life to the characters (much like Buscema’s does) and I found myself happily enchanted with the story.  Greg is right that Boom Boom (is it Boomer now? I always preferred Boom Boom) comes off as a bit ditsy and dim, but I enjoyed it anyway – especially since it gave me a chance to enjoy awesome panels like this:

GC 2 Boom Boom Is Hilarious

Panel from Faith Erin Hick's "Do You Ever?"

The sixth piece, a two-page story called “Ad Vice” by Abby Densen (writer) and Emma Vieceli (art) falls completely flat.  It’s essentially Mary Jane imagining the “looking for love classified ads” of male superheroes…and while that concept is nice and simple and should work in theory, it’s unfortunately really condescending to female readers in my opinion, not only asking very little of them as readers, but encouraging them to objectify men in the same ways that I think most of us are well-tired of being objectified. If the shoe was on the other foot and this story was done by a man, about a male character imagining female character’s classified ads instead, I would find it pretty offensive and sexist…so I think I have to say that I do find it sexist?  I want stories that are respectful of both genders…not stories that drag male characters into the same horrible situations that I keep angrily finding my female characters in.  Beyond that though, the story just stoops to the laziest of clichés, doesn’t manage to be funny, and says nothing insightful or new about the characters in question.  The art is not the biggest problem of the piece, but it’s overly dark and certainly nothing that can save the story.  Huge miss here, fortunately it’s only two pages.

The last piece, called “Bondeau” by Christine Boylan (writer) and Cynthia Martin (art) is a real downer of a piece overall and a terrible choice to end an otherwise fairly strong collection with.  It’s a strange choice – I was always told (in art school) that you start strong and end strong – burying your weaker pieces in the middle and making sure that you end on a high note.  This is not that high note they should be ending GC2 with.  It’s by far the most dark and humorless of the stories (and when I say dark, I mean both figuratively and literally) and tonally it’s completely out of synch with the rest of the book, which mostly trends light and fun.  The story, a tale about Adria (aka Adria The Witch) finding Dr. Strange (who has apparently been in hiding) and trying to steal his power from him.  Or at least I think that’s what’s happening.   The storytelling is very unclear and the wordy dialogue is mostly used as distraction so that Strange can escape or trick her…or something…things that I’m supposed to be able to understand through the artwork, but can’t.  There’s really nothing I dislike more in comics than badly paced hard to understand visuals…I mean, otherwise I might as well just be reading prose, right?  Additionally, while it’s really only obvious in one panel, Adria’s outfit, a dress with a neckline cut down to her stomach seems like an exceptionally poor (and unnecessary) costume choice.

There are two nice pin-ups in this issue – a powerfully built and serious Valkyrie by Colleen Doran, and a Miss America by Ramona Fradon, Rebecca Buchman, and June Chung  – and they are both are big steps forward from the revealing She-Hulk of last issue.

The three Marvel Women Spotlight pieces – featuring June Tarpe Mills, Ruth Atkinson, and Valerie Barclay were also better this time around – and the piece on Mills was particularly interesting.  However, I did not appreciate Marvel’s attempt to wedge in a last ditch attempt at justifying the ridiculous “Girl Comics” title in Atkinson’s spotlight piece.  Marvel: We’re all well aware that there was a book in the 50’s called Girl Comics – we just continue to question the decision to use a title in 2010, that you used nearly 60 years ago.  Times…they are a changing Marvel…in case you hadn’t noticed, and what may have been relevant and appropriate (maybe!?) in 1950, does not make it so in 2010.

That said, I’m enjoying Girl Comics despite the title, and I hope you’ll (that’s you Marvel) keep many of these talented ladies on for interesting and forward thinking future projects once this one is over.  The only way that Girl Comics can really fail at this point, as far as I’m concerned, is if you send all these ladies packing when this special project ends. So far, at a minimum, I’d say Lucy Knisley, Jill Thompson, Colleen Coover, Faith Erin Hicks, Stephanie Buscema, Emma Rios (who it looks like is doing a Strange series with Mark Waid?), Devin Grayson, and Agnes Garbowska are all writers and artists that I haven’t seen lately with any high profile regularity in the Marvel (or DC) universes, that I would pay good money to read stories from.  Whaddya say Marvel?

