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She Has No Head! – Five by Five

And I mean that title literally. The definition of “five by five” is as follows: Five by five is the best of 25 possible subjective responses used to describe the quality of communications, specifically the signal-to-noise ratio.

Marvel’s “quality of communication” on their interest in female leads right now is FIVE BY FIVE.

It’s also a handy way to talk about the five new female-led books they’ve launched and with the debut of Elektra last week, I can say unequivocally they are all good. And that, is, well, that’s HUGE.

SHNH five by five header 

ELEKTRA2014001-DC11-LR-f0de1ELEKTRA. W. Hayden Blackman (w), Mike Del Mundo (a), Mike Del Mundo (c), Clayton Cowles (l) Mike Del Mundo (covers). $3.99. Currently on issue #1.

Elektra is possibly the most beautiful of all five books, which is saying a lot as there’s not a bad looking book in the bunch. But Mike Del Mundo’s incredible fully painted interiors are hard to compete with. I’d like it if the interiors showed a bit more innovation the way his covers do, but it’s hard when you’re holding the sun to also be greedy enough to ask for the moon, so I’ll just say they are stunning. The fact that Del Mundo has to follow up Bill Sienkiewicz’s Elektra Assassin (I don’t know about you but I just pretend that Deodato Elektra crap doesn’t exist) and somehow manages to do something different than Sienkiewicz but still beautiful and interesting is impressive. Unfortunately I think the concept and writing of Elektra is the weakest of the bunch. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it’s slow and laden in exposition. The Elektra voice is not bad, but it feels too wordy for her personality (even as interior narration). I’m sure Blackman is mostly just trying to bring potential new readers up to speed, but anyone familiar with Elektra already will be a bit bored by the quiet and repetitive beginning. The concept for the book isn’t a bad one, but it feels slightly gimmicky and like a plot driven mini-series that will play itself out nicely in a few issues, rather than the strong base needed for an ongoing. Most importantly, there’s just precious little Elektra in this first issue of Elektra, which is a problem. Short of the wordy intro Elektra mostly listens to someone else talk and then eventually jumps out of a plane. It doesn’t really even feel like her book (short of the exposition, which was a weak link). Still, with 5-star art and 3-star writing/story, it’s still a solid book.

Elektra Panel

portrait_incredibleMS. MARVEL. G. Willow Wilson (w), Adrian Alphona (a), Ian Herring (c), Joe Caramagna (l). Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponser, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, and many others! (covers). $2.99. Currently on issue #3.

The biggest surprise of the group, for me, is Ms. Marvel, which is a book that has lit people on absolute fire, and with good reason. Obviously as the story of a young woman of color—and with the especially underrepresented Muslim faith (not to mention Pakistani American background) – this books helps fill a huge gap in our current superhero comics. But filling a gap doesn’t matter if you’re not actually good. Fortunately for all of us, Ms. Marvel is all caps GOOD. It’s smart and appropriately sweet, gloriously superheroic and inspiring. It’s also a wonderfully organic origin story (and I DO get sick of origin stories especially when they’re rehashes or retcons of characters we already know) but Kamala’s tale is both perfectly universal and relatable and also unique to her. Wilson’s writing has not always connected for me, but if there was ever a perfect book for her to write this is it. You can just feel the energy of right character, right writer, right time. Ms. Marvel also has a fantastic illustrator in Adrian Alphona who is exceptional across the board. He’s particularly good at character design, and creating a varied and visually interesting cast, he’s also handling Kamala’s shape shifting power with awesome ease. In the hands of Wilson and Alphona Ms. Marvel is a breakout and beloved hit and I could not be more excited about it.

Ms Marvel Panel

black widow 1 coverBLACK WIDOW. Nathan Edmonson (w), Phil Noto (a), Phil Noto (c), Clayton Cowles (l). Phil Noto (covers). $3.99. Currently on issue #5, issue #6 on sale this week.

Black Widow has been going on the longest, it’s on issue #6 this week and it’s as strong as it was in its debut this past January. Edmonson has taken a lighter hand with Natasha, which feels incredibly right. Natasha should be a laconic character. She’s not one to explain her feelings and even her internal thought process should be tight, controlled, minimal. Edmonson has done just that, setting her up on fantastic stand alone adventures that are well-plotted and give her ample room to shine without a lot of needless chit chat. It helps of course that he has Phil Noto delivering absolutely stunning and emotional fully painted interiors. Noto clearly loves Natasha, as evidenced in every page, but more importantly Noto is a master of the subtle. He can take Edmonson’s cleverly pared down script and give Natasha’s face all the nuance a reader will ever need. It’s wonderful and gorgeous stuff. And it’s the kind of book Natasha has deserved for a long time — which is not to undercut her excellent short-lived series from 2010 by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna which was also wonderful and deserving of a much longer life – let’s hope this time we get that longer life.

Black Widow Panel

Captain-Marvel-1-CoverCAPTAIN MARVEL. Kelly Sue DeConnick (w), David Lopez (a), Lee Loughridge (c), Joe Caramagna (l), David Lopez (covers). $3.99. Currently on issue #2.

This new Captain Marvel is a hell of a re-launch. For me, though Dexter Soy is a talented artist, he wasn’t a good fit for Captain Marvel, his art was too dark and he had trouble with the duality of Carol and Captain Marvel. Marvel tried to make changes but they never quite landed on something consistent that worked. David Lopez is the pitch perfect artist for the Captain Marvel re-launch. His art is superheroic and accessible and he’s absolutely one of the best in the business when it comes to drawing women – women that look powerful and beautiful but also real and grounded.  I’m going to crib from my own CBR review of issue #2 when talking about what is so great about both Lopez’s art and more specifically his visual approach to Carol:

“Lopez has also created an excellent dichotomy between Carol out of costume — even though she’s still technically in costume, but just sans helmet — and Captain Marvel fully suited up. Without the helmet, Lopez has created a Carol that is light and charming, with her flowing blonde hair, softer body language and restrained energy. By contrast, when the helmet goes on, the change is almost Superman-esque. She immediately shifts into “work mode” (or “superhero mode”), her body language and even expressions changing. It’s a wonderful distinction and the kind of choice that helps solidify the mythos for a superhero.”

