Saturday, October 25, 2008
Quien Es Macho? Carol Danvers Es Macho!
Two years ago I wrote a post about X-Factor #5, in which the character Siryn is held captive, beaten, and nearly tortured.
I concluded then that:
While it's clear that Peter A. David wants to subvert the sexist trope of the woman who needs a man to deliver her from a dangerous situation, does he succeed?Ms. Marvel #32, is a flashback story, and pits a non-superpowered Carol Danvers, shot down over Afghanistan, against a sadist named Ghazi Rashid.
My answer: yes, just barely. (And I'd have major reservations if this storyline were dragged out into another issue.) Here's my thinking:
I understand that this is a comic book, and that a title gets boring fast if the heroine is constantly kicking people's asses, and never can get her own ass kicked by anyone. I also get that X-Factor is giving off a noirish vibe. Bogart, Robert Mitchum, and Alan Ladd were constantly getting their asses handed to them by minor gunsels and cretinous henchmen in the middle reels of their respective noir movies. And, although the "message" of noir is that the hero can never destroy the interconnected webs of corruption in which he's ensnared, the viewer is at the very least assured that by the final reel the hero will have administered compensatory beat-downs to any of the players who were stupid enough to have laid a hand on him. The comic works then, and doesn't offend, if we accept that Siryn is a noirish or Bogart-ian heroine. Final confirmation of this line of interpretation will come if David actually shows us how Siryn finds and "re-pays" her original assailant in future issues.
Rather than a weak-damsel story, Peter David wants us to read X-Factor #5 as if it were an episode in the comic-book version of the Saturday Night Live gameshow Quien Es Mas Macho? (Who is More Macho?) And I'm pleased to report that, in the match-up of Siryn vs. Dr. Leery, Siryn es mas macho. She proves herself to be, indeed, muy muy macho.
However, it presents the reader with an entirely different case, for two reasons. One is small, and the other is more crucial:
(1) Rather than a noir vibe, this comic deploys the “captured/tortured soldier/spy” trope that was recently played out in the first Daniel Craig Bond film, Syriana, Ridley Scott’s G.I. Jane (1997), and countless other movies. And given the season, a serious McCain-Hanoi-Hilton vibe is clearly in play.
(2) More importantly, the creative team chose to actually depict the torture of Carol Danvers -- and it’s bad.
Nothing is left to the imagination, here. It’s either depicted, or described. Ghazi is shown preparing to pull out several of Carol’s fingernails, and we learn a few panels later that he has indeed done so; he applies electric shocks; and beats and tries to dehumanize her -- in all of the most difficult scenes, Carol is clothed only in her bra and panties.
And there is this: Carol’s ultimate means of escape is provided due to Ghazi’s ineptitude in wielding the massive sledgehammer which he deploys to shatter her (shackled) fore-arm.
(Since I continue to get referrals to my X-Factor post from people directed to it by their Google-image searches for “captured superheroines,” I’ve decided that this post will be text-only.)
At the end of the issue, Carol uses the damaged manacle on her shattered arm to kick Ghazi’s ass and escape -- she’s got a long journey home.
One more distinction between this comic and X-Factor #5: a prior issue of Ms. Marvel (rather inexplicably) showed Carol beginning to re-kick Ghazi’s ass. So we now see that in addition to the escape beat-down she administered to the bastard, there’s more retributive violence in store. (In this regard, Brian Reed, the book’s writer, does for Carol what Peter David has not, to my knowledge, done for Siryn in X-Factor.)
So where does all this leave me?
I’m disgruntled. Although I know that people are being mis-treated in ‘the real world’ as I type this, I don’t read comics to see how it’s being done.
My considered opinion is this:
If you are a writer and you have made the creative decision to subject a character in your story to torture, I would urge you to err on the side of discretion. Suggest things to me. Let my imagination provide details.
Although extended depictions of righteous ass-kicking and retributive, justified violence are OK with me, the same is just not true for torture.
I’ll close by noting that I wouldn’t want to actually read a comic book in which a thoroughly loathsome character -- someone like the rapist Dr. Light -- were treated in the way that Carol Danvers is treated by her captor in Ms. Marvel #32.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Compare + Contrast
Is this young woman, photographed at the San Diego Comic-Con, Ross’ model for Selina Kyle?
I think so, and I wonder if others agree with me.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
You Gotta Have Heart ...
It looks like Selina Kyle’s heart is restored to her -- or she gets someone else’s heart, instead, or something ...