Totally unrelated to Girl Comics – but related to She Has No Head! business – if any of you stopped by to read the Ross Campbell Shadoweyes advance review and exclusive preview post last week and wanted to comment but found you couldn’t, I apologize, we had a small technical error (by which I actually mean “user error”)…but the comments are now open if you have anything you’d like to say on that post.  As always – thanks for reading!

21 Comments

[...] May 24, 2010 in art, artists, comic reviews, comics, comics should be good, marvel comics, she has no head! Check out my in depth review of Girl Comics #2 on CSBG’s She Has No Head! [...]

Devin Grayson wrote Nightwing for, apparently, forever (okay, five years). She wrote the infamous “rape of Dick” comic. I’m not sure why she hasn’t gotten more work. I never read much by her when she wrote for DC, but she was a bit polarizing.

@Greg: Yeah, wasn’t Greyson kind of ousted because her Nightwing stuff was largely reviled by fans? I didn’t read it either…but even if it was horrible and even if it was all her idea (doubtful) I don’t see a lot of men getting ousted from comics for doing polarizing stuff that fans hate – from Quesada’s Spider-Man stuff to BMB on a seemingly regular basis…to I don’t know James Robinson and even Geoff Johns to a degree…right? Anyway, I barely know about the Greyson stuff, have just read about it online, so what I know is all pieced together and vague, but if that’s really why she’s not around so much I say she’s definitely eligible for another swing at bat, you know?

Nice review! I also enjoyed the first few stories in this issue.

Good, insightful, review of a diverse group of cartoonists.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 24, 2010 at 12:02 pm

It must be the end of the world, or at least, the sky is falling, if you and Mr. Burgas are almost in total agreement. ;-)

I don’t think CBR reviewers should all be in agreement over the same book.

Where would be the fun in that?

I’ll be honest I just got it for the Boom-Boom/Bloodstone story, but I read the rest was of the comic and it really made my week.

I was disappointed by the first issue of Immonen’s Hellcat, and I thought the second issue was a little worse, but then it just kept getting better. One the whole series was done I was absolutely in love with it. It didn’t matter that the plot made little sense, it was mainly a story about character– Patsy’s unstoppable spirit and psychotic level of bravery, and all the weird characters she met as the story progressed. (And those characters certainly were weird.) So I guess we kind of have opposite views on that story. I haven’t read her Pixie story, though. I wanted to, but I never was able to find the first two issues in either store I’ve been to.

You’re right, super-hair makes absolutely no sense. Maybe it was meant as a joke, since comic-book heroines always have such amazingly perfect hair, even during the fights. I’m more shocked about the Black Cat having a niece. I’ve never heard any indication of her having any siblings.

I can’t see the appeal of Stephanie Buscema’s art. It just looks hideous to me. How is she related to the other Buscemas?

Isn’t Boom Boom supposed to be ditzy?

Even if Shamrock doesn’t know much about styling non-super hair, couldn’t she just do it anyway? She’d probably get lucky, right? Or does her luck not work when Felicia is around? Maybe they cancel each other out.

Emma Rios wrapped up her Strange series with Mark Waid a month or two ago. More recently, she did Firestar with Sean McKeever and contributed to Amazing Spider-Man with a couple of pages (couldn’t tell you exactly how many, don’t read the title). I’d say her stock is rising, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her on higher profile works soon (I mean, appearing in ASM is a pretty big deal, even if it’s just a couple of pages).

I really like her art. And if you haven’t already, you should check out the mini she did over at Boom! called Hexed, which was absolutely gorgeous looking, and it starred a magician teenager called Lucifer (although everyone just called her Lucy). Perhaps for a future column?

Also, I wanted to mention, I’ve gotten the same feeling from Immonen’s writing at times, although repeated readings usually help. There’s a lot she leaves open for the readers to infer and work out, though it’s not always immediately clear at first.

Kathryn Immomen is just terrible……..

Titties, say it with me people, Titties!

@Mary: You’re right – seems like we’re complete opposites when it comes to Immonen – in that case I highly recommend Pixie when it shows up in trades as I never understood any of it but the dialogue was sharp and the art is pretty great (by Sara Pichelli).

Stephanie Buscema is John Buscema’s granddaughter.

I haven’t read Boom Boom in years, but yeah, back then she was ditsy. But back then my standards weren’t as high ;) That said, I thought it worked.