“It’s also worth noting that Lopez has seemingly solved all the silly controversy of Carol’s hair in the previous series, by giving her the long hair that some fans demanded and then designing her costume to give her the pseudo-mohawk that both keeps the hair out of her face and turns her hair into part of her costume. Artists on the previous series played with these elements and tried to make it work. Some of them were more successful than others, but Lopez is utterly clear in “Captain Marvel” #2: this is what Carol looks like out of costume, and this is what she looks like in full-battle dress, end of story. That kind of confidence serves a book well and I’m excited to see it.”

Kelly Sue DeConnick is THE writer for Carol at this point. She’s defining Carol/ Captain Marvel and I could not be happier to have her at the helm. I’ve talked before here and on the podcast about how I never cared much for Carol because I have always been a die-hard Rogue fan, and somehow it seemed like betraying Rogue to also like Carol. But DeConnick has made that betrayal inevitable. Her Carol is warm and open, funny and smart, ballsy and powerful, tragic and hopeful. There’s a reason DeConnick’s Carol has spawned a movement (the Carol Corps) and like with Black Widow, it’s long overdue.

Captain Marvel Panel

She-Hulk-1SHE-HULK. Charles Soule (w), Javier Pulido (a), Muntsa Vicente (c), Clayton Cowles (l), Kevin Wada (covers). $3.99. Currently on issue #3, issue #4 is on sale this week.

She-Hulk to me, was the dark horse of the group. She didn’t necessarily have to be since she’s anchored her own book longer than many of these ladies and has been a co-star and arguable lead more recently than several of them, but with Javier Pulido on art, I knew this book would look very different from the rest of these books, more cartoonish and tonally offbeat as a result. I was right and I’m SO glad to have this book in the mix. Because it IS the dark horse in all the most delicious ways. You can make an argument for similarities in all of the books above – each are very different but they share more traditional “leading lady” approaches and though the art styles vary in general they’re more traditional as well. Pulido and Soule’s She-Hulk is funny and weird and oh so very fun. Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that Soule and Pulido are not afraid to let her be human, flawed, and physically simply HUGE. An early panel in issue #1 (see below) that has her drinking in a bar with fellow superheroes has her absolutely dwarfing Thor, and seeing it, it feels like everything is so right with the world. Already racking up a bizarre assistant (complete with pet monkey) to help run her new law firm, and teaming up with flailing Hellcat (who looks to be a recurring guest star/co-star?) the book is a very cool blend – one part lawyer, one part superhero, and all hijinx.

She Hulk Panel

So, add to all of this goodness the long overdue announcement of a Storm ongoing and things are looking really promising for women over at Marvel. Of course, as always, the real challenge is going to be these books Storm1IbanezCoverremaining good and their numbers staying strong so that the books can have long lives. However, with Marvel’s new and constantly evolving publishing model, some books will not last as long some of us hope, even if they ARE great (see: cancelled Journey Into Mystery starring Sif by Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti and even Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers, not cancelled but ended as the story came to a natural conclusion). It’s painful to lose books like that, books I love, but so long as Marvel keeps pushing their female characters and giving them the attention they deserve – big name creators, big launches, and half a chance to find an audience – then I’m okay with books having shorter lives (like Young Avengers) to make room for other great stories. So long as that doesn’t mean that those characters get branded with a “can’t work, don’t try” brand, I’m happy.

And this is a great start.

78 Comments

And I guess we can add Blackman to the list of talented creators Marvel has snapped up right quick after DC has pissed them off.

Elektra and Black Widow are both beautifully-illustrated books, but the writing for both didn’t connect with me. I’m not sure why. I have never found Black Widow to be a particularly engaging character, not even in the movies. Maybe both books will read better as trades?

Ms. Marvel is absolute perfection. There is nothing new I can add to its praises, so I will just say it’s fantastic and leave it at that.

As for Captain Marvel, DeConnick’s writing just doesn’t work for me (and I’ve read several things by her and given her a fair show), so unfortunately I have to pass. And while She-Hulk looks wonderful, I won’t read anything by the guy responsible for Superman/Wonder Woman. Lois and Clark forever!

Very well written article and I agree with almost all of it. My only quibble is that I liked the writing of Elektra #1 more than Kelly did (I’d give it a 4/5 myself). Otherwise, spot on and yes, I will be picking up the Storm book once it comes out.

Where could Kate/Hawkeye land on this? While not headlining her own title, she’s sort of the every other book lead for Hawkeye monthly.

Been reading Ms Marvel and She-Hulk and they have been an absolute pleasure! I’m a long time “DC guy” who’s become more and more disinterested in that universe. I’m not keen to just sub out JLA for Avengers so these more standalone and visually different books from Marvel have been just what I need to put my toe back into the Marvel waters. Based on this article I think I’ll give Captain Marvel a try as well.

@catsmeow, I get your anger on Clark/Lois, but you can hardly fault Soule for it. It was an editorial edict, and the series is quite good. Soule has done well with the situation. I wanted to hate it, but he’s won me over, you’re really missing out. Give it a chance, I don’t think that reason is good enough to deprive you of good comics! I think She Hulk is the best of the lot for me (Ms. Marvel is good, but I’ll judge it proper when the first arc is done). There’s more history with Jen and Soule pulls from that beautifully.

I don’t get the Black Widow hate either. Maybe it’s because she’s mysterious by design and some readers see that as an under-developed character? Less is more with Natasha, IMHO.

Captain Haddock

May 5, 2014 at 10:18 am

Part of the problem with “less is more” re: Black Widow is that the story feels incomplete and “safe”. The art is terrific, but aside from a stellar third issue, the writing hasn’t hooked me enough to make it a must-buy for me.

