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She Has No Head! – Review: Heralds #1

Heralds #1 (of 5).  Kathryn Immonen (writer).  Tonci Zonjic (art).  Nathan Fairbairn (colors).  Jelena Heralds 1 CoverDjurdjevic (cover).  Marvel. 32 pages.  $2.99.

I have been excited for this book for months.

Tonci Zonjic’s art plus Kathryn Immonen writing, plus Emma Frost, plus She-Hulk, plus Monica Rambeau, plus Hellcat, plus Valkyrie, plus Abigail Brand in a weekly five-issue mini-series?

What could go wrong?

For once, absolutely nothing.

This book was unabashedly fun, never taking itself too seriously while still managing to present characters with accurate and compelling voices and a storyline that definitely seems to be going somewhere.

The book starts out with Emma Frost having a birthday – we don’t know which one – which seems very Emma to me – but she’s super grouchy about it – which also feels very Emma to me.  Emma is feeling old and confesses it to Scott Summers (and all of us readers), and while on the surface there’s nothing revolutionary about that, the reality is that it’s a kind of real life honesty and reveal that I don’t often see in comics.  And it makes a character like Emma instantly more relatable…because finally badass superpowered Emma Frost, she of the perfect plastic surgery’d bod and expensive tastes and bank account to match, seems more human to me than ever.  I feel old too Emma…and my birthday is also this month…let’s drink champagne and sulk together.

It’s a really small moment, this intimate scene between Emma and Scott…but it’s the kind of conversation that not only peels away yet another interesting layer of Emma Frost but it’s also a nice peek into Emma and Scott’s relationship behind closed doors.

These few pages with Emma and Scott set the tone and style of this book to me perfectly.  And when Scott opens up a door to reveal superheroines that Emma barely knows (thus fulfilling his promise to keep her birthday private from anyone she “really knows”) wearing mustaches and yelling surprise…well, you just know you were right and that you’re going to have a great time reading this book.

Heralds 1

Heralds 2

Heralds 3

Heralds 6

You can also read a longer preview of issue #1 on CBR here.

In addition to the solution to Emma’s “non-friend party” making Scott look clever with a rather dark sense of humor, it’s a smart way for Immonen to pull together a dream team of sorts without having to wrench in unbelievable back story as to how these ladies are all best pals.  They’re not, they’re colleagues at best and it immediately gives the story a sense of fun…not to mention a sharp but likely accurate comment on Emma’s state of girlfriends (I’m guessing they’re not lining up to hang out).

Awaiting Emma in Las Vegas to party things up are (from left): Photon/Captain Marvel/Monica Rambeau (what ARE we calling her these days?), Hellcat, She-Hulk, Abigail Brand and Valkyrie.  While Emma “parties” with her non-friends against her will, a side story about a potentially powered and definitely mysterious Nevada waitress named Frances is also playing out.  If you’re very good with your Marvel history (I’m not, and likely never will be) you might have figured out who this is…if you haven’t figured it out but want to know you can read the newly released preview pages for issue #2 on CBR…I’ll wait.

When a huge “storage” of “space stuff” is broken open, the ladies pause their awkward celebration and jump into the fray to save the day, some with a little more enthusiasm than others.

Heralds 1 7The two stories – Frances and the superheroines/space stuff breakout are clearly going to tie into one another, but in this first issue we haven’t quite gotten there yet – which is fine – we have plenty of smart, funny stuff happening and lots of time for it to all come together.  And I for one am really excited to see Immonen and Zonjic tie it all together.

I talked previously about Immonen’s writing sometimes going over my head and leaving me feeling lost, but so far this is right on point, and with the exception of a line or two, I “got” everything with ease.  Most impressive, beyond the plain old sense of fun, is Immonen’s handling of the character voices, despite the variety of characters on the field.  Immonen nails Emma’s voice (and Scott’s) with ease, and Hellcat (a seeming personal favorite of Immonen’s as this is the third piece of hers Hellcat has showed up in) is equally as vibrant and alive.  Abigail Brand’s voice is strong and allows Immonen to remind us that if there is one bigger hardass (said with love!) in all of Marveldom than Emma, it’s Abigail.  Valkyrie, Monica, and She-Hulk are all lesser knowns to me in terms of voice, and they also haven’t gotten a lot of time to shine in this issue as yet, but for what’s there, it feels right.  Overall this is A+ character work, and yet Immonen hasn’t sacrificed the plotting for those character beats as I have sometimes felt in her other work…right now it’s all working together beautifully, and if she can keep it up, she’s got a slam dunk on her hands.

