Originally published November 21, 2014
For all our American readers, we’re quickly approaching Thanksgiving, and as an American resident, I’m definitely excited. (It means I can go home! Grad school is taking its toll on the integrity of my brain. I can discuss the intricacies of ketone body synthesis until I’m blue in the face, but small talk has started to become a bit of a stretch. It’s rather bad.) But there are still comics to be read in the meantime, and this week, we’ll be looking at Black Widow 12, Storm 5, and the brand-new Spider-Woman 1! (If only it had an artist who had the slightest understanding of human anatomy.)
Black Widow 12
Last issue brought us the truly effective—and exciting—team-up between Black Widow and X-23 in the wake of Wolverine’s death, which you can get a refresher on in the previous review!
Edmondson and Noto deliver a very intriguing issue this week, using Anderson Cooper (yes, that Anderson Cooper, and a very well-drawn one too) as the catalyst to expose Natasha’s jobs-on-the-side on live television. The extremely-bad-for-Natasha’s-future exposé (seen by friends, teammates, employers, enemies, and the world as a whole) is intercut with scenes from Natasha’s current mission, which is rescuing a captured journalist in Somalia with the current Howling Commandos (and she is having a really great day). No, really; today is a good day for Natasha—until she gets a call from Isaiah about the news report. Since she’s still on her way back to the U.S., she asks him to stop by her apartment and feed Liho, the cat… but someone is waiting in her apartment, and shoots Isaiah twice in the chest.
Yikes! This is Not Good. Isaiah’s shot, Natasha’s outed in the worst of ways (the collateral damage from a hero-villain fight can be interpreted in so many fashions, many of them bad for the hero, especially when you’re dealing with espionage), and her teammates and friends have a lot of unpleasant questions for her once she gets back. It’s a fine line to walk—how far is too far? What boundaries can someone cross (international, diplomatic, or otherwise)? Does someone’s status as a hero make them exempt from boundaries, or even more subject to them? Putting aside the idea that outing a spy on international television is maybe not the greatest thing to do without warning (I’m pretty sure her identity’s been fairly public for some time, so it may be a moot point), accountability is a tremendously important issue, and I’m excited to see the Black Widow team address it as we move forward.
As an aside, within the comic itself, Anderson Cooper asks the general public of the Marvel universe to share on Twitter what they think of Natasha’s actions using the hashtag #whoisblackwidow. As a tremendous fan of this comic and a reader concerned about its future after hearing whispers of cancellation, I think we’ve been given a marvelous opportunity here (no pun intended) to show our support and love for a fantastic comic and a fantastic character.
They gave us a hashtag. Why don’t we use it?
Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, you name it—use #whoisblackwidow. Tell the world what the character means to you. Tell us what you’ve loved about the current series. Share what you’d love to see as the series continues. Advocate for why the Black Widow deserves her own solo film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and what you’d want it to be about.
She’s a character we love. Now let’s tell the world why.
— Eve (@rainbowhub_eve) November 20, 2014
Okay. Let’s take a minute to be honest with each other here: I love Jessica Drew. I really, truly do. She’s a fabulous character, with a decidedly compelling backstory and relationships with other characters that I particularly love seeing play out on the pages of my comics (Carol Danvers, for one, but I also appreciate her tendency to not be awed by the Avengers old guard, like Captain America or Iron Man). So when I heard the news that there would be an ongoing Jessica Drew solo comic, I was thrilled.
…And then I learned the artist would be Greg Land.
For the love of everything sacred, WHY.
If you’re not familiar with the particular egregiousness of Greg Land’s work, here’s a good place to start. (For more information, these articles from 2010 and 2012 both highlight some of his most famous errors.) If you are familiar with it, first of all, my apologies; second, you’ll know about his utter lack of understanding of human anatomy—particularly female anatomy—and his tendency to both trace the work of other artists and trace screenshots from porn. Yes. You heard that right. He traces from porn. To make superhero comics.
Just. Take a look at that cover again. I can wait.
I have two main points of contention (but there are many more to pick from).
One: what on earth is happening with Jessica Drew’s right thigh? Does she not have a full leg anymore? Is her knee mysteriously missing? Has her thigh undergone a strange muscular atrophy that also devoured the bones and muscles of her lower limb? WHERE IS HER LEG.