I love SHNH! and always take your comic recommendations to heart.

I’ve had both Marvels (Captain and Ms) on my pull list since their debut and I’m thoroughly enjoying both. I like Deconnick’s first run on CM but the musical-chair-approach to the art was quite distracting. I’m glad it looks like they’ve got a regular artist this time and in my experience, Lopez always delivers.

In hindsight I probably should’ve picked up the other three books too, but since I also pay a yearly membership to Marvel Unlimited, it’s hard to justify paying the cover price for Marvel books I know will be made available digitally six months later (I already take Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, and Captain America through my shop’s pull — so in some fashion I’m already buying these books twice!).

I was so excited when I heard a new She-Hulk title was coming, but I was put off by the art previews. But I’m still planning on reading it (and Widow and Elektra) when they come across Unlimited.

I’m still lamenting the pitifully short run of the Immomen/Schiti JiM. I loved every page of that book! Same goes for Cullen Bunn’s Fearless Defenders — that was such a fun and witty book (with an all-girl team!) that sadly got canned just as it was finding its footing.

I liked, but didn’t love the first issue of Elektra. I thought it was far superior to Captain Marvel #1, which peaked wtih its cover. The interior art wasn’t as strong and the story fell flat. Still not digging the mostly generic uniform, and the helmet is just ridiculous.

Black Widow is a very strong series. I was never a big fan of Phil Noto’s work, but I like it here. I know some people have never liked Black Widow, and probably never will. But she’s one of the very few Marvel characters who can kick ass without benefit of super powers — and she has a great backstory, IMHO.

Let’s not forget the all-girl X-Men team currently made up of Monet, Storm, Jubilee, Psylocke, Rachel Grey, and until recently, Karima!! Also, all these women have had major costume make-overs. :) (This offset’s Emma and Magik’s choices in costuming :)

It is nice to see a more diverse selection of books here.
I think walking into any series knowing it has a finite run is a nice way to approach them. With the comedic beats in the title I don’t know that She Hulk will last long, but I think she will continue to sell in the trade market (which is how I think Marvel approaches many of their series at this point).
Of all the series out now and coming-up I think Storm has the least chance of being succesful. She already features in 5 other X-related titles and her past mini-series have not proven (sales-wise) that she is a title mover. The only mini that I recall doing well was X-men World’s Apart, and although featured they did not name her.
I want the trend to continue though. Give us a season, give us a trade (at the very least) but keep up the momentum Marvel.

I’m following Captain Marvel, She-Hulk and Black Widow and loving them all. This article is nice, but what about DC? They have more female solo and team titles than Marvel – why not feature them too?

If DC launched five new female ongoing titles at the same time, I’m sure Kelly would. Since they didn’t, it is an inane point.

Four of the five books star characters who have had a title previously. How many volumes do they need to prove they don’t have a significant fan-base to support a solo book.

We need more titles with new characters like Kamala Khan or give existing characters, like the Invisible Woman, who haven’t had the chance at solo glory a shot.

honestly all those titles are crap.

The only one out of these I have read is Captain Marvel, and I am still not sure why they rebooted it, other than to boost sales. This is not a new book, it is the same thing, same team same everything. The only difference is that they put her with The Guardians of the Galaxy, which, is a sad ploy to sell more books because of the movie. I’d like to see where it goes, but i think this time around I will have to jump off if the story starts to go flat.

Gr8 article & we/SZ agree cmpletely.

DC is seriously nt reprsnting thugh dey did hv sum female lead bks @ d start of nu 52( Swrd of sorcery, & Voodoo)

Now, only if Marvel can bring bak FEARLESS DEFENDERS d same way dey hv bn doing repeatedly with Secret Avngrs.

It is sort of fascinating to watch Marvel identify a long-time weakness (i.e. the lack of female A-listers) and set about correcting it. Woman have been an area of relative strength for DC since the Silver Age at the latest, but the current regime seems weirdly intent on alienating the female fans that naturally follow. It presents an opening for Marvel that they are trying to exploit.

That is a well-run company.

Launching a new solo on-going is really tough in the Direct Market. In the Silver Age, there was a “Rule of 3s” with regard to supporting casts. If a writer was able to come up with an interesting protagonist and two decent supporting player along with a rogues gallery that went at least three deep, then you had a viable on-going. Now, everything moves much faster (and characters get killed off much quicker). It is closer to a rule of 9s. Only characters with really, really deep benches across both dimensions can be relied upon to support on-goings.

@Xavier:

Brian is right, there is not a stable of new female led books at DC to talk about – there’s no feeling of a push there. Perhaps that’s in part because they already have a good number of female led titles or because their publishing model at this time is different. But it simply doesn’t exist. They only have one new female led title – Harley Quinn (debuted in November) – and if I wrote about it – it would not be a positive piece.

As for what DC has going for them right now with female led titles, I cannot read or review Wonder Woman due to this: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/03/26/she-has-no-head-is-the-destruction-of-the-amazons-the-destruction-of-feminism-in-dc-comics/

I will not read Batwoman due to this: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2013/09/09/she-has-no-head-batwomans-fate-redux/

I have opted not to read Batgirl because I don’t approve of the loss of Oracle or the most prominent non-able bodied hero in the DC Universe (and a great character).

As for the rest, Catwoman is one of my favorite characters but her book is terrible, I’ve given it more than half a dozen chances since the DC Relaunch and as creators have come and cone, but it’s definitively not for me. I loved Birds of Prey with Swierczynski and Saiz, but creative changes left me uninterested in what remained. Supergirl (in truth never a favorite character of mine) had fantastic art in Mahumd Asrar bu the story/writing never worked for me, I thought about trying again but seeing Supergirl is now a Red Lantern (or will be?) tells me this is still not for me. Katana (now cancelled) was a book I hoped very much would be good since it featured a woman of color. It was decidedly not good.