Tonci Zonjic’s art is nothing short of stunning.  A breath of fresh air in the comics scene that reminds me of a crazy hybrid mix that is one part Sean Phillips, one part Jamie Hernandez, and one part some other crazy x factor all mixed together into a style I just love.  The storytelling is clear and easy to read and the pacing works well for Immonen’s fast paced witty dialogue.  Perhaps most importantly, considering this is a story with six (actually seven) female leads, is the fact that there is literally ZERO objectification or male gaze in this entire book.  It’s impressive to say the least.  I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to be able to read a comic starring female characters and not once have to worry about what horrible sexist image I’m maybe going to see when I turn the page.  It’s particularly great because when that happens in other books, I realize with a heavy sigh that if I write about that book for this column, that I’m going to have to mention it…which is, as anyone who read the comments from last week’s column can guess, often exhausting.  So it’s really freeing to read something great like this and just not have to worry about such things.  In a perfect world I’d prefer a little more variation in body type, but that’s a tall order in comics these days, even from the best artists.

Nathan Fairbarin’s colors are a great complement for Zonjic’s art and tonally keeps the book right on track.  Jelena Djurdevic’s painted cover is great, tonally a very different feeling from the inside, as it feels very dark comparatively, but it’s still some excellent work featuring six superheroines…something I don’t remember seeing on a cover… maybe ever?

I talked months ago about Rucka’s Batwoman run on Detective Comics (Detective Comics #854 – 859) being the superheroine book I’ve been waiting for my whole life.  Strangely enough, I feel similarly about Heralds, albeit in a less significant way.  This is great fun, with strong interesting characters and a light, quick moving, modern story.  If Rucka’s Batwoman was the serious, important, hearty superheroine meal I was waiting for, then Heralds #1 is the delicious cotton candy dessert follow up I’ve been waiting for.

And the prize at the bottom of this delicious cracker jack box?  Issue #2 comes out next week!  If you need more motivation than the above…just check out these two panels of She-Hulk from issue #2…trying to explain fear of puppets:

She-Hulk And PuppetsAnd the dangers of using animatronic devices:

She-Hulk And Animatronics

I can see how not everyone would be into this.  If you don’t like Zonjic’s pared down stylized cartoony art, or if you’re one of those people that isn’t much interested in seeing stories that are in part about superheroes on their off time, or funny superhero books, or maybe you don’t like reading about a group of all female supes…but for me, it’s hitting right in that sweet spot…one that almost never gets hit by comics today, so yeah, I’m in.

30 Comments

[...] 2010 in CSBG, comic reviews, comics, comics should be good, marvel comics, she has no head! New SHE HAS NO HEAD! – a review of Kathryn Immonen and Tonci Zonjic’s Heralds #1 is [...]

I was really glad I decided to pick this up. It was a pleasant surprise, and I particularly enjoyed Zonjic’s art, which I wasn’t all that familiar with beforehand.

Tom Fitzpatrick

June 7, 2010 at 10:35 am

Y’know, she is, kinda old.
She’s got to be what, 40-ish? in real time.

In comic book time, nobody ever ages in MARVEL time.

Gawd, I feel old. ;-)

If I were *sigh* still buying comics, I’d probably be looking to pick this one up. As it is, I’ll have to remember to keep an eye out for cheap copies &/or the trade down the road …

Last I read, Emma was supposed to be in her late-20′s, which as a longtime X-Fan, makes my head hurt. But whatever.

Thank you for this review; had I a local comic shop, I’d be rushing out to buy this immediately – sadly, it’s a trade-wait like all the others, but only because I’m forced to. The artwork is amazing, and the sequence featuring Emma and Scott warmed my heart just a touch. Excellent stuff.

I *knew* that art was ringing one hell of a bell, so I just did a quick check & … yeah, Zonjic drew Marvel Divas, too, the first couple of which I read & quite liked before finances ended my comics-buying. Neat!

@Dan: You are right that Zonjic did Marvel Divas (and it looked beautiful) but I hated that book with a fiery passion (except for the beautiful art) and so I was trying to focus only on Heralds and not plunge myself into a rant about MD…but yes, he definitely did Divas and it looked as fantastic as this does. I hope he keeps getting work – especially work with great female superheroes as he seems particularly adept at doing excellent work sans male gaze.

Late 20′s? I don’t get bent out of shape over this sort of thing like I did when I was a kid, but I wouldn’t have thought Emma was in her late 20′s even when she first appeared. When I read her first appearances, she reads as early-30′s to me. But, whatevs.

I almost bought this. I’m so glad I came to my senses.

Good. Looks like a fun (and funny) book.

This sounds fanastic. I LOVE how Immonen writes Hellcat. But why does it have to be weekly? I don’t get to go to the store ever week– I might miss my chance at the first or second issue.

Back in the ’80s, I thought Emma was over 40.

