Thursday, October 29, 2009

Review: Marvel Divas #4

When Marvel first announced Marvel Divas a few months ago, I felt a many number of things. Okay, no, I felt two things. One? I felt excitement. I love Black Cat and Firestar. Hellcat is someone who I’ve recently discovered through the Patsy Walker: Hellcat mini and who I thoroughly adore. After the first few moments of excitement passed, though, I felt terror. Pure, vibrant terror. I mean, for one thing, the series was called Marvel Divas. Marvel. Divas. The title terrified me, and that terror only grew stronger when they announced that it was to be a Sex and the City parody.

Now, “parody” isn’t quite the word I would have used to describe the mini-series. I mean, from the first issue onwards, we were kind of hit over the head with the fact that this was a shallow attempt at remaking the sort of magic that Sex and the City had. The only problem with that is that these things work best when they’re homages, not paper-thin formulas used solely to attract a female audience, which is essentially what happened here.

The series started out with many of the characters – Angelica Jones especially – acting somewhat out of character. The ties of friendship between these women also felt extremely forced. I mean, speed-dating? Really? Why on Earth would women like Felicia Hardy and Patsy Walker need to go speed-dating? Or even want to?

The sad fact of the matter is that Marvel Divas was, from the get-go, ill-conceived and shallowly put together, and that brings us to the final issue of the series, which was unfortunately as fulfilling as a morsel of carrot cake. The slightest hint of a flavour, but not much else.


When we last left our, uh, “Divas”, Patsy had just agreed to go to Hell for one night with Daimon, on the promise that Daimon would save Angelica’s life for good, ridding her of the cancer that was eating away at her.

At the beginning of this issue, we’re treated to what was honestly one of the cuter moments in the miniseries. A little farfetched? Sure, but adorable nonetheless. We open up on a Saturday morning zen yoga class, led by none other than Danny Rand – Iron Fist. The class is filled with a multitude of Marvel’s super-women, from Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four to She-Hulk to Crystal of the Inhumans, amongst a bunch of others. Of course, Felicia “Black Cat” Hardy and Monica “Photon” Rambeau are there was well…without two of their besties – Angelica and Patsy.

Angelica – dressed in her Firestar costume – appears outside the large window and apologizes to Danny to for interrupting class, and then pulls both Monica and Felicia out of class to tell them what we already know – that Patsy’s been kidnapped. Patsy, the smart thinker that she is (and a far, FAR cry from her characterization in Patsy Walker: Hellcat, I might add) has written a note on her ever-present laptop (she’s been writing about Angelica’s ordeal for her, and since she’s the Carrie Bradshaw template of the group, she’s always writing anyway) that Daimon’s taking her to hell.

Segue to a scene where we see Patsy and Daimon cage-fighting, while Daimon tries to convince Patsy to give up. (Really? Cage-fighting? I mean, kudos for not trying to make Daimon some creepy rapist dude, and kudos for him not mind-controlling her…but cage-fighting? That was just…all kinds of bizarre.)

So of course, the girls rush off to rescue her, using the monkey’s paw that Monica helped get for her flame – the newly minted Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Voodoo.

From here on out…the issue just falls flat. The, er, Divas Three are transported to Hell, right outside Daimon’s hell-palace. As they plan to storm in on Daimon and Patsy, we find Patsy (who’s been tied up to a chair at the other end of a long, elegant dining table) having dinner with Daimon, while he taunts her and finally admits that he’s butthurt because Patsy barely mentioned him in her first book, Cat Outta Hell, which is why he’s going through all these extremes to harass her. Yeah…

The women bust in and Monica – former leader of the Avengers – starts spouting out orders, natch. Felicia gets Patsy out of her bondage scenario (the cats gotta stick together, y’know?) and we’re treated to a verbal show-off between the Son of Satan (or is he the Son of Satannish? I was never quite sure on that) and the (ugh) Marvel Divas. Patsy cuts a deal saying that, in the paperback reprint, she’ll add a chapter about how she’s still not over him, which Daimon bargains up to being two chapters. Patsy, desperate to get away from him, agrees. Daimon, trying to play his last hand, tells Patsy that they’re not done yet, and that if he does let them go, then Angelica goes back to playing the odds with her health and the cancer, which Angelica agrees to, preferring to battle the odds with her health instead of letting her friend suffer.

As a wrap-up, we find that Angelica’s tumor hasn’t spread, but she’ll have to hope that her cancer won’t recur for the next five years. Felicia makes a deal with the Kingpin to start Cat’s Eye Investigations and breaks it off for good with Puma. Monica breaks it off with Doctor Voodoo, and Patsy, close to completing her book, calls it “Super Vixens.”

The End.


This series, I think, had so much potential, but the story spread out through these four issues could easily have fit into two issues. I would have loved to see Felicia deal more with her internal conflict regarding whether or not she should go back to a life of crime. I would also have loved to see how/why she ends up going to Wilson Fisk of all people. Seeing Angelica deal with her illness would have been great, as would have an appearance or two from Vance Astrovik. With Monica…I’m honestly not sure how much of a point there was to having her in the story, other than trying to make her a Miranda Hobbes type. And Patsy…well, that story was just one hot, steaming mess.

On the bright side, the art by Tonci Zonic (and seriously, that might be one of my favourite names in comics) was really, really nice in some aspects. Fresh, a little toony, but nice. I’d like to see him do more – maybe an all-ages Marvel Adventures Dazzler series or something.