Shamrock’s power actually has nothing to do with luck, but appears to others as luck. Her actual power is to be a vessel for displaced souls that died as innocent victims of war. The spirits manifest for a second or two, and tend to cause the appearance of good luck for her and bad luck for those she opposes (or according to wikipedia, those withing a 20 foot radius of her).

@Matt: Thanks for the Strange series info. I did read (and sadly hated) Firestar. You can see the review here:

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/04/26/she-has-no-head-superheroine-trifecta/

But I did think her art on the title was pretty great…unfortunately I’d call one-shots the definition of NO regularity. Get these ladies on a series I say! I have Hexed on my to read list already, but thanks for the recommend.

I’m glad to hear I’m not wholly alone on the Immonen thing. I hope it’s not true of her upcoming Heralds seres though, as that’s the most excited I’ve been for a title in a looooong time – a massive cast of awesome females, a women writer, and art by Tonci Zonjic, whose style I adore…that’s gotta be like a birthday present specifically for me, right?!

I enjoyed Immonen’s Runaways. The only real problem was that Marvel cut it off at the knees for reasons unexplained and inexplicable.

@Michael P: Yeah, I had less trouble following Immonen’s Runaways.

I’m with you on the Hellcat miniseries. Extremely promising first issue, then further & further off the rails with each succeeding installment, to the point of very nearly approaching trainwreck status. Oh, well.

[...] and speaking of Marvel purchases, non-spite category, I entirely agree with this review of the second issue of Girl Comics, particularly for the nice things said about the contributions by Faith Erin Hicks and Colleen [...]

I really enjoyed the story by Erin Faith Hicks. Her art is so vibrant and alive.

Three quick points and an overall impression.

The impression is pretty much the same one you came up with, Kelly. I liked this issue a bit more than the first, and I think I actually liked the first more than you in the first place. So positive there.

First, I found the Immonen piece the most straightforward. It’s a simple ‘everyone has talents’ empowerment thing. Kid feels overshadowed, heroines accidentally make it worse, then she gets a moment to shine and realises she’s not that different after all. Maybe framing it from Shamrock’s POV gave the expectation that the story was directly about her? I do tend to feel the same way about Immonen’s writing, but then, i feel the same about a fair bit of Morrison’s work too. In fact, the back half of the Hellcat mini felt a lot like parts of Seven Soldiers. Like, I’m sure it makes sense to them, but they kinda skipped explaining it, because that’d be boring.

Second, the Strange story was my favourite. Maybe because it follows on from the Waid/Rios mini so strongly. The idea of a powerless Strange using wits, sleight of hand and guile to defeat an opponent who’s taunting him with his own isolation and failure worked very well for me, especially off the back of that mini’s ending.

Third, the MJ story wasn’t terribly heavy, but it worked for me more than the Doom one. I don’t see how acknowledging that straight women also have a sex drive is sexist. The actual ads were clearly done as tongue-in-cheek summaries of the characters in question, and I’m not so naive as to assume that we men are the only side of the species who derive some enjoyment from admiring the opposite sex. Acting like that’s the only purpose of the other gender is sexist, but denying sexuality entirely is absurd.

@Greg: Yeah, wasn’t Greyson kind of ousted because her Nightwing stuff was largely reviled by fans? I didn’t read it either…but even if it was horrible and even if it was all her idea (doubtful) I don’t see a lot of men getting ousted from comics for doing polarizing stuff that fans hate – from Quesada’s Spider-Man stuff to BMB on a seemingly regular basis…to I don’t know James Robinson and even Geoff Johns to a degree…right?

I can think of a few…Chuck Austen, Ron Zimmerman, Howard Mackie…

I have to agree on Immonen. I bought her Runaways and Pixie because I love her character moments, but I had trouble following the actual plots.

Because I am obviously insane, I have given what is perhaps the most exhaustive and intensive review of this comic – most specifically the final story of the issue – Dr. Strange in “Rondeau”.

Check it out, but you might want to break it into smaller reads. It’s a LONG one – with more info, background history of the character, Adria, and a deep look into the nature of the music that forms the structural background for the piece.

Heck, I even give you the audio for the musical work by Bach that Strange was to be playing in the story.

THAT’s just how crazy I am..
Check it out; HERE:

http://sanctumsanctorumcomix.blogspot.com/2010/05/girl-comics-issue-2-intense-review-of.html

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