G3 Review: First Wave #1

Cover art by J.G. Jones

First Wave #1
Script: Brian Azzarello
Art: Rags Morales
Colors: Nei Ruffino
DC Comics
March 3, 2010

As a fledgling fangirl, I mostly read what others loaned me. In time, I learned what I liked and didn’t. Much of what I enjoy is of the Spandex persuasion and has a strong female presence. Thus, First Wave is not a typical read for me.  Had it not been for Rags Morales’ involvement, I wouldn’t have picked up the book at all. I’m such a fan of Rags’ art that I figured the comic would be worth it even if the story turned out to be a bore. I also approached First Wave knowing nothing about Doc Savage, his entourage, or The Spirit. So here’s my “Tabula Rasa” take on issue #1.

The art is the shining star of this issue. I always enjoy a JG Jones cover. The smooth lines and the sort of chalky, muted tones are nice touches that complement Jones’ take on the characters. It reminds me of Chris Van Allsburg, whose work I enjoyed so much as a kid. Rags’ interior art is amazing. During a quite amusing conversation between The Spirit and crooked cop Dolan, there’s this up-close panel of Dolan’s smirky face that I just stared at: The smoke coming off the just-used match, the shadow cast from the brim of his hat and pipe, and the distinct look of the character. It said so much more than the dialogue could — and that’s just one panel!

If you think of the art for a character-driven book in terms of movie casting, Rags is the best casting director in the studio. He manages to define all of the characters so that you got a feel for who they might turn out to be in this story. He has a real gift for drawing eyes, giving them depth and an almost photo-realistic intensity. I generally liked Ruffino’s colors, but at times, some of Rags’ detail work seemed lost to the coloring. But since the palette and contrasts were aesthetically pleasing as a package, perhaps that’s a fair trade-off.

Since I am not familiar with the characters in First Wave, I had to read the issue a couple times to absorb what was going on. It’s mostly a lot of seed planting, but no real forward motion. We see Dr. Littlejohn somewhere in the South American jungle fleeing from a killer robot. Doc Savage comes home from solitude to his father’s gravesite, only to find some serious shenanigans surrounding his “death.” A Russian guy, who I guess is the big baddie, reads a news report about Doc’s goings-on and has some opinions about the scene taking place in the jungle. The Spirit provides kooky commentary while following a lead on some criminal activity, only to find a fight and a few things unexpected.

I’m curious to see where the story goes, and I’m excited about some of the characters. We get a brief glimpse at Rima the Jungle Girl in this first issue. Based on a preview from Rag’s character notebook that I saw a while back, I love Rima’s look, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Azzarello does with her. She doesn’t have a great deal of established continuity, but in the hands of an able writer, that can be a great thing. There is a Black Canary yet to be revealed, which I have high hopes for. The Spirit was wildly entertaining, as he’s a special kind of crazy. I’ve always had an affinity for eccentric characters. Plus, I’m really digging Doc Savage, who’s all smart and bronzy. Yum.

Verdict: The first issue doesn’t offer a great deal of exposition, and I imagine it’ll take another issue or two before we get any. You might get more out of it if you are familiar with Doc and Spirit. The story was certainly not a bore. Azzarello managed to pique my interest, but Rags Morales is what made First Wave worth my $3.99.

G3 Review: Power Girl #9

What are you lookin' at?

Power Girl #9
Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art and Cover: Amanda Conner
Colors: Paul Mounts
DC Comics
February 17, 2010

How flat-out fun is this comic? Let’s put it this way: If the sight of gat-toting elephants and rhinos robbing a bank doesn’t do it for you, it’s time to find another hobby. Better still, the mutant wildlife gone, uh, wild are drawn by Amanda Conner, who has quickly become one of my favorite illustrators. Conner’s style — expressive and fun without being cartoony — is a great match for the witty spirit that writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti bring to Power Girl.

I didn’t immediately love this comic when it debuted last year, and frankly, PG has always been high on the Characters I Don’t Care About list. But with the last couple of issues, the writing/art team has hit its stride to make Power Girl a comic that’s as entertaining as it is gorgeous to look at. (Spoilers ahead!)

Barely recovered from a dinner date with Vartox that involved a “pregno-ray,” Power Girl takes on the lawless animal invaders by doing what she does best — beating the bejesus out of them. Then, major hater Satanna shows up wielding a sonic boom hammer, unflattering body armor from the “Transformers” collection and a grudge.

It’s a good thing Satanna’s got that hammer, because taunting a Kryptonian with lines like, “OK, bitch; come get some!” is otherwise inadvisable. But it’s also funny, and Power Girl is full of genuinely funny moments. One involves Power Girl ending up naked on her apartment steps, with her famous assets covered only by a strategically illustrated bunch of carrots. It’s just one of several panels that shows off Conner’s gift for facial expressions. PG has a sense of humor! Who knew?