** out of five.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Marvel Women

Marvel announced this morning that, starting in March (which here in the United States is Women’s History Month), they are going to start a year long program celebrating the women of the Marvel Comics universe, starting off with a series of one-shot comics featuring female superheroes who might not have their own series as of yet, and then moving on from there to a Young Guns program that will serve to promote female artists, as well as a program called Write Stuff, in which they will pick four or five female writers and promote them all through the year. Along with this, Marvel will also be doing variant covers (starting with the First Lady of Marvel Comics, the Invisible Woman on Fantastic Four #575) beginning in January, followed by the outrageously sexy Punk Storm in February. All of this will be followed up with omnibus runs of various Marvel titles that have featured superheroines like Night Nurse, Hellcat, and a few others. At some point, during the summer most likely, Marvel is aiming to do an event that takes all of the superheroines of the Marvel U and places them in one story. (The story was originally reported on Newsarama. Click for the full story.)

Invisible Woman Punk Storm

Now, I have to say, I’m equal parts excited and horrified about this for any number of reasons, but I’m going to start with the good stuff first, because I have to admit, this was great news to wake up to first thing on a cloudy Wednesday morning.

Marvel has such a great cast of strong, powerful female characters, starting with the Blonde Phantom and Venus and coming all the way down to recently created characters like Layla Miller and Pixie, and it seems as though in a lot of these cases, the characters’ true potential has remained greatly untapped. It’s not that surprising, really, when you consider that comics starring female superheroes don’t seem to sell as well as those starring male superheroes. Not surprising, but incredibly sad. Given the right writers, these women can support titles just as well as their male counterparts do, and – as proved by DC’s Birds of Prey when it was in the extremely able hands of Gail Simone – be just as smart, compelling, and fun as any title featuring a Spider-Man or a Wolverine. Personally, I’m hoping for one-shots or minis featuring Dazzler, Blonde Phantom, all of the Spider-Women (from Jessica Drew and Cassandra Web all the way down to Mattie Franklin and AraƱa), Satana, all the way to characters who seemingly have disappeared off the Marvel Universe map, like Nina Price – Vampire by Night and Southpaw from Dan Slott’s She-Hulk run. Marvel should truly celebrate these characters.

My worry, though, stems from the fact that, lately, Marvel hasn’t fared too well when they’ve tried to market comics towards women, and I think a major part of that is because of how they’re marketing them. Models, Inc and the unfortunately named Marvel Divas are both books that are obviously created with a female audience in mind, the former borrowing a title from the spin off of the Beverly Hills, 90210 universe and the latter an obvious (if incredibly late) homage to Sex and the City. But I look at these books, and the first thing that strikes me is just how utterly wrong these books seem. For the longest time now, comic book superheroines have been around to serve as moist, delicious cheesecake for the majority male readership of comics, and so when trying to appeal to the opposite sex, it feels as though Marvel’s trying to go the stereotypical route with appealing to the female fanbase. What we end up with are books that seemingly mess up these characters that the fans respect, taking them away from the core of who they are and turning them into characters that people will think girls like to read. The problem with this is that women in their teens and early twenties and beyond – women who’ve grown up loving comics, don’t have the boys-have-cooties-pink-is-for-girls kind of mentality. More often than not women are just as drawn to shows like Lost and Castle as they are to shows like Gossip Girl and Melrose Place. What I honestly and truly hopes Marvel does is treat these superheroines as characters and superheroes first and foremost – as people – and then take into consideration that they’re female. The books shouldn’t be made unnecessarily “girly” because they’re aiming for that specific market, nor should they try so hard to make the women sound like stereotypical “girls”. Women in general have come so far beyond that kind of stereotyping, and if Marvel’s truly serious about honoring females and women’s history, it’d be in their best interest to treat their superheroines as humans for this event, and not sexual stereotypes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


It’s only fair to start off by saying that this blog was heavily inspired by Mike Madrid’s The Supergirls: Fashion, feminism, fantasy, and the history of comic book heroines published by Exterminating Angel Press earlier this year. It was the moment that I realized that I wasn’t alone in my deep, long-lasting love affair with the comic book superheroine, and the moment that I realized that there were others out there like me who had perhaps waited for a book that could help them celebrate their joy of characters like Black Canary, She-Hulk, Promethea, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge superheroine fanboy. Growing up, I was first introduced to strong female characters like She-Ra, the Princess of Power; Cheetara, the fastest of all the Thundercats; the plucky and brave Rainbow Brite; the sassy and intelligent Spider-Woman; the sensational Wonder Woman; and the sexy, manipulative Catwoman. I loved this characters in a way that I simply couldn’t explain. Their male counterparts – He-Man, Lion-O, Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman – were interesting enough, sure, and they were very attractive in their spandex and their furs and their bare-chested-ness, but I wasn’t having any of it. For me to be drawn into something, I needed a strong, female force in the middle of the action, leading the way. And that continued into everything I read or watched – comics, movies, television shows. It seeped into my writing as well – everything I wrote in English class always had a strong, spunky female as the protagonist.

I can’t explain why I was so drawn to them, except maybe to explain that a part of me saw something of myself in them, something relatable which I couldn’t find in the male heroes, no matter how hard I looked. But I love them dearly and completely, which is what brings me here, to starting this blog.

What is The Brave and the Beautiful? Simply put, I envision it as being the hub for all things super-heroine, from reviews on comics starring some of the greatest superheroines out there (and there’s a good number of them out there now) to discussing different aspects of superheroines in comics today and yesterday to news about upcoming movies, books, and television shows about these fantastic females.

Simply put? It’s an ode – a love letter – to all of the amazing female superheroes out there.