From the January solicits:
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
Cover by Alex Ross
A “Faces of Evil” issue starring Catwoman! Continuing from this month’s DETECTIVE COMICS #852, Selina Kyle’s path of vengeance against Hush knows no bounds! After confronting the man responsible for nearly destroying her life, Selina’s wrath propels her into a downward spiral. With Tommy Elliot almost certain to suffer dire consequences, could Catwoman’s humanity be next to perish?
And be sure to check out part one of this story on page 77!
On sale January 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Though I know that I’m jinxing things by saying so, I am very glad that Catwoman survives!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I have a satisfied smile on my face after reading Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2.
Geoff Johns nicely brings together plot-lines from across the DCU -- factoids that I rather desultorily absorbed during the JSA/JLA “Lightning Saga” cross-over now seem relevant to me. Superboy-Prime is still annoying, but the fact that he’s channeled his petulance in order to gather and deploy a formidable anti-Legion of baddies makes him a much more credible menace.
I can’t profess to being a fan of the Legion -- I didn’t grow up reading the books, and my experience with the recent iteration of the team is limited to the plot-line involving Supergirl’s travel to the 31st century (following the One Year Later stunt). However, what I am most emphatically a fan of is the cosmic-level visual story-telling that George Peréz seems to produce instinctively now. I liked his work with Mark Waid on the Brave and the Bold, and I like what he’s doing here very much.
Reading this comic brought to mind experiences I’ve had while listening to music: the sheer pleasure of appreciating the work of a fine artist in their maturity. While you can see how they might be hewing to some formulaic parameters, there’s joy in seeing someone master the form -- even the elements that might seem a bit shop-worn.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Tom DeFalco has made public that the final issue of Spider-Girl will be #30.
(Newsarama picked up a posting made by DeFalco at the SG page at the Comic Boards on Sunday.)
DeFalco reports that the character will regularly appear in the Amazing Spider-Man Family book.
I can’t say that this was an unexpected announcement: the title’s numbers have been at the same problematically low level since the re-launch.
I’ve enjoyed this book over the years, and will be sorry to see it come to an end.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
After several years of aimless meandering -- a problematic period marred by epically bad story-telling, idiotic plot developments, and some truly terrible characterization and art, this title appears to have righted itself.
Jamal Igle, an artist whose work I have followed since taking note of his assured penceling on Firestorm, is in fine form. Dynamic, well-wrought art makes a big difference -- there seems to be something always going on in Igle’s panels.
And Sterling Gates turns in a good story -- it’s not a take on earth-shattering, philosophic questions, or the crazy follow-up to Supergirl’s (stupid) promise to keep a young boy from dying. What’s on offer is just a competent, straight-ahead comic book story, delivered in three acts:
In the first, after Cat Grant writes an attack article on Supergirl in the Daily Planet, the public turns on the young Kryptonian. She’s seen as an irresponsible teen-ager unworthy of Superman’s legacy, and Kara takes the public’s disapproval to heart. Superman suggests that perhaps part of her problem is that she’s Supergirl 24 hours a day -- maybe a secret identity would help things? (This was the same advice that Supes offered to Wonder Woman at the end of 52 -- is this all he’s got?)
In the second act, Kara seeks advice on secret identities, visiting with the Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. Robin offers Conner Kent’s glasses to her -- a nice touch, and though a heavy-handed writer might have ruined the scene, it’s not over-played here.
Kara talks to Wonder Woman while they’re subduing a giant eagle that shoots flames out of it’s beak in a scene that acknowledges the inherent weirdness of the DC universe. (And deploys Diana’s invisible plane to good effect.) I appreciated that the writer didn’t see the need to stop and congratulate himself about how he had managed to bring together the strange and the mundane.
Finally, while licking her wounds in Smallville, Kara figures out what she’s going to do. Martha Kent engineers a meeting between Kara and Lana Lang -- it turns out the two young women are dealing with the same problem. They have given in to the tendency to hide from a world that seems to have rejected and wounded them. In the finest tradition -- one often on display in movies and comic books -- a single, meaningful conversation is enough to get both Lana and Kara to see the light. It’s on to Metropolis for these two!
Although it sounds like I’m being cynical, I’m not. I appreciated that this comic took aim at a single story and deployed Igle’s impressive artwork to very good effect. All of the parts of an enjoyable comic are here, and I don’t ask for all that much: a nice opening splash page, several decent fights, character development and motivation, all followed by a final splash image that delivers the hook for the next issue.