Two: What’s going on with Silk’s ribcage? Is she missing ribs? How can her back arch like that? Is there even room for her internal organs anymore? Where is her spine? What’s happening with her pelvis?
(For an excellent artistic critique of Land’s cover and that infamous Milo Manara variant cover, check out artist Karine Charlebois’ attempts to realistically recreate the covers over on The Mary Sue.)
Greg Land’s blatant disregard for the basic functioning of human anatomy has always greatly irritated me, as has his constant decision to portray every female he ever draws as a sexualized being (he’s stated in the past that his favorite type of woman to draw is sultry, AKA every woman he’s ever drawn except for maybe that one elderly woman in a few issues of Mighty Avengers). I’ll admit that his frequent problems have begun to frustrate me much more since I started taking courses in human anatomy, as I can now look at his art and say things like “it looks like she has five extra thoracic vertebrae; where did they come from,” but you don’t need medical knowledge to know it’s just bad.
So. With that in mind, I’m willing to give this series a chance in spite of Land, because it’s a Jessica Drew solo comic, and we deserve a Jessica Drew solo comic.
…Well, I tried.
Imagine a hoarse, low-pitched, twenty-two-second-long groan of disappointment, and you’ll know the exact noise I made when I finished Spider-Woman 1.
WHY. WHY LAND. OF ALL PEOPLE, WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE LAND.
I’ll admit that I am very much at a loss when it comes to the plotline they’re employing here, because it deals with the Spider-Verse story. I’m not a Spider-Man reader, and it’s difficult to keep up with the comics I do read, let alone ones I don’t. When the plot summary tells me that “a villainous family called the Inheritors is traveling the multiverse, hunting down spider-totems to feed on their life force,” I kind of have to take it at face value. (That face value still leaves me pretty confused, which may mean that this isn’t the best starting place for a solo title.)
Apparently, Jessica has been tasked with the job of protecting another spider-person named Silk, who seems to be an Inheritor-magnet. Silk, Jessica, and a Spider-Man from the 1930s (does that make him Spider-Man Noir?) have been jumping from universe to universe to try to outrun the Inheritors and keep them away from their “spider-friends.” Jess is very much the realist of this trio, with Silk and old-timey Spider-Man firmly in the idealist seats. They end up getting into trouble, which attracts the attention of a pair of Inheritor twins, and they have to jump universes again. 1930s Spider-Man gets hurt, so they bring him back home to his universe to get patched up.
616’s Spider-Man (Peter Parker), 616’s Spider-Girl (Anya Corazon), and Earth-65’s Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacey, though she’s become affectionately known as Spider-Gwen) arrive to trade off Jess’s duties to Gwen and Anya, since Peter needs Jess for some other mission. Jess warns the two teenagers that while Silk’s idealism and good heart would normally mean they’d like her, in this instance, that idealism will definitely get them killed. Silk overhears and jumps worlds in a huff, claiming she can take care of herself… before being attacked by some sort of hungry creature in the snowy streets of some universe’s New York. Oh, and the Inheritor twins know where she is.
Going on solely the writing and nothing else, I’d be intrigued by this first issue of Spider-Woman, but not hooked. Jess is portrayed as a brusque taskmaster and a horrible pessimist when she’s just trying to keep a young woman alive for as long as humanly possible, and that struck me strangely while I was reading. In addition, dropping new readers smack in the middle of a very convoluted plotline with little to no backstory if they haven’t read the pertinent comics is not a good way to get new readers to pick up your book and keep picking it up. There’s some weird dialogue choices, and some of it seems a bit forced, which leads readers to not being able to get a good handle on any characters that are new to them. That being said, I do love Anya and Gwen, and hopefully we’ll get to see more of them, as well as more Jess doing what Jess does best. I’m not sure how I feel about Silk—she seems a bit whiny and needlessly rebellious, but I guess we’ll see how that turns out.
Remember that twenty-two-second-long groan of disappointment? Yeah, this is why.
The only way to adequately convey the horror that is Land’s sexualized, all-women-have-the-exact-same-face, anatomy-defying art would be to screenshot the entire issue, which (for reasons of both convenience and copyright) isn’t really possible. There is a whole host of choice bits to choose from, though. Shall we take a look at a few?
