Sunday, March 22, 2015

Female's in Comics

A Discussion About Female's And Misogyny In Comics

I feel that recently there has been a certain segment of the feminist population that have become outspoken about misogyny in comic books and I feel that some of their complaints are justified, but I also feel that some are not.  A lot of the complaints are directed at the big two companies and characters like Power Girl, Starfire, or even Wonder Woman and their dress, as well as a general need for more woman/girls in comics.  I understand the want for characters that are not hyper sexualized and drawn with outrageous anatomies but I like to point out that the big two also have a rich history of crossover and addition of female characters.  DC has one of the most iconic super heroes of all time and I feel like Wonder Woman has been a positive character since the 1940’s, not to mention the many different, six to be exact, Batgirl’s.  It’s not just super heroes, anti-heroes like Catwoman, and straight up villains like Harley Quinn are a staple of DC as well.  I understand the idea of dressing them different and not making them hyper sexualized, but I feel like skimming over the fact that these characters are mostly empowering is not doing them justice.  Both of the big two have some amazing characters and some of them have amazing histories, not just in comics but as back stories as well.

As far as DC is concerned I think that Starfire is under the most scrutiny, or under the most fire, pun intended.  Princess Koriand’r, or Starfire, is most recently a part of Redhood and the Outlaws in the New 52 but she was created in 1980 and has been part of other teams like Teen Titan’s so there is plenty of history, not all of it overly sexual.  I understand that she is often portrayed in a fairly sexual manner with little clothes but by focusing on only this detail we have been sort of unfair to her history and depth as a character.  I just don’t feel that a panel or two of her in a sexy swimsuit takes away from the rich history of her people the Tamaran or the world she comes from.  Not all men that read comic books stop at the pictures, many of us can see past the sexualizing art, and we appreciate Starfire as a really amazing character.  There are times in the series that Jason Todd or Roy Harper are standing shirtless, all buffed out and sexy, but I have never heard anyone complain about that, and I feel that is because the story continues to grip the imagination and people can see through the panel and frame it with the overall story line.

[caption id="attachment_1273" align="alignnone" width="640"]Jason Todd and Starfire Jason Todd and Starfire[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1274" align="alignnone" width="247"]Starfire Starfire[/caption]

DC has made some strides towards comic book equality; the New 52 reboot has redone some of the staple characters like Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman, and recently added some new books like Gotham Academy featuring a teenage girl as the protagonist.  Even Harley Quinn got her own book, and if anyone wants to question the BA status of any of these characters then I implore them to read Suicide Squad and make an argument that Amanda Waller isn’t one of the most BA woman in comics today.  DC has heard the voices in demand of new female roles and heroes and believe me their creative wheels have been turning.  I feel that some of the ventures into female led comics have been dismissed because they were not successful.  Let us not forget a little book called The Movement that featured four teenage girls and two teenage boys as the team and also featured one of the girls as team leader.  It ran for a year but was cancelled after only twelve issues.

[caption id="attachment_1275" align="alignnone" width="640"]Virtue is team leader Virtue is team leader[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1276" align="alignnone" width="672"]Gotham Academy Gotham Academy[/caption]

As far as the big two companies I like what Marvel has been doing the most.  Not to take away from DC but Marvel has really stepped up their game in the attempt to kill stereotypes in comic books; in fact, they have done such a good job it’s hard to know where to start.  I feel like one of the most important things is the success of the female Thor character.  According to the BBC, and every other news organization, the female Thor books have out sold the male books over shooting a lot of people’s expectations and silencing the critics of the change.  I certainly don’t mind the change but I also don’t dismiss the critics that ask why they had to take a male character and make it female.  I see it from both sides, but I don’t understand the hate over it.  As much as it doesn’t bother me they changed Thor I have to wonder why they didn’t just make a new female character that was different, but the feminization of an already existing character is nothing new so the critics should realize that as well.  I think the biggest difference is the lack of misogynistic hate that exudes from a lot of the female Thor critics, I have no malice in my heart over it, and I just feel that the need for female characters is better served with new and refreshing characters versus reinventing male characters.