So, that’s the more detailed answer to why I haven’t been talking about DC female-led books. It would be a decidedly negative post and I’d rather celebrate what’s being done right.

I’m picking up and enjoying all of these books but, for me, I think the real winner is She-Hulk…I mean it is just plain FUNNY. I honestly can’t recall the last time a comic book made me laugh out loud. She-Hulk does it monthly.

I really wish people would get over this renumbering stuff. Brubaker’s Captain America changed the numbering system at least twice while retaining the same creative team and continuity. So what if they restart Hulk or Captain Marvel with number 1 every year or two? It’s not a “disservice to longtime readers” if the quality is there, and it’s certainly not a “reboot/relaunch” in the sense of a continuity-changing shift (New 52 and what not). The comic market has changed drastically in the past 5-10 years so it makes sense that the traditional numbering system has become outdated. I like the idea of starting with a new #1 to reflect a new story arc or change in direction, creative team, whatever, even in the case of a successful book. It’s not like their being billed as collectables with hologram covers and crap. It’s just a number.

And if the argument is “they’re just trying to boost sales”…well that’s a pretty weak argument don’t you think? “Marvel wants people to buy their comic books, and that’s just so wrong.”

@Kelly you’re spot on with your assessment of DC’s female books. Birds of Prey in particular is such a nightmare…and that’s really sad, because it started off very strongly. What did you think of Voodoo? I thought it was mostly excellent when viewed more as an alien espionage book, and it had some of the most gorgeous art of the New 52 to date IMO. They didn’t focus on the stripper aspect of the character nearly as much as I would have anticipated either, that plot was done in one.

I still read World’s Finest, but it’s a real snooze-fest. I’ll probably continue to read it for as long as it exists since I want more female-driven DC books and it’s not just a total shit show.

I do enjoy Harley Quinn in spite of their need to turn her into the female Deadpool.

@Mike: In truth, I think She-Hulk might be my favorite too. I love it.

Ah! I forgot about World’s Finest – I knew I was forgetting one – yeah, it’s not for me either unfortunately. I like Power Girl and I’m lukewarm on Huntress, but I like the IDEA of them as best friends and heroes very much, but I just haven’t found anything in the few issues I’ve read that makes it feel good/special/important/must-have. It was easy for me to put it down (and then apparently forget about it as evidenced here!)

You know, Voodoo is a book I really wanted to like but that first issue was a series killer for me. And let’s talk about a marketing nightmare – who is your book for? If you want female readers, you sent a ton of them running with a ridiculous “stripper issue,” but then they came out saying that that was not what the book was about, and if it wasn’t about that or that wasn’t going to be a major element than why start there? Total nightmare from go. There might have been a good book in there, but they did everything wrong from go and killed any chance it had.

I like the Harley character generally, but I don’t really recognize this new 52 version. :(

I have to say it…when I first saw “Five by Five” I thought this would be in part about Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I digress…

I’m not much of a Marvel followers but I picked up Ms. Marvel and I love Kamala. The character is great and shows her culture in a good light. It’s funny and has great art.

I get that this is about the solo books, but I think you coulda also featured “X-Men” since it has an all-female line-up.

I love love LOVE the new Ms. Marvel book and the relaunched/continued Captain Marvel. I enjoyed Filipe Andrade’s art at the end of the first run, but David Lopez is an excellent choice. Black Widow is a welcome return as well. I have never liked the Elektra character – even her debut in Daredevil – and I don’t care for the art on She-Hulk. :/ Still, this is an excellent group of comics, with Storm on the way!

Loving and liking all the books except Black Widow. It’s just so incredibly dull (though pretty), with some really trite narration and conflict. Trying to “wipe out the red from my ledger” (jeez, that line really stuck) blah blah blah. Almost nothing compelling about this book so far. The other books are good to great, though I really doubt Elektra can stay interesting for very long, and I’ve always found Captain/Ms. Marvel to be a fairly boring character.

Looking forward to the Storm series – long overdue. I’d love to see another Rogue ongoing – what’s going on with her character these days? I can’t even remember. Psylocke would also make for a good solo series, but only if they avoid the tired “I’m a killer and I just can’t quit!” storyline that’s plagued her for a while now. The X-men really do have the strongest female characters in Marvel, which is why it’s such a shame that Wood’s “X-men” series is such a dud.

@ Mike:

If you sort of ignore continuity and focus on the ‘best version’, then DC has an embarrassment of riches in terms of female characters. There is Wonder Woman herself, of course. There is also “Batman to her Superman” in Black Canary. You also have a totally different take on the magical princess archtype in Amethyst. There is Lois Lane, who is only the lead in the second longest running superhero title with a female protagonist. You have Hawkgirl, who is the most equal female counter-part to a male hero in comics (other then Big Barda, who you also have). You have Oracle, who is the most 21st century superhero imaginable. Superman has two interesting and distinctive female counterparts in Supergirl (or the last cheerleader from Krypton) and Power Girl (or Gloria Steinhem in Jayne Mansfield’s body). Batman also has two female counterparts in Huntress (lawyer by day/crime-fighter by night) and Batwoman (the #1 LGBT character in comics). You have Zatanna with her own riff on the Mandrake arch-type. You have Vixen, who is basically a black, female Wolverine. You have Bumblebee and Rocket, who are probably the #1 and #2 young, non-white superheroines. You have nearly all the best female villains (Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Cheetah, Giganta …). You have Silver Age love interests with actual careers. DC is a little shallower in the B-list, but they have decent team players (mostly Legionaires, but Katana is pretty cool).

It is a really friendly environment to tell female skewing superhero stories, but DC has done literally everything in its power give that advantage away.

