Friday, 31 August 2012

The Mane Event - Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe

Every so often Marvel decides to have a little fun and shakes things up by having a prominent character in their roster strike out and do something wild, albeit in a short set of enclosed comics. This time it's the turn of the Merc with a Mouth – Deadpool – as brought to you by Cullen Bunn.

The first thing to point out is that this is not designed to be a kids comic. Yes, Deadpool is wise-cracking, joking and schizophrenic throughout, but Marvel have gone to the effort of trying to make this quite graphic. Therefore also attached a large parental advisory notice to the front of each of the four issues.

The story opens in the first issue with a Watcher, and a slightly unfamiliar one too meaning that this may not be the version of the Marvel Universe we know, who is stood at the precipice moment in this reality. Narrating the carnage and devastation we see the downfall of the Fantastic Four played out for us.

Winding back, we see Deadpool taken to a mental institute and it's here that the deadly mercenary tips over the edge as an almost naive plan formulated by Psycho Man backfires spectacularly. Instead of brainwashing Deadpool, he unwittingly unleashes one of his suppressed personas upon everyone, or at least opened the door wide enough for that part of Deadpool's fractured psyche to step out of the shadows and influence Wade into his crusade to assassinate the supers of the world. It’s a simple yet strangely satisfying premise and the first issue establishes it completely and succinctly.

The remaining issues are more a case of following the trail of destruction. The middle pair are very specific to individual targets and to my adoration exploits a commonly ignored aspect that all villains shy from. When you have a gun at point blank range, a monologue after pulling the trigger is far more effective than after. After this you are led to wonder at Deadpool’s methods and tactics. Some of his approaches border on both, for example how would you try to kill a god like Thor? Is he strategically gifted? Or insanely creative in achieving his goals? I would suggest to read and decide yourself on that one.

My criticism of the story though would definitely have to be the length. At only four issues I can understand that stretching it out any more would make for a dull and repetitive tale that is meant to be very tongue in cheek, however, as it is also so short it means that towards the final issues things start to feel rushed without actually hitting a deep story. All you have is Deadpool and a voice in his head. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that this was not meant to have some hidden meaning and will not set off some sort of new regime, but on occasion it did feel a little thin. Even the ending was humorous but no real surprise - a canny reader can make an educated guess by the end of issue #1.

Throughout the mini-series Dalibor Talajic provides the artwork. It’s not my favourite style but it is fitting in the way that it’s not crisp and clean, it doesn’t have smooth edges and the depth of detail that reflects the story in some ways as well as augmenting it.

I think that Deadpool fans will like this as you get to see him doing something he’s joked about for years. For a new reader it would come across as confusing but still entertaining. One for the collectors shelves too as a pack.

Matt Puddy is wondering what comes next and above all eager for his next comic fix!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Big Game Hunting - Game versus Comic: Uncharted

There are a handful of comics that only exist thanks to the great success of the games that inspired them. But just how good are these comics when compared to their digital counterparts? This week we look at the Naughty Dog-inspired comic, Uncharted, written by Joshua Williamson.

What's the comic about?
Treasure hunters Nathan Drake and Victor "Sully" Sullivan are seeking the legendary Amber Room by following clues left behind by great explorer Sir Francis Byrd. But they are not alone in the search, and enemies of Drake's ancestor will stop at nothing to beat him to it - and get revenge for past wrongs.

When does the comic take place in relation to game events?
This is a bit of a tricky one to answer. Even the author himself has admitted the time frame isn't pinpointed absolutely. Elena, a primary character in the first game, is never mentioned, so we must assume it takes place before meeting her, or after the end of their relationship between the first and second games.The only certainty we have is that this story takes place sometime before Uncharted II, when Drake and Chloe Frazier (a treasure seeker from Drake's past) meet again.