Female Thor

Even though I feel new characters is a good idea I like the crossover and world building stuff that Marvel has been doing with the Spider-verse, it’s reminiscent of Batman and the variations of Batgirl.  Through the Spider-verse story line Marvel has been able to introduce some really killer female characters like Silk, Spider Gwen, and Mayday Parker.  Instead of reinventing Spiderman they took the idea and built on it.  In my opinion having Peter Parker lead a bunch of other spider people doesn’t dilute the Spiderman name like changing the characters sex does.  The preservation of the original is what has people like me upset, but it’s also the reason I would like to see new female characters.  I feel that the Spider-verse alternative is done very well because the other spider people are similar enough to get the Spiderman feel but it doesn’t dilute Peter Parker at all, Peter’s legacy as Spiderman is only enhanced by Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy, and all the other Spider-verse people and instead of shifting the emphasis they share it.  All the Spider-verse people are comparable to Peter and they can have their own books, best of both worlds, just like the Batman/Batgirl dynamic.


There have been plenty of times that I have seen a male character with an outrageously good body that was needlessly shirtless and ripped like a Greek god.  I feel that the big difference may very well be that I don’t care and that sight doesn’t draw out any negative emotions in me.  I’m certainly not trying to tell anyone how to feel or think about an issue, I’m simply drawing a conclusion that may or may not be correct.  For me, personally, I never thought about the issue of dress with female super heroes until I saw a few articles and videos on the matter, but touche to the people that noticed and wanted a change because I can see clear changes that have happened and I can see even more changes coming down the pipe.


Not saying that people are wrong to feel the way they feel and I’m not attacking people for feeling the way they do, but I would like to see some recognition for the good things going on within DC and Marvel.  They have made a concerting effort to do better and be better; I think that deserves at the least a golf clap of recognition.  I also feel that anyone yearning for more female protagonists should check out more indie books because there is no shortfall in female protagonists in indie books.  I have done reviews on a lot of stuff and a ruling majority has had either main female protagonists or at the least have had secondary female characters.  The Empty, Cluster, Magdalena The Seventh Sacrament, and Pregnant Bitches of War are all reviews I have done and they all have female protagonists; and everything else I have reviewed has at least a female character if not a strong supporting female protagonist.  If the success of the new Thor or the demise of The Movement has taught us anything it’s that comic book consumers care about one thing and one thing only… quality.  I feel like the best thing to do is to buy the books that feature great female characters and spread the word so others buy it too, that way creators can continue with their visions and let the market climate decide if they keep going, because as much as consumers like quality creator companies like money.  If an artist team has a hit like the new Thor it will show, and if not it will go the way of The Movement.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Theodicy Review

A Religious Adventure That Explores Theodicy

Everyone knows and I have been unabashed about my love for nearly everything sci fi, but few of you know I have another weakness… religion.  So far I have only been able to find one really good religious comic book to talk about and ironically enough I posted that last Christmas.  Even though Theodicy is religious it has nothing in common with The Magdalena The Seventh Sacrament, my last review of a religious nature.

Theodicy is available at Indyplanet and comixology, but you can also read about it at their blog and link to it yourself.  Theodicy is written by Chad Handley, penciled by Fernando Brazuna, inked by Ryan Boltz, colors by Minan Ghibliest, and lettered by Kel Nutall.  The art is done very well and it works well for the sort of book it is.  With the nature of this book Nutall gets a workout, it’s a very word heavy book that focuses a lot on the story and dialog of characters versus the visual story telling that we see a lot with comics, and I’m good with this.  I truly feel that comics are one of the greatest mediums, some comics tell a great story without a character saying a word and sometimes the book becomes in depth and more involved in the dialog.  Guess which one Theodicy is.

According to Merriam-Webster theodicy is, “Defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil” and yes I did have to Google it.  I feel like this is an amazing title because everyone, whether they know it or not, struggles with the thought of theodicy, and most people base their belief or disbelief on their interpretation of theodicy, characters in this book included.

The cover gets straight to the point of evil in this world as it features a young boy with his arms and legs cut off.  The image sets the tone well before it starts with the story.  Theodicy starts off with a man named Paul unloading some pretty hardcore atheist arguments to what turns out to be his future parent in laws.  Of course the fiancé doesn’t take kindly to his smug, arrogant, and rude speech and gives him back his ring as she tells him he needs to find something or someone and let it all out.  After reading his diatribe I was leaning towards agreement with his fiancé because it was pretty smug, especially because he did it at a nice dinner with the future in laws.

After the first few pages of Paul and his fiancé Theodicy turns to a second story where a catholic priest named John, his Monseigneur, and an attorney argue a contract that requires a young woman to leave the priests care and turn herself into her debtor.  Father John argues vehemently for the poor girl but in the end he loses.  Father John has already described the institution the girl is going to as some sort of horrible brothel where the girls are drugged and used up and that thought is only reinforced when a military looking force shows up to take her away.

theodicy panel 2

During these panels with Father John I can tell that he is being faced with doubt but another priest tries to remind him that he is a good guy and has done everything he can do but Father John points to the boy with no arms or legs as a sign of his doubt.  I feel like this exchange sums up the ideas behind this book, a poor little child that has never done anything to anyone and deserves so much more as he lays helpless with no limbs, and how can God let something like that happen?  What could this child possibly done to deserve such a fate?  Why won’t God do something?  And probably most important to this book, how can anyone believe in a God that allows such things to happen?