As a superhero comics fan suffering from event fatigue, I’m glad I gave Power Girl another chance. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Terra-fying!

If nothing else, DC’s Blackest Night series has hammered home the point that the undead are disgusting. In the hands of a skilled artist like Ivan Reis or Rodolfo Migliari, who did the variant cover for BN #4, the Black Lanterns are some nasty, grotesque customers — and by nasty and grotesque, I mean awesome. It’s a tough assignment to make a character somewhat recognizable underneath all that rotting flesh, though a distinctive costume helps.

Of course, the art quality of the BN tie-ins has been all over the map. The images of Black Lantern Terra from The Outsiders #24 certainly haunted me, but for all the wrong reasons:

Really? A corpse rises from the dead with a perfectly preserved, golden Farrah flip? I know this is a nod to Terra’s signature ‘do from her New Teen Titans days, but the sight of that buttery coif on top of a decaying body was equal parts distracting (Did BL Terra get a weave?) and unintentionally hilarious. I can only assume that ROFL isn’t the reaction DC was going for with the unveiling of Black Lanterns. Then again, I have the photos to prove that ’80s hair can be terrifying in its own way.

G3 Guest Essay: An Open Letter to Nemesis

The very first Girls Gone Geek guest essay comes courtesy of our pal Chocotaco, who is a great lunch companion and a formidable debater on geek-related topics. We’re as confused as anyone about the fate of Wonder Woman’s relationship with Tom Tresser/Nemesis, who basically broke up with her several issues ago. But is it really over? Who knows? It seemed like a rather abrupt end to their Amazonian (and controversial) courtship, but in this essay, Chocotaco explains why he thinks it was doomed from the giddy-up: Continue reading “G3 Guest Essay: An Open Letter to Nemesis”

G3 Review: Blackest Night Wonder Woman #2

Don’t start none, won’t be none.

One of the great pleasures of reading comics is finding an ideal marriage between writer and character. Greg Rucka just plain gets Wonder Woman, and his affection for the character is palpable in the three-issue Blackest Night tie-in. The first issue, featuring an Arlington Cemetery confrontation with a zombie-fied Maxwell Lord was good, but #2 sent me into a texting/e-mailing fangirl frenzy. [Spoilers ahead]. Continue reading “G3 Review: Blackest Night Wonder Woman #2”

Best of the ’09 Pull List: Batwoman in ‘Detective Comics’

She's a ride-or-die chick.

As far as my comic-shop file is concerned, 2009 was a good year overall — and it really didn’t have that much to do with lantern rings and cape-baiting zombies. DC’s “Blackest Night” and many of the tie-ins have been perfectly enjoyable, but the books that stuck with me this year were more about individual characters than cataclysmic events. From the brilliant-while-it-lasted pairing of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on “Batman and Robin,” to the nifty surprises of “Wednesday Comics” and “Superman: Secret Origin,” to the thank-God-it’s-still-good re-launch of Brian Michael Bendis’ “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” my pull list generally gave me a lot to look forward to on Wednesdays.

But no title rocked my world in 2009 quite like “Detective Comics” as conceived by writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III. I expected Rucka’s writing to shine, but Williams’ visual storytelling has been extraordinary. In each of the seven issues (#854-860) this team has produced so far, Williams has executed pages that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a mainstream comic book. Brought to life by Dave Stewart’s expert coloring, Batwoman is frankly terrifying the first time she appears in issue #854, all pale skin, flame-red wig and shiny black bodysuit. Even her crimson lipstick is intimidating. (Dear M.A.C.: Consider making Batwoman the face of your next Viva Glam campaign.) If you’re up to no good, you do not want to meet this woman in an alley, period. That’s how it should be when someone wears the bat symbol.

Fortunately, the artwork serves a mighty good origin story. [Spoilers ahead] What motivates a privileged person, one who isn’t named Bruce Wayne, to put on a costume and stalk criminals at night? After the brutal loss of her mother and identical twin sister, Kate Kane follows in her military father’s footsteps rises through the U.S. Army ranks. But when she’s outed as a lesbian and refuses to lie about being gay, Kate is forced out of the service and becomes a woman adrift — at least, until a chance encounter with Batman inspires her to start taking a bite out of crime herself. Their wordless first meeting is one of my favorite visuals in this series, and though Kate is clearly in awe of Gotham’s dark knight, she didn’t need his help to whip her would-be attacker’s ass.

In Rucka’s hands, Kate has emerged as a truly interesting, complicated figure. I particularly like her kindred-spirit relationship with her dad, who uses his high-level military connections to support her crime-fighting. There’s tension between Kate and her wealthy stepmother, and it’s clear that she’s not entirely over Renee Montoya, aka The Question. A recent discovery about her twin sister, Beth, is a doozie. And of course, there’s that lingering issue of having been stabbed through the heart by a Religion of Crime crackhead.