How true are the characters?
The main characters feel, for the most part, spot on. There is the occasional line that feels like it's coming from the wrong character. I often found myself laughing at Sully's lines more than Drake's, making it feel as if Drake's wit was on the slow side for this story. Chloe is just as snappy with her own one-liners as ever, and felt like the truest character of the bunch. The brief appearance of Flynn (also from Uncharted II) - while accurate enough with his portrayal - felt forced and pointless, as if the author was simply searching for someone other Sully to fill the pages with a bit of variety.

What about continuity?
For me personally, I feel the continuity is intact between the comics and the games. However, this is largely because I think a lack of information does not create a fault. Without giving too much away, the circumstances of how Drake and Chloe part ways prior to Uncharted II is in question by some readers. The explanation of these circumstances differs between the game and the comic. However, with the exception of one specific point, the game is conveniently vague on explaining exactly what happened.

My opinion is simply that we are never told how many times Chloe and Drake have crossed paths over their lifetimes. Considering the line of work they are both in, there is every likelihood they've met more than once before the events of Uncharted II. Sully even says, "I doubt we've seen the last of her," effectively hitting the nail on the head.

What does the comic do that the game doesn't, or can't?
One thing that can get tedious in the games are the action sequences. While the developers clearly did what they could to relieve that, there is no denying that occasionally you will reach the point where a fight scene is reduced to button mashing. The comic is able to swiftly plow through these sequences, showing the best moments of the fight before moving right into the next part of the scene. You're able to enjoy both fights and narrative, without every panel of every page being filled with "WHAM", "BANG", and "BOOM".

Can I read this without playing the game?
Absolutely. The comic is the perfect way to get a good taste of the game series if you haven't played it before. The characters are explained just enough to carry the story, the plot isn't directly linked to the game events, and the format feels at times like you're watching the game being played out on paper (only more exciting, because watching someone play a game can be quite boring sometimes).

You may get more enjoyment out of it if you've already played at least through Uncharted II, though. Chloe's appearance in itself is enough to make an impact on Uncharted players. Knowing at least some of Drake's history, particularly his claim to being the descendent of Sir Francis Drake, also gives the comic more depth and provides an instant backstory to the plot.

Want to give this comic a go? Grab the graphic novel containing all six issues from Proud Lion!

Rae is a little poorly today. Sad face.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Mane Event - Amazing Spider-Man #692

Everyone loves their favourite neighbourhood wallcrawler and this month he turns 50!

Back in August 1962, Stan Lee first created ol' Web Head and with this latest comic we celebrate his half century with a bumper issue brought to us by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos, Dean Haspiel, Joshua Fialkov and Nuno Plati.

Now with such a list of writers and artists, it’s completely understandable that instead of one big story they’re separated it down into three separate tales following different aspects. The Slott/Ramos combo takes the major piece as this is the start of their latest plot, with the introduction of a new character and an old adversary too.

Each of the different stories act as small individual tributes to the Spider-Man mythology. In a series of events that mimic the creation of Spider-Man we see a completely normal and easily ignored Andy Maguire be thrust into herodom through a freak accident at Orion lab. This obviously hits close to home with Peter through his own experiences but now he has to take responsibility for his own creation. Following the infancy of Alpha and his potential (as Reed Richards puts it) begins an interesting chain of events for Spider-Man, including having to deal with his own jealousy at him having the teenage life that Peter really wanted.

It’s a nice piece of writing when you consider it could have been how Spider-Man started out if he didn’t have the strong moral guidance of Uncle Ben. While it feels familiar it also has a new angle to explore.

From an artwork point of view what can I say... it is typical Ramos work and stays strong to what he does best whether you’re a fan or not.

The second story is from Dean Haspiel and takes us back to a bygone age. Working more as a “What If” it follows a small time crook who finds Spidey’s old outfit when, in a moment of crisis, Peter casts it off. The artwork and story hark back to earlier issues of Spidey. It’s short and punchy with a moralistic ending meant to be a thank you to Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and John Romita. Although it’s not meant to be, the ineptitude of the main character who dons the mask makes it a little tongue-in-cheek to begin with, but when you read more and see why this has happened it does tug at your heartstrings. It may be a tiny bit clichéd but it does hit the emotional notes.