Marvel, by contrast, has never had that much in terms of A-list women. They have always been well-stocked in the B-list, because team books have formed the core of their universe. Whenever they looked ready to make The Leap, it seemed like they got knocked down a peg. The only female Marvel to break the 60 straight issue barrier was out-of-continuity (Spider-Girl). Now, the estrogen having half of the MU are getting a genuine push to see who is an A-lister and it looks like more than a few have a chance.
– She-Hulk has come the closest in the past with long runs by major creators. She is a derivative character, but has developed her own brand identity in a way that the post-COIE Power Girl and Huntress never quite managed.
– Black Widow got the 1st shot at the A-list back at the dawn of the Direct Market era. The timing was wrong then, but it feels right now.
– Captain Marvel has always been defined by her look and her rivalry with Rogue to me. It is good that a talented creator has taken ownership.
– Ms Marvel is an interesting idea that does fill a demographic void.
– Elektra will always be one of those characters that is defined by one creator to me. Not really interested in her ‘further adventures’ that aren’t written by Frank Miller (aka comics crazy right-wing uncle).

@Ashok S.

Yes, Superman/Wonder Woman was editorially-mandated, but Soule is perpetuating it by writing their book. I can’t support someone who’s responsible for that mess. I was going to read his creator-owned 27 until I found out about SM/WW. Sometimes artists need to be taught there are consequences to his actions. And for Soule, he has alienated at least one reader because of that SM/WW nonsense.

Quite literally every one of these books is going to be cancelled eventually.

Every comic book is going to be canceled eventually. Yes, even that one.

Well sure, but all of these are going to be cancelled quite soon. I say this not because I want it to happen, but because it’s simply inevitable. The Ms. Marvel book is especially doomed, starring some random woman who nobody’s ever heard of. Carol Danvers us Ms. Marvel and will always be Ms. Marvel. She is not ‘Captain Marvel.’ Marr-Vell was Captain Marvel.

@Kendall: The title was certainly Faith inspired if that helps! :)

@Zach Bishop: I love X-Men, and perhaps I should have mentioned it in the closing when I talk about Storm, but this was definitely a focus on this most recent push that began in 2014. X-Men has been coming out for nearly a year.

@Dean: Reading your analysis (spot on, as always) depresses me even further about the state of DC Women. So much damned wasted potential. So many women I love and WANT to love.

And you are right on that Marvel is just making good business decisions by seeing where DC is weak (women) and making a play for those readers. I am excited to see how (and who) can emerge as a real star worthy of running her own title.

@Michael: I agree that Capt. Marvel is not a total re-imagining, but saying it’s exactly the same book is ridiculous considering that the previous title had about four different artists – none of them quite right for the book (though I personally liked Andrade). David Lopez is a major change to that book – and a great one.

@touchofkiel: I have some bad news for you. Are you sitting down? Okay.

Rogue is dead.

I’m sure she’ll be back, but right now, she’s dead. Rick Remender killed her (via Scarlet Witch shenanigans, SW also died) in his Uncanny Avengers.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rogue gets a major push and perhaps her own book upon her return, I know I would love to read that. Hell, I’d love to write that book. Hey, Marvel…psst…I’m AVAILABLE TO WRITE YOUR ROGUE BOOK…CALL ME. ;)

Rogue will be back as soon as Remender’s story is over and the timeline is reset, which is what’s going to happen considering the Earth blew up. Even so, a Rogue book would last less than a year.

I support any female led title that I can get my hands on, so I’m actually reading all of these. So far, good stuff from all teams involved. I do agree that Elektra started fairly slow but I enjoyed Blackman on Batwoman so I have faith it will pick up. Great to see Marvel make a commitment to more female titles. Can’t wait for Storm!

Why would you automatically support any book with a female lead? Who cares what the gender of the lead is? If it’s good, it’s good.

@Jake: Your optimism and sunny disposition is a model for us all. /sarcasm

I haven’t been uncivil to anybody here, Kelly. I’m simply being realistic. Women led books tend not to sell well, and all the above will almost certainly fail, with the possible exception of Carol’s book, which is not only excellent, but features an established character with tons of history in the Marvel universe. The fact that they felt the need to start it back up at number one, which I have to imagine is an attempt to boost sales, does not bode well, unfortunately.

Well, they’re characters that I’m a fan of anyway (always leaned more towards super heroines). Plus I think that one of the ways to show companies that we want more books with female leads is with our wallets. Having said that, as lenient as I can be, I will drop a title if I can’t get into the character or the book is just too bad (I.e. Katana which I really really wanted to like).

@Jake

I didn’t say you were uncivil to anyone, nor did I call you a troll or insult you. I suggested that you’re a killjoy and not a great time to be around. These are your multiple statements about comics:

All of these books will be cancelled.
These books will all be cancelled quite soon.
Ms. Marvel is doomed because she’s new.
Captain Marvel is not Captain Marvel, she’s Ms. Marvel, she’ll never be “the real” Captain Marvel.
A Rogue book would last less than a year.

Can you see why nobody wants to get drinks with you? Jesus.

I think, given Marvel’s new publishing model, it’s quite possible these books won’t last “forever,” as I said in the piece it’s more important to me that they continue to push female characters and continue to create good quality books starring those women than give us books that last “forever.”

All that said, things change, and though female-led books have not sold traditionally well in the past, in my opinion they have often been given substandard and/or non A-List creative teams, less of a marketing/PR push which hasn’t helped them. They also existed largely in a market before digital comics started changing the demographics and making comics more accessible for everyone.

Time will tell of course, we may not be there yet, but the numbers for new female readers are significant according to comixology – and it’s a bit of a game changer. For reference: http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/83560267320/new-comics-reader-are-increasingly-female-not-reading

Haha, I’m sorry that you find me to be a ‘killjoy,’ but I’m confident that I’ll prove correct. I take no joy in that; it’s simply the way things are. Blind optimism is not particularly rational, although you’re trying to promote these books, so I understand why you’d employ that tactic. Back to Carol for a moment…I love her as a character, and currently read her book, but she’s Ms. Marvel, not Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel is a person, not a concept. Marr-Vell is/was Captain Marvel. It’s the same reason why the group that promotes themselves as Lynyrd Skynyrd is just a cover band…most of the members of the actual Lynyrd Skynyrd are dead.