Marvel Divas part two. The writing on this didn’t bother me so much, although it’s contrived to the point of absurdity. My main problem is with the art, which seems too childish and ‘indie’ for a regular book. If Marvel wants me to take these ‘lady’ titles seriously, they should use regular (male or female) comic book artists. Zonjic couldn’t even be bothered to realize that there’s over a foot difference in the range of these character’s heights. They’re all drawn the same size, sometimes with She-Hulk actually being shorter that the others!

Kelly –

I’ll have to dig into the archives to see just what you found so horrible about Marvel Divas. I”m sure you had perfectly sound reasons (regardless of whether I might have agreed with them or not) , but at the time (& even since) I would’ve been avoiding most reviews after #2 (or maybe it was #3 …) so as to keep from encountering spoilers, since as mentioned I’ve yet to finish reading the series.

And speaking of female-focused Marvel comics that may or may not be particularly good (I should note that I’m also still waiting for afforadably cheap back issues or trades of Girl Comics & Her-oes), I was struck a few months ago to see what would then have been the latest issue of Models Inc. (a comic I know almost nothing about) shelved with the fashion mags at one of the local Books-a-Millions here (Montgomery, Ala.).

Anybody know if that reflected a deliberate marketing move by Marvel (the covers, of course, very much looked the part) or stemmed from sheer employee carelessness? And, if the latter, if any other non-comics shops carrying the title did the same?

@Mary: I’m not actually sure why it’s weekly…maybe to help it stand out from the mini-series pack? I really don’t know. I’m glad because i HAVE to go to the shop every week, so it will be nice to see it so quickly, but I can see how it could be frustrating for someone that doesn’t go every week or have a pull. On the other hand…perhaps they were hoping that it coming out weekly would force someone interested but that doesn’t go every week to go…thus potentially spending more money? Seems a little optimistic to me…but who knows. Comics marketing remains a massive mystery to me.

@Dan: In fairness to the actual book (which I did not like, but will spare you the reasons since you’re hoping to finish it out sans spoilers) some of the biggest problems for me, that I found impossible to get over, were the well-documented problems many had with the promotional materials and marketing that were used (including but not limited to the pretty offensive cover by J. Scott Campbell) and really bad quotes from both Joe Quesada and to a lesser degree the writer (Aguirre-Sacasa). I never talked about it here (except in little jabs expressing my dislike for the title here and there) on this column as it was over by the time I started up SHNH, but I did rant and rave like a crazy woman about it on my personal blog a few times last summer.

@Anthony. Well, you’re certainly welcome to your own opinion. But considering I despised Marvel Divas and loved this…I’d say they’re pretty different. The only similarity I see is a Zonjic’s art and a female cast…beyond that I don’t see the similarities. As for Zonjic’s art…to each his own I guess. I would LOVE to see more artists like Zonjic on more books, although I do agree with you (and said as much in the review) that a little more attention to body type would be good (the height issue that you mention with She-Hulk and Hellcat especially is a fair point).

As for Emma’s age. Man, I hate this issue in comics…I mean, I get it, we all get it, we can’t age them out of being a “viable property” because heaven forbid we read about any character over the age of 29…but I seriously hope Emma isn’t supposed to be in her late 20′s at this point. She feels so much older than that to me…and has…almost since the beginning. I guess it’s possible if she’s feeling depressed or worn out that she might complain of feeling old while still being in her 20′s, but my gut instinct in that scene was Emma/Immonen acknowledging (without actually saying it) that she’s more in her mid to late 30′s…and feeling concerned/depressed about it.

The highlight of this issue for me was Patsy’s eagerness to beat up famous scientists. First she takes out Einstein, and then goes looking for Oppenheimer.

Also, watching Patsy mix the drinks, it looks like she’s taken a bar course from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Pan Galactic Gargleblasters anyone? Either that or Quark’s Bar and Grill.

@Rob: “Dibs on the bombmaker!”

Anthony –

>>My main problem is with the art, which seems too childish and ‘indie’ for a regular book. If Marvel wants me to take these ‘lady’ titles seriously, they should use regular (male or female) comic book artists. Zonjic couldn’t even be bothered to realize that there’s over a foot difference in the range of these character’s heights. They’re all drawn the same size, sometimes with She-Hulk actually being shorter that the others!

Wow. To each his own, of course, but I have a feeling that “regular (male or female) comic book artists” would bore me to tears on this or any other comic, mainstream Marvel universe or otherwise. I could see the “childish and ‘indie’” comment’s validity if the issue had been drawn by, say, Colleen Coover or Chynna Clugston (both of whose stuff I’d immediately buy even if they were adapting the phone book, as it happens), but …

Yeah. To each his own. We’ll leave it at that.