The third and final story is one that actually follows Peter Parker as Spider-Man. In typical Parker style his luck really isn’t in and he’s desperately trying to get to university as a guest lecturer. Backed into a corner he has to resort to pulling on the spandex to get across town but the suit also carries certain obligations that he has to uphold to the city. As the story progresses we see different incidents that are opening up, both bad and cringeworthy, which are dragging him down. It’s only the chance encounter of a young boy and his bullies that he gets to see the silver lining in it all and can raise his head again.

I have to admit that of the three stories this one grabbed me the least. It didn’t really feel like a story at all just a number of chance encounters which didn’t go in Peter’s favour. The artwork came across as a little confusing as it has a mix of very detailed images, which look very much at home with today’s CGI-based cartoons as well as having some lesser detailed comics. It’s quirky but really not to my taste.

This issue works as a nod to Spidey’s creators (mostly) but also sets off the new arc on the horizon. It’ll be interesting to see where Alpha goes and how this develops the Spider-Man storyline. Considering who the main reveal is at the end then you can also see that there is potential for a few crossovers from similar Spidey-based comics.

The issue for me was carried by Dan Slott so it’s worth getting it for that storyline alone. The other two were decorations around the cake. Worth getting for a Spidey fan and also a good little jump on point if you’re not worried about the extras.

Happy Birthday Peter Parker! From Ben, Matt and the PL team!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

REVISED August Bank Holiday 2012 Opening Times

Quick revision to the previously advertised opening times for next week. The new comics will be in on Wednesday next week after all, but won't be ready until 1pm or later.

Proud Lion will be until 6:30pm that day. In fact now we'll be closed Monday and Tuesday, then it's business as usual after that,

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Why Should I Read... Invincible?

Invincible is written by Robert Kirkman. Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, multi-continental TV success. When one of your projects hits mainstream media, then you get a label. I'm sure there are plenty of people who have seen the name Robert Kirkman and thought "I know him, he's the zombie guy!".

To those people I say "YOU ARE THE ZOMBIES! UNTHINKING, SLOW WITTED, SINGLE-MINDED MORONS! YOUR PARENTS WOULD BE ASHAMED! YOU GET A JOB!" or various other slurs and vitriol, depending on my mood. The painful fact of it is this; I've read a lot of Kirkman. Whilst I am a big fan of Walking Dead, it doesn't rate in my top three Kirkman books. Top of that list is Invincible.

If I was asked to differentiate between the two, The Walking Dead is his work. Invincible is his love. Kirkman brought various aspects of Invincible together from a lifetime of thinking. Some characters were first developed whilst he was still a teenager living at home. When I was a teenager, I wasn't producing ANYTHING that should be published in later life. Kirkman hung on to his emissions however, slotting them in as major players or just extras, whatever works. It does mean that he is truly invested, putting who he is down on paper. Every aspect of this book feels like that; plot, character development, dialogue, pacing - all have the feeling of being carefully nurtured, like a new puppy. Kirkman being Kirkman however, does dial up the intensity to kick the puppy in the face whenever he feels like it.