I’ve heard the argument that calling Carol ‘Captain Marvel’ is akin to a ‘promotion’ for her, but it’s hardly ‘empowering’ for a woman to stop using her own name and take on the name of a (dead) man in an attempt to gain legitimacy. Carol is Ms. Marvel just like Peter Parker is Spider-Man, Tony Stark is Iron Man, Steve Rogers is Captain America, etc.

I’m sorry, also, that you don’t want to get a drink with me, but, to be fair, I didn’t ask.

I am waiting for the Black Widow trade. I love Phil Noto’s work, and Natasha has kicked major butt on the big screen (finally saw Winter Soldier today). I’ll be first in line for a solo film. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time.

I love Jen and Ororo and Carol in their respective team books, but unfortunately I just don’t care for them solo. I feel the same way about Iron Man, Wolverine and Captain America. But then again, I’ve always been more of a fan of team books. When Marvel stops its current policy of “throw all of the hero names into a hat and choose teams”, I am sure that these three women will be involved in stories that draw my interest again. “Amazing X-Men” is a step in the right direction.

I hope Marvel never stops trying though. “Fearless Defenders” was one of the best female-headlined books in ages, and I miss it. The right mix of creators and characters at the right time can be hard to come by.

Jake…what you see as “realism” most of us see as unpleasant cynicism. Pissing on the parade, as it were. You did miss Kelly’s point, which is a good one, about how Marvel seems to have a new publishing model. And the initial point about how nice it is, with the climate of crap women and female characters have been getting, to see a company that isn’t even known for its A-list female characters to be pushing not one, but FIVE whole books starring ladies–and two of them are PoC at that. The whole point of the article was along the lines of, “Hey, look at these cool things! Isn’t that cool that they made them?”

And you’re piping in to go, “Sure, but they’re all gonna fail. It’s all doomed. It’s for naught.”

You can see how that’s just kind of unpleasant. I know a lot of people like to justify unpleasantness by saying, “Well, I’m just keeping it real/saying what I think/etc.” Which is fine. You do that. But don’t be surprised if people say, “Hey, dude, you’re bringing us down. We were here to raise a glass to some cool new titles, and you’re here telling us about the long-term effects of alcohol or the hangover that we’ll have if we drink to much.”

“Captain Marvel” WAS a promotion. Because these stories don’t exist in a vacuum. There are an awful lot of lady-heroes with “Ms.” “Girl” or “Woman” in their name. Not a whole lot with “Captain.” She didn’t “stop using her own name” either. Her own name is Carol Danvers. But really, in the context of the real, actual world, her name change is just as big a deal as her costume change. Because “Captain Marvel” is easier to market to all ages and genders. “Captain Marvel” doesn’t have the kind of cultural baggage “Ms Marvel” in her bathing suit does. It’s a reinvention.
When Wally and Bart became The Flash instead of Kid Flash, it was a promotion. When Steph went from Spoiler to (dead to) Batgirl, it was a promotion. Hawkeye is Hawkeye because that’s the name of a particular hero that she sort of emulates (even if she doesn’t respect him much). Heroes take old heroes names all the time. Legacy naming is a big part of the comicbook world. So, y’know, maybe if a bunch of people, especially women, especially newer readers, are really excited to have a female hero with Captain in front of her name…maybe you don’t need to work out reasons that they shouldn’t be because for this one it’s different. Maybe you can just take it on faith that women have a good idea of what makes them feel included and as if a publisher is reaching out to them.

I don’t necessarily agree with Jake in that female solo titles are pointless if they’re not good, but I do think the focus should be on the creator’s end, not the characters. That is, the push for diversity should be on the creative side. Mile Morales is mixed minority race, that’s all well and good, but it’s still written by the same man who’s been writing comics for a century – the middle aged white Jewish guy (not a knock on Bendis or any other Jewish/white authors).

These female solo titles are a great step, but let’s face it – only two of them are actually written by a woman. Which isn’t to say that men should be writing men and women should be writing women, but rather, all the superficial “diversity” doesn’t matter much if it’s not reflected on the creative end as well.

@Kelly – I totally forgot Rogue “died” in Uncanny Avengers! No one expects it to last that long – in fact, I don’t think anyone really has a clue what’s going on in that mess of a book, Remender included. That book reminds me a bit like Whedon’s X-men – it should be such a continuity nightmare for the editors, but they’ve just given him free reign to do whatever and pick up the pieces later. Headaches, confusion, heartbreak? No doubt. But they’re letting him tell his story, which is pretty neat (though I’m not a huge fan of it in particular).

@Kelly thanks for the response. I appreciate you going through the list of DC’s output. I just wanted to get your take on what they are currently putting out, really. I’m really hoping Marvel’s female centric push survives and gains enough readers to thrive.

I understand your point, but I think rationally, to a degree that some would classify as unpleasant or excessive. I see no point in optimism if it’s not warranted. I am not trying to ‘justify my unpleasantness’ because I don’t consider speaking the truth to be a bad thing. The truth itself may or may not be unpleasant (and in this case, I believe that it is) but that’s no reason to shoot the messenger, as it were. I literally take nothing on faith. If there is no evidence for something, I don’t believe it, because there’s little chance it’s true.
I also was not aware of a ‘climate of crap’ existing for women and female characters. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, just that I see no evidence of it. I assume you have seen things I haven’t. If you could provide details, I would appreciate it.

I Grok Spock

May 5, 2014 at 7:53 pm

She-Hulk has been a ton of fun. When Patsy/Hellcat is around there is a strong Love & Rockets vibe, and that is what’s really sold me on the book. Javier Pulido is doing a great job on art.

@Xany: Could not have said it better myself. Hear, hear!