I believe the struggle of how God can let bad things happen is what keeps the man Paul an atheist but because of his exchange with the parent in laws and the loss of his fiancé he is compelled to attend a church service.  Paul at church is only one page with six panels but the artists involved do an amazing job at showing his skepticism about religion through body language and facial expressions as he sits and watches a baptism.  It’s a quick page but it’s also powerful and meaningful to the story.

After Paul and the baptism the story shifts back to Father John as he does some magic for some kids and talks to a woman named Kate that appears to be a nurse or a doctor.  They talk about the magic trick and Kate tells him that their MRI machine is acting up.  Father John seems to be a jack of all trades because he agrees to look at it again, hinting that it has been on the fritz before, but also through dialog they reveal that Father John is somewhat of a mystery to Kate because she asks how a father could fix an MRI let alone build one.  The more I see Father John the more I like him and I feel like I could be a Catholic if everyone in the church was as caring as he seems to be.

Father John and Kate make their way to the conference room to meet with the Monseigneur, another priest, and a little boy.  They discuss the boy and through dialog it’s hinted that the boy is at the center of some sort of healing miracles.  They talk about him being healthy other than losing his voice but apparently they have no explanation of how a few of the people near him miraculously came out of a coma and went into cancer remission.  Father John doesn’t think he is a miracle worker, he says he just doesn’t believe the kid is special in anyway.  Father John is clearly starting to lose faith and become disillusioned by the thought of a God that can allow so much misery.  I understand the feeling of being overwhelmed and under qualified to deal with so much and I feel like mentally Father John is losing the faith.

theodicy panel 1

Father John leaves the meeting and goes to prepare for a mass where the young boy with no limbs comes to receive the Eucharist from Father John.  The boy’s mother brings him in with a wheel borrow and the entire church stares in wonder while the boy comes in.  Father John losses it a little bit and makes a small speech about “Just what kind of God you serve” and walks out.  Even though Father John leaves the woman and her child are more than happy to have been there.  I love the contrast between the believers, non-believers, and people like Father John who seem to be somewhere between.  I truly believe that faith is a never ending struggle and this is portrayed perfectly.

Hours after Mass Father John gets a visit in his invention room by the other Father that brought the kid with no limbs and the two fathers have a conversation about Father John harboring his doubts.  Father John is an inventor and a practical guy so when he sees practical issues he has a problem with all of the impractical suffering.  I understand and I see where the ideas of a godless world meets the thought of so much suffering but I struggle with Father John losing his faith, I never like to see the good guys get disillusioned to the point that they stop trying.

The story flashes back to Paul as he sits in the church getting ready for a showdown with God.  I actually do this all the time, I just call it prayer, but Paul is on another level with his lack of faith in any God let alone Jesus or the Christian God.  Paul’s rants to God is not by any means unfounded, he reveals his upbringing that was heavily Christian, he speaks of a brutal way of losing his parents, and has an all-around good reasons for being bitter and unbelieving, but before he can finish his rant he looks down to notice that he is standing on water.  Of course the second he notices this small miracle he falls into the water only to pop up with a look of amazement on his face.  I feel like Paul needed that moment with God for him to realize that he is bitter about some things in his life and come to terms with it.  In my eyes the root of most disbelief, at least with atheists like Paul, stems from personal loss and personal examples of suffering and pain.  I don’t blame people and the argument is fairly solid but people like Paul don’t account for the free will of man.  Naturally man’s heart is not pure and free will causes pain.  Paul is mad that God didn’t keep the Garden of Eden as the blueprint for the world, and I get that, especially when he lost his parents so brutally.

Handley leaves us with Father John being woken up by an alarm and scrambling to get people inside the gates to avoid a raid by collection agents like the ones in the beginning that came for the girl.  Although he expected collection agents there were none; he ran out to find the limbless boy standing with limbs next to his mother, and the mute child that heals people.  I enjoyed the book and I feel like this hook is inescapable, it just leaves way too many questions.  Is God real?  Does Paul convert?  Is the healing mute child a gift from God?  Are any of the things that happened real?  What is going to happen to Father John?  Just after the final panel there is a wonderful little synopsis that has a definition of theodicy so you don’t have to Google it like I did, but it also has a synopsis of what the crew attempted to accomplish by writing this.  They focus on Paul the atheist and Father John as they deal with people like the mute boy and form an unlikely alliance.