Because of this intensity, Invincible can look a little like a kids cartoon. The Invincible world certainly is a fantastic one, with a myriad of colourful characters and backdrops. It's not over-powering though, and after a little while, you realise it's a wonderful balance to the power in the writing. Real human, grass roots issues are rife throughout the series. Through these issues and the relationships involved in them, we see very detailed insights in to things which cause us joy and despair, love and envy. Without wanting to wax poetic, this is not a book about the lives of super-people, but a super book about people's lives. Writing human interest stories with a super backdrop is a personal favourite for me, and when done well, it equals any other format for story telling. Kirkman's writing allows you get involved in the person behind the super powers, but leaves you enough wiggle room to be excited about the action. It's then that you realise the balance between the writing and artwork really is very clever, and at it's best, beautiful or heartbreaking.
There are a variety of topics looked at in detail in Invincible. First and foremost this is a book about relationships. This is the area that Kirkman always excels at writing about; how do people interact? He is adept at using exciting backdrops; The apocalypse of Battle Pope, the zombies of Walking Dead, or the super heroes and villains of Invincible. This is the sizzle to the steak of the story. It's what Kirkman uses to get us to look at how parents and children interact when the pressure is on. How do friends fall in to social roles? What part does global politics play on personal relationships? These are questions that Kirkman loves to poke at. His writing is designed to give entry points, comparisons to your own life and more 'regular' universe are easy. This way, you buy in to the story because you think about your own.

The other thing that's always struck me about this book is it's humour. Take a look at any recent picture of Robert Kirkman. He's got a twinkle in his eye that tells you he finds life funny. What doesn't show up is how many different ways in which humour is utilised. Kirkman weaves in humour like a tapestrier working on a masterpiece. There are threads of slapstick, irony, sarcasm, wordplay placed carefully through the book. What's remarkable is that he's done this without making the book a work of comedy, it's just real. Life is funny. Life with super powered people would be super powered funny, and here it is exactly that.

I think you should read Invincible because it's a smorgasbord of delights, well written, well drawn and well done. I honestly feel enriched by having read this story.

Hell, you want an endorsement? I have one of the main characters from Invincible tattooed on my arm.

Chris Boyle is looking forward to the day when he can hand his son a stack of Invincible comics and a milkshake.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

New Beginnings - Before Watchmen: Rorschach

This week we are once again dipping back into the world created by Alan Moore to view a well known character from the Watchmen. Many have seen Rorschach as the central point of the book and film due to his narrative throughout and also the added sidenotes. This is a theme that Brian Azzarello has continued to use throughout this new stand alone miniseries for Rorschach.

The story is a look at where Walter Kovacs has come from without revisiting his childhood too much, as it has already been covered in the original book. Instead this picks up more from when he was becoming the cutthroat detective that he is now known as. The peculiar twist to it is that this isn’t a shiny glorious story studded with moments of victory and triumph. Instead it’s more grimy and dirty - a tale that's been tainted by the surrounding city. Underlying it is also a secondary plotline that will no doubt develop, revolving around “The Bard” a serial killer who is carving quotes into his victims.

Rorschach is on the hunt to bust a drugs ring which has links to prostitution as well (an obvious motivator for him). By using his well known and direct approach for acquiring information he sees himself falling foul of an ambush. His resilience and drive keeps him alive and focused on his task at hand. Although he as to cover up the event to those who know him, he makes it very clear that his “muggers” didn’t make the mistake of attacking him, but instead the far more dangerous mistake of leaving him alive.

Another strange twist to this, and another mark of the time, is that we see Rorschach as Walter by choice. This is indicative of a time when his alternate persona hasn’t taken as much of a grasp on him and almost taken over using his paranoia and cynicism to fuel itself.

For the artwork throughout the issue Lee Bermejo has teamed up with Barbara Ciardo. Personally I have found this to be an equally crucial part of the issue with the actual writing; it has kept the feeling of the comic constant and enhanced it. When I first started reading it, I was reminded of the gritty style that first drew me into reading Detective Comics, but to its credit as well there is a feeling of age to the comic too. This is set in the Seventies and the comic feels like that further adding to the issue.

This is a cracking little comic delving into a much loved anti-hero. For fans I think this is an absolute must to read and you can see that it is going to grow rapidly into something even though it is a short four issues long. As a story, as an insight and as a collectors piece I would get on board while you can.