If I remember correctly, Emma said that she was 27 in one of the Grant Morrison NEW X-MEN issues (right after the Stepford Cuckoos called her an old woman.” As many of my fellow posters here, I always felt Emma to be in her 30s at least during the Hellfire Club days, but I imagine she was “de-aged” the moment she joined the X-Men.

Chris M. : Of course, Emma Frost would never lie about her age. :)

Body type was pretty much the only issue I had with this- look at the skinny arms on She-Hulk in the preview!- which was surprising, for me. In the backmatter for the Marvel Divas tpb (don’t judge me, shut up), Zonjic’s character designs make particular note of the relative heights of the main characters.

This seems neat. I don’t buy minis (too much trouble with ling box storage, unless I can lump them in with some event), but I’ll probably check out the trade. I loved Immonen’s truncated Runaways run.

Emma looks like she could be 40 in these drawings.

“In comic book time, nobody ever ages in MARVEL time.”

ASM ANNUAL #37 chronicles the first solo adventure of Spider-Man and Captain America after they met in AVENGERS, soon after Cap thawed out of the iceberg. Cap notes how strange it is to wake up after so many years and read about himself on Wikipedia.

Yikes! I guess the Silver Age began in 2000-something, Marvel time. Nothing in the MU happened between the replacement-Cap era and the 21st century. The Punisher couldn’t have served in Vietnam unless he’s pushing 60 now. Etc.

Just thought y’all should know.

She might be 40 in this comic and then be 29 in a different comic. It doesn’t matter. Get over it.

This was a good read.

We will be getting any Innomen book with Hellcat in it in my house. She is my wife’s favourite character and she LOVED the mini.

(And Marvel Divas was NOT that bad!)

How many issues is this supposed to go? 4 or 6 or something else?

I’ll probably pick it up in trade, but Kelly’s review convinced me that I should give it a look especially since this is something I probably wouldn’t buy on a normal basis and should expand my (Marvel) horizons.

Then again, I really am too impatient to wait for the trade unless I somehow find it discounted or at Half-Price Books – pull list!

@MechanisticMoth: It’s 5 issues, but since it comes out weekly…I don’t know if that makes it easier to wait or harder to wait. On one hand you can have read all the issues by the end of June, rather than in five/six months to have read them all if you’re reading as they release, on the other…since it all releases in a month, perhaps that means the trade comes out more quickly? I’m not sure.

So… the basic premise here is that, Emma Frost gets a birthday party… with superheroines she barely knows… and some stuff happens and they just join forces? Eeh, I still find it hard to like Emma (I cannot get over the fact they just replaced Jean in Cyclops’ life with her just out of author/editor fiat, so the romance part here is annoying) and why the heck would all these women, who barely know each other, come to a party for a woman who *still* has a shady rep in the Marvel Universe (as recent as Dark Reign she was still playing the “villain or not?” bit). Were they THAT bored that day?

Sorry, the whole thing doesn’t work for me. Which is too bad, because otherwise I have nothing against the all-female team-up and it even might be fun.

@Sijo: Well, they do explain (to a degree) why the others came…although if you don’t like the premise to begin with I doubt it will convince you. They DO band together to help contain the “space stuff” that breaks out, but the real reason I believe they’re going to be there and what the story is going to be about is related to the other ongoing story – that of the waitress Frances – which is likely what caused the “space stuff” to break out in the first place..

I know we all have our own systems for suspension of disbelief in comics, but especially given the tone of the book (really fun and light) I have no trouble believing the premise…and choosing to go along for the ride. I can see how it wouldn’t be for everyone, but if you like any of these characters or are bored by a lot of what you’re seeing in mainstream superhero comics lately, I’d urge you to at least check it out.

Kelly: You’re right, if the story here is about the return of Nova (the one who was Galactus herald- damn Marvel’s habit of reusing character names to keep them from falling out of trademark! :P ) then the story might be interesting by itself. It’s just that the set-up sounds lazy to me; instead of looking at each character and finding a logical reason to introduce them they just went “Aw let’s just throw a party!” and “some stuff escapes!” instead of a real villain. Of course, there have been even sillier ways to gather characters in the past, it isn’t like this is the first time (anybody remember the superhero poker games? ;) ) If the story is good then I’ll ignore that and enjoy it.

THAT said, I have to wonder why Nova’s return can only be handled by female characters? What, were all male heroes on vacation that day? Again, it’s not so much that I mind the concept as it is the way it’s set up.

[...] sadly not as strong as the amazing first issue, but I loved that so much it would have been tough to top.  This was still solid, and probably the [...]

[...] reading Kelly Thompson’s review of Her-alds, I decided to give it a try.  And, honestly, I am so glad I [...]

And over a year later this article has convinced me to pick up all 5 issues. Thanks!

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