@touchofkiel: Oh yeah, we still REALLY need to work on the creator diversity. Definitely. But baby steps, man, baby steps.

@Xavier: No problem. If you didn’t read it, read Dean’s excellent comments above. Such a good snapshot of how many incredible female characters DC has and how they’re dropping the ball for those characters and the women and men that might be interested in reading them.

@touchifkiel I think that Remender’s story in Uncanny Avengers would read far better in trade. It’s immensely complex, and it’s easy to lose track of what’s happening when you only get to read twenty pages of it at once. I tend to think of it as happening outside continuity, since the events happening there are too enormous to be ignored in literally every other book on the stands. Plus, it’s likely it’ll all be reset at the end, since Earth obviously cannot stay destroyed, and the only way to fix it is to go into the past and change history. Similar, I think, to Age of Ultron in the sense that, as huge as it is, it’s likely not going to matter in the long run since it’ll just be erased by the end anyway. I really despise time-travel as a story device for this reason – it robs the story of any real stakes.

“…she’s Ms. Marvel, not Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel is a person, not a concept. Marr-Vell is/was Captain Marvel.”

“Carol is Ms. Marvel just like Peter Parker is Spider-Man, Tony Stark is Iron Man, Steve Rogers is Captain America, etc.”

Many people have been the Flash. And Ghost Rider. And Batgirl, Robin, Green Lantern, Supergirl, the Human Torch, Spider-Woman, and good god how many mantles have been taken on by Hank Pym alone…..but Carol Danvers donning the title Captain Marvel is the exception? In spite of several other characters having used the name over the years — including Danvers herself — decades after the original **famously** died?

I didn’t say it was the exception…I think the whole idea of legacy characters is silly to begin with. There is nothing othering about a woman calling herself ‘Ms.’ something just as there isn’t anything bad about say, Mr. Fantastic’s choice of code-name. Why is ‘Captain’ somehow superior to ‘Ms.?’

You should show some love for All-Next X-Men. Jean Grey is the star of the show, and rightfully so because she is the best X-Man. Just wish we had the real, adult Jean back in the land of the living.

Great article and very interesting discussion. I picked up all five of these titles and I am really enjoying them. How long will they last? Who can say? Jake, seriously, I don’t understand your need to be so hypercritical. You are going to drive authors out of here, so Kelly, ignore it.

I am wondering if maybe Marvel will allow these books to run long, just to fill this niche and to create some new characters with movie potential. I can definitely see Carol Danvers in the cinematic universe, coming off a successful title Anyway, this was fun to read, and fun to realize “hey, for once I’m getting all the stuff that Kelly is writing about!”

Are you serious? You think that by simply being realistic (not hypercritical, as you say) that I’m going to drive her away from her own blog?

If you’re not being a raging feminist, you’re being a Marvel shill. Keep up the good work and get those click baits!

I’m pretty sure she’s not being paid by Marvel, Ringo. Maybe you should go back to being the second best drummer in The Beatles.

Jake, since you are so interested in realism and so impressed with your own abilities of prognostication, can you be specific? Each of these books will be cancelled by issue 12? Or a year from today?

Three of the four previously established characters has had a title last longer than that, and the non-previously established character is getting a lot of buzz, so I will totally take that bet either way, I just want to clarify what you mean.

Hey Sean. I’m sorry I seem to have irritated you by expressing an opinion obviously different from yours in an entirely civil manner. I’m not sure what I could have done differently, but I promise I’ll research the issue and get to the bottom of it. I wouldn’t say I’m ‘impressed’ with myself, just that past history is often an indicator of the future. Since you seem to think I am, though, why don’t I play along? I’d guess somewhere in the area of twenty issues, at the outside. I hope I’m wrong, at least regarding Carol ‘s series (I don’t read the others, so I’m not invested one way or the other), but I tend to doubt it.

TotalSnorefest

May 6, 2014 at 8:45 am

Some of these really interest me, Elektra for the art and Ms. Marvel & She-Hulk seem like they’d be right up my alley. But at the same time I kind of don’t want to add anything else to the pull-list… Especially Big Two books. Not wanting to sound like a hater (I still read Hawkeye, Daredevil, Wonder Woman, Ultimate Spidey), but I think I’m mostly interested in supporting indies right now.
Incidentally, it’s a shame that DC has so many female-led titles that somehow don’t quite seem to get the same response as the new Marvel titles. A lot of wasted potential, it seems. :(

I love that the third (maybe fourth?) comic character to use the name Captain Marvel is somehow the “real” one.

(For the record, I’m referring to Mar-Vell.)

I think all these books would have a better chance at survival if Marvel didn’t publish 35 Avenger titles and 90 X-books. :)

After the cancellation of Fearless Defenders (sheds tears) these books give me hope again.

As for DC, I completely forgot that they have so many female-led titles but a good bit of them are within the Batman family (Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Batwoman, Batgirl, Harley Quinn) and my personal preference of staying the heck away from the Batman franchise has made me not pick up any of those titles long-term (aside H.Q. I tried Batgirl and Prey during Courts of Owls and said “no”).

I follow Supergirl but they make her go through so much suffering. It hurts.

As for the “Captain Marvel” argument, I think MARVEL should’ve named her that a long time ago (like around Mighty Avengers BMB-era).

Hey Triniking. Just out of curiosity, why do you personally feel ‘Captain Marvel’ is superior to Ms. Marvel?

Michael, the first Captain Marvel was Marr-Vell. I’m talking about Marvel continuity, not DC.

I’m just being realistic. Because in reality, there were two Captain Marvels before Stan Lee got ahold of the trademark. (I answered my own earlier question on Google.)

I have all of these books on my pull except Captain Marvel, and I’ve been hearing such good things (after the first series petering out) that I may have to check it out.

I also want to give a shoutout to Marc Andreyko’s Batwoman run. He’s really turned around what I thought was a rather average JH Williams title (minority viewpoint, I know).