Matt Puddy is glad he missed sitting opposite "tubby Rorschach" at the cinema back in 2009.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Digital Canvas - A Test Of Character

If you’ve just joined us, in my previous article I discussed my views on female character portrayal in both traditional print-comics and webcomics, and I argued that due to the differing motives of each medium (among other factors), webcomics on the whole portray female characters in a much better, more rounded manner. But you don’t have to take my word for it! I’m willing to test my own theory, and in my last article I set out some basic rules that any Strong Female Characters should adhere to:

  1. Strong Female Characters should be able to pass the Bechdel Test (have two female characters shared a conversation that isn’t about men in some way?). A simple test you think? The recent Avengers film sadly failed this one miserably.
  2. A Strong Female Character shouldn’t exist just to somehow support or orbit a man. No sidekicks or love interests that just borrow their motivation from the person they’re sidekicking to, basically.
  3. A Strong Female Character shouldn’t be overly sexy in their dress sense or body language for no good reason or if it goes against common sense. Sometimes sexy poses aren’t the best option to carry out everyday activities (c.f. Megan Fox the “mechanic“ in the Transformers films).

If my favourite strips can stick to all three rules, I’ll count them as successful. I’ve decided to steer clear of gag-a-day webcomics for this test, as it’s really aimed at strips with more substance and story to them. So lets dive in:

Gunnerkrigg Court. This webcomic benefits from having two female characters as the main protagonists, along with several other female side characters. The strip passes Rule One with flying colours, Annie and Kat have shared conversations about a great many things, some of them involving deep feelings (a particular stand-out being when Annie discusses her childhood and her mother). Rule Two certainly doesn’t apply, in fact I’d say that the male characters were the secondary ones here! And honestly the characters are generally too young for Rule Three to affect them, but even the more mature characters pass this one easily. Even during relationship scenes, more often than not the focus is on personalities rather than physicality, which makes a positive change to certain clichés.
3/3 - PASS

Adventures Of Dr. McNinja. Despite being one of my most beloved webcomics, I feel it suffers the most from having less-than-prominent female characters. Due to it’s lack of front-line females, it fails poorly on Rule One (the closest we ever get to an all-female conversation is a handful of words spoken between the Doc’s mother and his ex-girlfriend) and comes very close to failing Rule Two. Happily the strip is saved from this by a recent arc where the main character is mostly absent, giving us chance to explore the motivations of the ladies that could have easily been described as “Doc’s disapproving mother” and “Doc’s gorilla receptionist” beforehand. And unless you count the fact that Judy is a gorilla without any clothes on throughout the strip, then happily there’s no problem with Rule Three.
2/3 - FAIL

Monster Pulse. The main group in this strip profits from having two female characters that pass all three tests easily, along with some very strong secondary characters to round out the cast nicely. One of the key elements I enjoy about this strip (and nicely falls into the category of Rule One) are the very believable reactions and conversations in response to the situations the characters find themselves in. I’ll always remember how the somewhat naïve West suggests the group uses their newfound gifts to become heroes, and everybody reacts as if he were completely mad, and how that would never happen in “real life”! Also of note in relationship to Rule Three, Julie is a character who has become permanently bald due to a prominent plot point, but it’s inspiring to see how well she copes with having an appearance not considered normal by society. She is consistently the most lively and happy of the cast, and when recently asked if she’d want her hair back she replies “Nah, I’m a rockstar”.
3/3 - PASS

Bad Machinery. This strip may be a fun exploration of pre/mid-adolescence, but that doesn’t stop it having a cast of very strong female characters. And yes, the dialogue does veer towards boys and “pashing” (kissing) occasionally, but happily for Rule One this isn’t all that gets discussed. Now I was going to let this strip pass the other two rules effortlessly, but then I recalled a character who was likely to get caught in the trap of Rule Three: the sultry Mrs Lord, a pastiche of every teacher a young lad ever had a crush on, and also a vehement topic of discussion in the staff room as well! After thinking it over, I decided to let her pass due to the “good reason” caveat in the rule, as she is obviously portrayed for ironic intent.
3/3 - PASS

Todd Marsh is keen to avoid blanket statements, and is now wondering if this test merely reflects his personal taste rather than webcomics on the whole.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

New Beginnings - Gambit #1

He was ranked IGN’s 65th greatest comic book hero of all time, was once rumoured to have his own spin off film in the works and has an ability to dance back and forth across the criminal line with such ease that a prima ballerina would be jealous. This week we have the first issue in a new title purely for Gambit.