Word is that Rucka and Williams will reunite in 2010 to continue Batwoman’s adventures in her own title. I’m going to file that under “Please, Please Be True.” After all, Gotham City needs all the help it can get, and I’m pretty well hooked now.

G3 Review: Secret Six #16

Secret Six #16
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Peter Nguyen
Inkers: Doug Hazelwood & Mark McKenna
DC Comics
December 9, 2009

The Story

*Spoiler Alert*

We’ve all watched movies with serial killers where you wished nothing more than for Justice to assail them squarely in the nuts.  Well, our favorite amoral anti-heroes of Secret Six do much, much worse. Leave it to Gail to make demented so delicious.

The issue opens up with Catman and Deadshot abducting a serial-killing child molester from police custody, only to turn him over to the father of 9-year-old Katie Sanchez, one of his victims.  Mr. Sanchez wants revenge.  Before parting ways, Catman gives the bereft father a few tips.  “When you flense him, don’t think of him as human. It’s just tissue.”  Catman and Deadshot exit scene  to talk about … dinner!  Gail perfectly articulates the fine line these lovable psychopaths teeter on.  The diabolical duo don’t get very far before the one and only Black Alice makes her presence known.

Now, I am beyond thrilled that Alice is back in Gail’s hands.  I loved her at inception, and have been champing at the bit for more of the character ever since.

Having witnessed the tutorial on torture, Alice is unaffected and wants to join the Six.  In her bratty, teenager fresh-from-hell kind of way, she refuses to take no for an answer.  Throw in some strip club shenanigans, Black Alice’s magical mojo, some sentiment from the teddy bear that is Bane, the always welcome witticism of Ragdoll, and you got yourself a Dionysian good time.

The Art

I pretty much jizzed on myself when I got a look at LuVisi’s cover back in August.  I LOVE HIS ART.

But I have to admit; I really missed Nicola, who is about as good as a comic artist can get.  Having said that, I think Peter Nguyen did a excellent job.  The facial closeups were awesome. I absolutely loved what he did with Alice’s costumes as she moved between magics.  The Alice Banshee was some rock star shit, fa sho.  I also dig the ink, which is appropriately ominous. My only criticism is that the faces seemed elongated in certain panels. All in all, enjoyable.

I had a great deal of anticipation for this issue, and I was not disappointed.  I look forward to whatever fuckery the Six can get themselves into next and … and what happens if (OK, when) they make Alice angry.  Cowabunkle!

Vixen’s Fashion Crisis

Bills! Bills! Bills!

When she isn’t channeling animal powers to fight crime with the Justice League, Vixen — aka Mari Jiwe McCabe — rolls as an international fashion model. So why does her costume look like one of Tina Knowles’ rejected sketches from the 1999 Destiny’s Child Tour?

Of course, there’s no shortage of fashion crimes against female comic book characters (Star Sapphire’s stripper-inspired getup comes to mind), but there’s something especially jacked up about Vixen’s situation. The woman is a runway model, and she’s in a mustard-colored bodysuit with a butterfly collar and an animal tooth belt? For real? Liya Kedebe or Gisele wouldn’t be caught dead in that madness.

Maybe this seems like a quibble, but a superhero or villain’s costume is, for better or worse, his or her calling card. Vixen is by far the most prominent black female superhero on DC’s roster, but her spectacularly unimaginative yet tacky costume suggests that she’s nothing special — just another random chick in Spandex. As Manhunter and Catwoman’s costumes demonstrate, even a simple bodysuit can make a powerful (and sexy) design statement.

Some enterprising person at DC ought to get Lifetime on the phone and pitch a Vixen costume redesign challenge for the next “Project Runway” season. While they’re at it, they might want to offer up Star Sapphire, too, because that fuchsia shit is just crazy.

Wonder Woman: Second-Class Citizen?

If you asked the average non-geek to name three superheroes, chances are they’d say Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — arguably the most iconic comic book heroes in existence. It’s just as likely that few (if any) of these people would know anything about Lobo, a DC character who was introduced as a villain in the early ’80s.

So it would stand to reason that Wonder Woman, who has been a major part of the DC Universe since 1941, would get the big-screen treatment long before a second-tier player who had a run of popularity in the ’90s. But while Hollywood has yet to show Diana any love, Guy Ritchie — a legitimate filmmaker! — is set to direct a live-action movie about Lobo.

Lobo.

Look; it’s bad enough that Wonder Woman has gotten second-class citizen treatment compared to her alleged equals, Superman and Batman. They’ve both had several major motion pictures across several generations. The last time Wonder Woman enjoyed a big pop culture moment outside of comic books was when Lynda Carter donned the costume in the ’70s. You could chalk that up to garden variety sexism or just a serious failure of imagination on the part of DC-Warner Brothers. But when frickin’ Lobo gets to the big dance before she does, that’s just ridiculous. Continue reading “Wonder Woman: Second-Class Citizen?”