I was impressed mostly by the thoughtful and intense dialog but please don’t think that because it’s word heavy that the illustrations lose out in anyway because they don’t.  The book is an all-around success and it takes on a very serious issue from both sides and with class, that can be hard to do and they certainly pull it off.  I’m glad that someone out there had the wherewithal and courage to tackle such a controversial topic, and they did it from both sides, which only adds to the appeal.

Theodicy image

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Empty Review

The Empty from Image Comics

The New Year has been super busy and has brought a lot of new time consuming things to my life, but I promise I’m coming back with a vengeance.  I have a ton of new comic books I want to talk about and because issue two is on its way I want to start with The Empty.

The Empty is an Image release and is mostly a one man show; Jimmie Robinson created, writes, illustrates, letters, and colors this book.  Laura Tavishati edits, Marc Lombardi does communications, and Jim Valentino handles complaints.  There are special thanks to Gail Follansbee but it doesn’t specify why.  Robinson does a great job with the illustrations, I feel like it has a special style to it, almost an anime feel to some of the characters while others have a realistic look.  The colors are bright for the most part and when the different style characters are on the same panel they fit well and nothing seems out of place like he was trying to merge two styles and didn’t hit the mark.  He doesn’t just hit the mark; he hits a bull’s eye.

The story starts with a sky shot of a lush place with beautiful farm land and clear looking buildings.  Inside one of the buildings four people with long necks plot the death of someone named Lila.  The people have long necks and sort of Roman style clothes on; they remind me somewhat of Avatar people, but not blue, just gangly looking.  These are the characters that are somewhat anime style as well.  I say they look anime style because they have large eyes, but other than that and the long necks they look like normal people.  These animations are done really well and give the people a unique look without singling them out from the rest of the characters.

The Empty 1st page


After the first page set up the book switches to a different story line leaving us wondering about the first page.  Robinson sets up a new world that is barren desert looking land and introduces us to the main character, Tanoor.  As the new story line picks up the dynamic of Tanoor’s world starts to unfold and it quickly becomes clear that her world is not easy.  Tanoor’s world is dying from a root that poisons everything but she is the only one that wants to search for new lands.  She gets push-back from the merchant that employs her to hunt as well as from the village elder that thinks he knows better.  Before they stop arguing Tanoor see’s something floating in the water near their village.  Tanoor goes to see what the floating thing is and she discovers one of the long necked people.  The second I see the long necked person I start to wonder if she is the one that was a target from the first panel conversation and sure enough through dialog between her and Tanoor we find out that she is in fact named Lila.

The village elder pushes back at every instance while Tanoor and Lila talk about where Lila comes from.  After hearing about Lila's life Tanoor spends most her time tries to figure out how to get to Lila’s plush land.  Tanoor seems to be the only one that knows the empty is empty and worthless but while Tanoor and Lila talk and figure things out Lila stumbles upon a bracelet she thought she lost.  Her bracelet brings back memories and she says that her people threw her away.  Because of her statement there and another one before about the sun not being right I start to think that maybe her land is above them and the roots that poison everything are what make their land so plush, but we will have to wait and see if my theory holds water.

Lila flashes back as she tells Tanoor about her world.  It becomes clear that her people are kept in the dark about the possibility of the empty having people but none of them question it because life is good for them and they have their own version of village elders called the blessed.  Lila tells Tanoor that the blessed supposedly have seen the world created and I have a feeling that has to do with the roots, but again, we will see.  Lila continues and tells about her love, Dakom, who seems to be the same guy plotting her demise in the first panel.  Dakom had her meet him by the sea where she was surrounded by guardsmen and can’t remember anything after that.  Because of this I wonder if maybe my theory is incorrect and Lila’s land is actually just across the sea, but either way I feel like her people are going to be responsible for the poisonous roots.

After Lila’s flashback the elder guy comes back to try and kick them both out of the town and pushes Lila into a dying tree.  Lila getting pushed into the tree didn’t surprise me, but when the lost bracelet she is wearing hits the tree and it all of a sudden sprouts fruit and becomes plush I was very surprised.  Everyone was surprised and wanted her to heal as much as possible, except of course the village elder guy that wanted kill them both.  I keep wondering why this is so intent on sabotaging Lila’s discovery and now her help with the land and I think it’s either one of two things; he is just plain ignorant, or he has something to do with the Lila’s people.