As a relatively young character (he first appeared in 1990) Gambit has played many roles in the Marvel Universe from smooth talking saviour to the epitome of Death for Apocalypse. He’s a charmer and a rogue but now has the mantle of teacher too at the Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters. However, no matter where he is or what he is doing the inescapable truth is that Gambit is a thief.

There have been a couple of miniseries for Gambit in the past, plus a prominent run in X-Force during the Age of Apocalypse and two attempts to have an ongoing title for him. Now we are given James Asmus’ take on the life of Remy Lebeau.

If I am honest I didn’t expect Asmus to be writing for this title. Although he has been on the books for Marvel for around four years I have previously seen him with some of the less mainstream X-Men (for example Husk or Mimic) with the occasional foray into Wolverine but not for that many issues at a time. A playwright and comic by trade, there isn’t really any doubting his ability but I did wonder if taking Gambit was maybe too much perhaps?

What I’ve liked about this story is that it hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel. There is no sneaky back story quirk or time loop to rely on to try and open up a niche for Gambit. There's no epic rebirth. Instead Asmus has stayed completely true to the character. If you excuse the irony he has kept it honest.

The story is all about indulgence. When faced with a challenge Gambit doesn’t fight against it but instead rises to it and enjoys the situation. Under the pretence of an ESU fundraiser Gambit gains access to the house of a significant underworld financier and his rumoured stash of magical, mystical and technological “payments”. Outwardly it is a beautiful mansion but realistically it is a veritable Fort Knox. In Gambit’s own mind he feels that if it was going to be easy then he wouldn’t enjoy robbing the place.

In true Hustle or Leverage fashion, the issue follows the shoulder-rubbing and innocuous conversations that will eventually enable Remy to breach a very well hidden vault. It’s enjoyable and a nice little bit of fun, if not a touch formulaic in its development and presentation.

Not to take anything away from it though as during this you can also catch glimpses of a bigger story and secondary plot lines also being seeded with an equally mysterious female counterpart who will no doubt play opposite Remy at some point. And there'sl a twist in the tail to snap you out of the Hollywoo-style heist caper.

The artwork and colouring by Mann, Mann and Rosenberg was great. I especially loved the cover which has bold black and white contrast with Gambit taking full and complete centre stage. A definite statement made on the cover and also true to the whole honesty I mentioned earlier too.

There are sneaky nods and winks throughout as well, such as in the first page - essay pieces from the school and the almost too easy to miss picture of Gambit and Rogue together. It all showcases the further depth of the character. The vault as well is a sneaky smile at many previous storylines; many of the artifacts easily recognised for their own roles in the Marvel Universe.

All in all this title eases you into the story and welcomes you in a very comfortable fashion. It’s fun and light and an extremely good read. It won’t upset fans as it doesn't try to change who Gambit is. And it does it in a way that will attract new readers too.

This is a title that any fan X or otherwise should at least take a look at. A fun read.

Matt Puddy is to be commended for not using the phrase 'Ragin' Cajun" anywhere in this article.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Watcher - Walking Dead, season three trailer and promotional images

The Daily Mail had some new photos from The Walking Dead season three today, which returns to US screens October 14th.

My favourite is the new cast photo:

In case you missed it, here's the trailer from the San Diego Comic Con:

Looking good. I have to say David Morrisey as the Governor is not physically how I picture him after Charlie Adlard's illustrations, but I admire the actor a lot so I'm confident this will be a satisfying re-envisioning (or whatever Hollywood nonsense term you want to use!) of the character.

