A review up of the comics I read and liked from last week:
Uncanny X-Men # 16 – Brian Michael Bendis (Story), Chris Bachalo (Pencils & Colors), Tim Townsend (Ink), Kris Anka (Cover)
A sort of done in one where we watch Magneto snap. From the beginning Bendis has painted the mutant terrorist as conflicted, broken and following Scott Summers for uncertain reasons. Magneto has been a time bomb waiting to go off but despite his normally self destructive past, it’s his fellow mutant villains, former allies, that set him off. It’s a nuanced, complex reaction from one of the most complex characters in all of Marvel. I knew going into this that a Magneto series was coming, but I assumed, like Wolverine, Magneto would just show up in several books. Instead, Bendis gives him a logical leap out of his wheelhouse, a surprisingly nice thing to do since Bendis isn’t writing the Magneto book. Another interesting point is how long this book felt, the many panels Bachalo makes, the plethora of ads, it felt like 30 good pages, not 20 throw away ones. I actually went and counted just to be sure.
Bachalo’s self imposed limited color palette is used to an interesting effect. He draws the eye where he wants you to look. For example he colors in the background of Madripoor but leaves Magneto in the foreground gray, so we look beyond him. We become Magneto, paying attention to his surroundings. Clever.
Fairest #22 – Mark Andreyko (Story), Shawn McManus (art), Lee Loughridge (colors), Adam Hughes (cover)
I love Cinderella the super spy. She’s smart, dark, funny and a bizarre mix of magic and espionage – but the show stealer is the art. It begins with the wonderful cover of mice crawling over a handgun. It’s so odd, whimsical and well done that I keep staring at it and smiling. Inside, McManus and Loughridge are a perfect marriage of color and line. The characters are all distinct and expressive, the camera angles are cinematic with varied closeups and distant shots. It’s more like watching a well animated film then a simple comic. The mice didn’t just steal the show on the cover, they stole the story. From Dickory’s great lines while riding on Cinderella’s shoulder, to the behind the scenes tail of what the mice did when Cinderella went to the ball. It’s sad to know that Fairest is ending. I’ll miss Cinderella most of all.
Astro City #7 & 8 – Kurt Busiek (Story), Brent Eric Anderson (Art), Alex Ross (Cover)
Astro City, since it’s debut on Vertigo, has been very meta. It’s about superheroes and how they impact our society, but also how we react to them, along with sly commentary about what comic companies are doing with their brands.
This new story arc tells of the downfall of the hero Winged Victory, a winged warrior woman (Wonder Woman analog) who’s dating Samaritan (Superman analog). Well that’s the plot, but like most Astro City tales, that’s not the story. The story is about female empowerment and how the media are like vultures that prey on weak celebrities.
Like most Astro City stories, Kurt somehow tells you everything you need to know about the current story, and implies decades of back story, and still moves right along with the story taking place now. You can jump onto Astro City from any issue – almost any – and follow along like it’s your first. One framing device he’s used since starting this Vertigo series is to bring in a mortal person and have them be the viewpoint for the story. The stories are really about the humans within the world of the super powered.
In this tale, a small town kid is bullied and makes his way, beaten and bruised, to the Winged Victory sanctuary. It’s a place where they teach women self defense, not men, so he’s not welcome. We see a bit of reverse sexism, another Kurt trait, showing many gray sides to what could be a black and white issue. As the boy arrives, a media circus begins where female supervillains start claiming they were trained by Winged Victory, and that fights are staged to make WV look like a hero. Since WV gets her powers from the approval of powerful women, public disfavor is a secret weakness.
In the next issue, it gets worse. Super men take over the investigation to find who’s framing WV. The government shuts down her facilities and begins investigating her staff – sending the women who sought shelter back out into the streets. The men take over and WVs decades long effort to empower women is shredded before her eyes. All the good done is ignored for the words of a few agitators. There’s allusions to WV having a troubled past as an activist, even a terrorist, because of her radical views of female empowerment. This of course is parallel to the demonizing that’s happened to many women’s groups and suffrage movements in our world. Femi-nazis anyone?
The meta commentary here is not just on male vs female empowerment, it’s on how Wonder Woman has been used in both the comics and the women’s rights movement as a symbol. It’s no accident that this story is out at a time when Superman and Wonder Woman are dating in the New 52.
Alex Ross’s covers are great, but it’s Alex Ross. He’s incapable of making a bad image. Brent Eric Anderson’s art is a bit to dark ink wise for my tastes, but his details are excellent, and he’s great at creating new character designs, buildings, devices and everything Kurt throws at him. His wings on victory look like wings, not posed statues hovering in the air. His perspective skills are excellent. When we look up at the super couple love making in the air, we believe they are flying above us.
The story arc continues in 9, and I’ll be rooting for a character I’d never known anything about before.