The Empty Image

Tanoor is no fool so she facilitates Lila's help and decides that heading to the roots and destroying the biggest problem is going to be the best bet.  At this point the elder follows them to a large bridge separating their town from the roots and cuts the bridge, leaving them stranded.  The book ends really well with Tanoor and Lila facing about a dozen things called Mool’s.  Mool’s are like roided out bunnies and monkey crosses with seriously menacing teeth and floppy ears.  We already know that Tanoor is a great hunter and I have a feeling that Lila can take care of herself as well so I’m excited for issue two.

I feel like my sci fi bias is showing somewhat because I can’t help it, but this book is done really well regardless of my bias for sci fi.  The colors and people are bright and pop with a lightness to them that is pleasing to the eye, the characters development and the world development is done very well while still leaving something for issue two.  I certainly want to see what happens to the Empty as Lila and Tanoor try to save the land and the people, and I’m more than curious about her husband that tried to have her killed.  I will be checking out issue two for sure and luckily I procrastinated long enough on this review the new issue is coming out March 25th along with some other Image releases.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Best Comic I Read Today Is ... The Dying & The Dead #1

Hickman and Bodenheim Reunite for The Dying & The Dead

Two quick disclaimers before we get into it: 1) Much love and thanks goes to former NerdBinge columnist Derek Adnams who started "The Best Comic I Read Today Is..." articles and who so graciously allowed me to keep it going here. Derek has since retired from NerdBinge in order to spend more time with his family, his work, and somehow in between all that, writing more comic books. 2) I'm a little behind the 8-ball on this one as I'm reading the second printing of The Dying & The Dead, but after James Gunn recommended it on his Facebook page, I had to check it out. I was pleasantly surprised to find it on the racks with all the new stuff at my LCBS today, and, well, as you might have gathered already, it was certainly the best comic book I've read today.

Now, on to the review.

Jonathan Hickman is nearing legendary status in the comic book scene these days. He has basically dictated the next phase of Marvel comics after 70+ years of continuity with his MASSIVE run on Avengers and New Avengers leading into Secret Wars.  It's easy to tire of the big events and crossovers of the Big 2, so this new, original comic got me excited. To match that, Issue #1 is a beast of a book, 60 pages in total. The colors of Michael Garland are exquisite and a bold artistic choice, taking the color immersion trend into poetic territory. And yet, with all that praise, you CAN NOT understate the massive undertaking that Ryan Bodenheim brings to the table in both his character illustrations and his immersive landscapes and scenery.

So, why is this the best comic book I've read today? Because it made me feel small. Not just small, but like really, really tiny. Hickman takes the girth of the entire human history and culture and compresses it down to 60 pages. And you can feel that in every page. In partnership with Bodenheim, Hickman's story brings something to life that is rare in comic books these days: a depth of narrative through illustration that makes my hands and my brain ache just looking at it.

[caption id="attachment_1253" align="aligncenter" width="640"]the-dying-and-the-dead-interior Just look at that shit! WTF?!? Don't your fingers just hurt right now?![/caption]


There is great mystery afoot, much of which cannot yet be discerned, but this porthole into the story alludes to a great history dictated by a race that cannot be more succinctly described as anything other than "The Dead." Issue #1 opens with a powerful interpersonal story: a couple to be wed, and then their wedding, their honeymoon and shortly thereafter their death. It's intense, messy, and mostly unexplained, but it's quite clear that this is just pretense for something much greater and more sinister. Then, we meet the Colonel. His wife is dying and to save her, he takes a trip to the underworld. Greek and Roman mythology come to life in a fresh and unmatched imagery. Edward James Canning, our classic mythical hero analogue, journeys to the underworld for the same reason every hero has every gone to these treacherous depths. He wants to save a loved one from the grips of death, his wife who is dying of cancer. He is immediately offered a deal: do the dirty work of "the dead" because they can't do it themselves, and they will save his wife.

It's all very sympathetic. Seeing a man lose his wife gives you plenty of motivation to relate to this character, but that's not what drew me in. "The Dead" give James a deal to save his wife, but at the same time he is offered-- no compelled to take an out. But he doesn't. And that's when it gets fun. For all the heavy and maudlin ruminating over the nature of life and death that this comic offers, it still leaves that element of adventure hanging like a carrot on a stick at the end.

The Colonel wants to save his wife, no doubt, but he also wants to do the dirty work because he's good at it and he likes it. And so do we.