Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A New Panel: The Balance of Power in Comics

A handful of creators are taking superhero comics by storm.  We've had a few female creators make splashes in the Big Two (Marvel and DC), including Gail Simone, Marjorie Liu, and Kathryn Immonen; but now they're even bigger in the field, leading the way for a revolution of female creators in the Big Two.  Now we're also having male creators who are female friendly, like Brian Wood, Brian K. Vaughan, Greg Rucka, and Colin Bunn.  

Since Mike Carey's departure from X-Men in December of 2011, male writers haven't featured females in a realistic or favorable light.  They've been defined by their relationships, subjugated by men, and relegated to single-line status and boob and butt shots.  While this is typical for many titles both in DC and Marvel, this is certainly not typical for X-Men, but it has been in the core books for years now at the editorial level.  Under Cyclops' rule of the mutants, Emma Frost has been reduced to a trophy wife, Psylocke back to being Asian fetish (though she could've returned to her English body), Storm's rational opinion quelled because she was Queen in a different continent, Rogue became untrustworthy, and Kitty a bore.  While I blame the likes of Grant Morrison, Matt Fraction, and Jason Aaron, I blame editorial even more for taking away the soul of the X-Men.  You can change the status quo with huge stories, but don't take away what made the X-Men so wonderful and the top-selling book for decades: the women.  If I wanted to see two guys measuring the size of their junk, I'd watch gay porn.  But I don't want to see that.  I want to see what's happening right now in X-Men.


We have something for everyone in X-Men!  For those who love the patriarchal Cyclops, we have Uncanny X-Men, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Chris Bachalo.  I've no interest in this, clearly.  I have no love for Bendis' writing.  I hate his portrayal of females and his simple insertion of his own voice into every character, no matter if it sounds like them.  People seem to love All-New X-Men for some reason with Kitty and a time traveled teen Jean Grey as the stars.  Everyone's falling in love with Teen Jean yet again.  Whatever.  There's also the ultimate dudebro X-book in Cable and X-Force, which stars Cable, Colossus, Dr. Nemesis, Domino, and Forge.  Like I could give a shit about the machismo that oozes from that 90s nostalgia book.


There is, however, a couple noteworthy books.  Sam Humphries and Ron Garney have relaunched Uncanny X-Force with Psylocke in a covering uniform leading a team of Storm, Puck, Spiral, and two of the three Fantomexes (one being a female).  Storm and Psylocke are very much the stars with their friendship being the foundation.  It's nice to see a female-led title that focuses on developing character and interpersonal drama.  While Psylocke herself is offensive as a temple of misogyny and Asian fetish, we're starting to focus on her as a person, not in terms of her physical identity, which some writers used to focus on.

In addition, we're getting a relaunched X-Men by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel and David Lopez in April with an all-female core cast of Storm leading Psylocke, Kitty, Jubilee, Rachel Grey/Summers/Howlett and Rogue.  This is probably the most excited I've been for a book.  Brian Wood writes engaging characters that determine the outcome of a story and provides the most well-rounded characters, both male and female.  And you what?  It was editorial's decision on the team members!  Editorial is finally realizing what X-readers have been complaining for so long to see.  Check out Brian Wood's X-Men (2010) #30-#37, and tell me it's not a classic X-Men story.  Wood has been writing wonderful, complex women his entire career.  He even managed to make women crucial to nearly every story if they weren't already the central character in his Northlanders series, which is about the Vikings.  He's also made Princess Leia into a fighter pilot in his new Star Wars series and has written a miniseries called Mara, about a sports celebrity with superpowers, who happens to be female.  I trust no one else currently writing at Marvel with this book.

While this is happening, Dazzler has been leading X-Treme X-Men, which is sadly coming to an end with the Jean-Grey-led Age of Apocalypse.  These books are concluding with a crossover with Astonishing X-Men, written by Marjorie Liu, who focuses more on developing character as she takes us into the everyday lives of the X-Men.  She uses more diversity on her team than has been seen in the X-Men or any Marvel book in quite some time with Cecilia Reyes, Gambit, Karma, Warbird, Iceman, Northstar, and Kyle.  Peter David's X-Factor is also a character-driven book with outlandish plots, proof that story and character can be perfectly balanced.  He also has many women on the team.

In addition to the changing direction of the X-books (back to its former glory and beyond), the rest of Marvel is giving rise to its female creators and characters.  Kathryn Immonen has been writing Journey into Mystery now with Lady Sif as the main character, wanting to be the best warrior, all the while finding out about herself and the meaning of life.  Carol Danvers (formerly Ms. Marvel) stars in the self-titled Captain Marvel, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, as she balances her roles as an Avenger, a pilot, a neighbor, a friend, and a mom to a cat.  And now she's not permitted to fly, and we must see how she handles this.  Then we've got the title Fearless Defenders, where Valkyrie gathers those she deems worthy as Defenders, all women.  Written by Colin Bunn, the book will star Valkyrie, Misty Knight, and Dani Moonstar as the core three with a rotating team and many special guests, including Moonstar's fellow New Mutants.   In addition, Hawkeye not only spotlights the male Avenger Clint Barton, it also stars the younger female Young Avenger Kate Bishop, who clearly overshadows Barton.  This is a strange thing coming from Fraction, who wrote the X-Men so terribly and reduced its women to subjugated playtoys.  His writing must be better suited to solo books and small teams.

So I'd say the Marvel as a whole is become female-friendly again, and maybe it never has been this female friendly.  I can't wait to see where this all goes, and if it does well, then hopefully we'll get more female solos and female team books without the cheesecake factors.

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