Jess’s breasts and ass are definitely the most important body parts to focus on while she’s speaking in a panel. Yup. Good choice there.
I don’t know about you all, but I always stand like this when I’m checking my watch to see how long I have before people come try to murder me again.
Because that’s totally aerodynamic and an effective attack pose… for the mecha suit behind you. You’re right, Silk, there is only so much bullified jackassery a girl can handle. (I appreciate the fact that this is how that line was illustrated.)
I always fight mecha suits like this. It just works so well! (Also, where are the crests of her hips? Silk also seems to be either missing some ribs or has gained a few extra lumbar vertebrae.)
Extra lumbar and thoracic vertebrae here for Jess. Also, loss of some ligaments in the hips, because the hip socket does not do that.
Because that’s the face (and weirdly elongated torso) of a woman worried about Inheritor twins eating an old-timey friend.
Meet Anya and Gwen. Anya is definitely in high school and Gwen might be a high schooler or possibly in college. Someone forgot to tell Greg Land.
HIGH. SCHOOL. ANYA IS IN HIGH SCHOOL. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this was another porn tracing, which makes it even worse.
Also, is that the face I’m supposed to make when I find out my spider-charge has escaped from me to head to her almost-certain death? I had no idea.
I would also like to note that, regarding Spider-Gwen, humans don’t have wattles, and necks don’t do that. It’s like someone took her head, tipped it up past where it can safely go, and pulled until her neck stretched out like taffy.
What did we ever do to deserve this?
Jessica Drew deserves better.
We began a new story arc in issue 4, also dealing with the aftermath of Wolverine’s death, as Storm takes Logan’s place at the side of their old friend Yukio as an enforcer of sorts, but instead she manages to create upheaval between the clan bosses of the criminal underworld. (Oops.)
As Yukio’s champion, Storm must fight the champion of the challenging boss, Kuva of Breakworld, in a no-rules, to-the-death battle. Storm is determined to get through it without killing, but the opposing champion reveals that Kuva would kill his family if he didn’t fight. They fight, and Storm does end up winning—but by beating him into unconsciousness. Though she didn’t kill him, nobody takes up the challenge, leading Storm to declare that she makes the rules now—only to find that Yukio has slit Kuva’s throat in the meantime, in order to take control of her clan and her people. Storm is upset, since she fought to end the killing instead of enabling more of it. Despite Yukio’s assertion that she’ll run the clan better than the tyrannical Kuva did (no more warrior priestess dogma or killing of families), Ororo flies off unhappy. Before she does, she tells Yukio that Logan didn’t want to help enable this but to free her from it, while Yukio disagrees, saying that this is where she belongs and Logan knew it too.
I honestly don’t know where to stand on this issue. On the one hand, Ororo’s right in saying that violent criminal undergrounds never end well, especially for the leaders of those underground groups. But at the same time, Yukio’s idea that specifically scheduled, mutually agreed-upon, contained violence is much better than chaotic violence in the civilian streets of a city is an interesting one. Who’s in the right? I don’t think I could say. What I will say is that I am absolutely in love with Pak’s portrayal of Yukio, a female, wheelchair-bound ninja, leader of the criminal underworld, clan boss, and warrior, who’s not afraid to get her hands dirty to get a job done. She truly believes she’s working for the greater good (as well as her own good), and she’s fiercely defensive of what she believes is important. Having a character like this on the page who is disabled is a fantastic step forward for Marvel, and I hope we see so much more of Yukio in the future. (I’d read a “Yukio, Clan Boss” comic. Just saying.)
In more unfortunate news, like Black Widow, Storm is also in danger of cancellation given Marvel’s patterns so far. It would be absolutely criminal to lose a book this good so soon, so if you’ve read Storm, start talking about it. Pick up an extra copy of Storm, share it with your friends, give away your digital download code, and spread it by word of mouth. Storm is a fantastic comic that we’ve been asking for over so many years, and the only way to keep it is to tell Marvel we want it, whether that’s by reading and buying the book and/or by writing in to tell them how much we love it.
Next week, the Marvel release calendar claims we won’t be seeing any of our regular drops, but given the fact that Ms. Marvel 10 appeared on the calendar for this week and then disappeared, we just might be getting some Kamala Khan!