@Jake: As “Ms. Marvel” it makes her look secondary. As if there’s some other character like her husband or an older brother is active as the Captain. As “Captain Mravel” you know she’s the head honcho’ that’s she’s the main character.

Besides that’s how it works in real life, isn’t it? If you meet someone in a higher professional/academical position, you don’t refer to them by their title, you refer to them by position such as Doctor, Sergeant, Professor, etc.

‘Ms.’ actually implies a single woman, as married women tend to use ‘Mrs.’ I don’t get the brother reference, either. And yes, that is how it works in real life, but ‘Captain Marvel’ and ‘Ms. Marvel’ are code-names, not military ranks. I agree with your point about there being an implication of somebody above her, but that only works if there is another character named ‘Captain Marvel’ around at the same time as Ms. Marvel, but that falls apart as soon as you read the books and realize that the characters aren’t involved in some sort of super-hero hierarchy.

Who let @ringo in here? Boo go away. Great article Kelly!

I’m excited too about Marvel’s female led titles. I do wish there were more female creators. My favorite is Ms. Marvel which is fresh and fun and reminds me of Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl. I’m glad Captain Marvel got another shot – the art is much more accessible. The art on Elektra and Black Widow are both beautiful but I found the first issue of Elektra slooooow. Let’s hope it picks up. She-Hulk is also quite fun although I do find it interesting that Soule can get She-Hulk so right and Wonder Woman sooooo wrong.

Realist Jake

May 6, 2014 at 7:48 pm

I call myself a realist because I’m sure I am always 100 honest. In other words, everything I say holds true. If I say it, It’s real and there is nothing problematic with that at all. They are all getting cancelled because I–the great Jake–said so. I love when people respond to me because I know I’m right–I’m always right. It fuels me more and more to see everyone else come to challenge me on a statement because I have labelled them “Bling optmisits” for having a tad bit of hope. Sure, Kelly mentioned that its very good chance these books could get canelled. She even said it realistically. But No. I am a realist and no one else is as real as I, Jake.

Wow. I struck a nerve, huh? I didn’t say I’m never wrong, I just said that past events are often good indicators of future ones in terms of human behavior. Of course I could be wrong. I’m definitely going to start calling myself ‘The Great Jake’ from now on though haha. Thanks for the laugh.

‘Ms’ doesn’t really imply a married woman, Jake. It’s a catch-all term created for men so they wouldn’t get slapped when they called a ‘Miss’ a ‘Mrs’ and vice versa. ‘Miss’, ‘Ms’ and ‘Mrs’ usage is different and personal for everyone, with some maybe not preferring any at all.

‘Captain’ carries no ambiguity.

Plus, they’re superheroes, not military, and can call themselves whatever they want. Personally, I’d love to read a book where she calls herself Punch Lady Danvers because I’m a comedy fan, but she went with Captain Marvel, oh well.

Your faith to the original Captain Marvel is stunning and wholly your own, and no matter how many creative and business decisions Marvel makes, that isn’t going to change, but it IS just an opinion. We all have them. Why are you fighting so strongly to change others?

I think that ‘Captain’ is more powerful than ‘Ms’, just as it would be more powerful than a dude calling himself ‘Mr Marvel’. Surely you can see on an objective level, without altering your nostalgia and love of Mar-Vell, that if you’re going to be a superhero, you’d call yourself something more powerful than ‘Ms’.

Over at DC, next month, watch as the Flash battles for his life against Mr Cold! …Aw, he’s SO cute, Mr Cold. Yes, he is.

Yes Canaan, Miss does imply a single woman. There are exceptions, obviously, but most single women go by Miss, and most married women go by Mrs. As to why I’m trying to change the opinions of others…well, that’s what a debate is for. If you disagree, then fine.

Do you mean ‘Miss’? Or ‘Ms’? Because yeah, ‘Miss’ does, but we’re talking about ‘Ms’ here, which does not. ‘Ms’ can be either. That’s the whole point of its existence. It was brought in at a time when everyone was addressed by their title, and it was mightily rude to call a Mrs ‘Miss’ if you weren’t aware they had married the previous summer, so it became easier to use Ms to avoid social faux pas.

But anyway, “If you disagree, then fine.” is amusing at best, coming from you, because there are plenty of people here who disagree with you, but you don’t seem to be ‘fine’ at all.

I was just trying to answer your question of “why is ‘Captain’ superior to ‘Ms’?”, which you’ve asked directly twice now, and I thought I did a pretty good job of it, but you seem to have completely skipped over it because of your blind love of the original Mar-Vell.

So, I’ll try again.

When have you been on a boat that has been under the direction of a Ms? When have you seen soldiers claw their way through the ranks to become a Ms? Or work the police beat so they can be a Ms? …”This is your Ms speaking. We have landed on the moon.” Has a pirate ever boarded a vessel and demanded to talk to the Ms? “Who’s the Ms here!? Answer me!” Can you be a Ms of your own destiny, instead of captain of it?

‘Captain’ is a title with authority. ‘Ms’ is a title with ambiguity.

I don’t care that only Mar-Vell can be Captain Marvel to you, I’m not trying to change your mind, I just chimed in to answer your question with what I think to be pretty compelling evidence of why ‘Captain’ is superior to ‘Ms’.

So she’s not the one true Captain Marvel to you, that’s cool, but why can’t she be Captain Marvel at all? Because you say so? Because in your heart of hearts, Mar-Vell is the best, chuck out the rest?

I thought I answered your question pretty logically, I’d like to hear your answer to mine, logically. Why can’t she be Captain Marvel?

Debate!

As for why Captain Marvel suits Carol Danvers more than Ms. Marvel, simply put, she has a military background. If she would have been a teacher and unmarried then sure Ms. Marvel would be a nice fit for her superhero name.

I’m seriously looking forward to She-Hulk. And i’ve never been interested in She-Hulk so that’s saying something.

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