Ben Fardon feels like a zombie. Tired and permanently hungry. Yup, must be dieting then. 

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Digital Canvas - Rise Of The Strong Female Character

The mediums of webcomics and print comics share some common ground, but obviously have many differences. One of the main differences is motives; they do both share a motive to tell great stories to their respective audiences, but it can be said that the main motive behind print comics is lucrative - they’re in it for the money. Whereas for the most part, the majority of webcomics are started for fun or a part-time hobby. Of course, this may lead to money over time if the fan-base is there, and there are always greed-driven exceptions to the rule, but the main reason for a webcomic to exist is because the artist has a burning desire to tell a story.

This basic fact can (and often does) affect how a story is told, for example webcomics don’t have the monetary drive to keep going and so tend to suffer from delays or even abandonment midway through a chapter. But the lucrative motive is especially felt in the world of the print comic. Certain ideas or narrative elements are known to sell well, so they often get repeated (it’s no accident that Marvel skips from Big Crossover Event to Big Crossover Event). Certain characters are just too popular to ever have a permanent death scene.

And so we come to the topic of this particular article: female portrayal. Everyone knows that Sex Sells, and with comic writing (and reading) being a male-dominated industry, “sexy” female character portrayal is the unsurprising norm. So super heroines all have close-fitting costumes with holes cut out in just the right places, and an alarming majority of female supporting characters can be easily categorised as either a “Damsel In Distress” or a “Love Interest” simply there for window dressing. Or both!

Recently however, audiences have demanded more from print comics than just shallow stereotypes, a rallying call for more “Strong Female Characters”. A certain amount of backlash has been directed towards DC’s recent portrayals of Catwoman and Starfire during their relaunches in the New 52 as nothing other than sex objects with nothing better to do than to trivialise casual sex and look ravishingly good in every scene.

Of course, blanket statements should be avoided, as there are some superb comics on the stands that have some great examples of Strong Female Characters; Batgirl is a great example written by Gail Simone, and Red 5 Comic’s Atomic Robo series has a recently started arc that says it all with the title “Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific” and the fact that the lady pilots all wear suitably rugged overalls and flight jackets.

But if you really want to escape the world of casual sexism, the best refuge is arguably within the world of webcomics. Internet patrons are fairly savvy about things like plot tropes and clichés what with having access to websites such as TV Tropes and the like, so webcomic authors need to be equally savvy when writing their story. In next week's article I plan to test my theory on webcomics being better at female portrayal by laying out some rules for what I think makes a Strong Female Character, and checking if some of my favourite webcomics would pass.

So, for the rules:

  1. Strong Female Characters should be able to pass the Bechdel Test (have two female characters shared a conversation that isn’t about men in some way?). A simple test you think? The recent Avengers film sadly failed this one miserably.
  2. A Strong Female Character shouldn’t exist just to somehow support or orbit a man. No sidekicks or love interests that just borrow their motivation from the person they’re sidekicking to, basically.
  3. A Strong Female Character shouldn’t be overly sexy in their dress sense or body language for no good reason or if it goes against common sense. Sometimes sexy poses aren’t the best option to carry out everyday activities (c.f. Megan Fox the “mechanic“ in the Transformers films).

Disclaimer: Please note that these are my own views after a few days mulling it over. I’m sure there are many other interpretations of what makes up a well-rounded female character, and I certainly don’t wish to cause any accidental offence via this article, but I am truly sorry if I do.

Todd Marsh is genuinely interested to test out his favourite webcomics and see which would pass or fail this simple test.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

New Beginnings - The First X-Men

This week we have a comic which asks us to think of a time less civilised, before the forward thinking of Charles Xavier. With a tagline on the cover of “Before Xavier’s dream, there were….” You know that from the outset that there are going to have been very different lines drawn in the sand to create this premise. Considering that the title is set before the first X-Men team it also seems very fitting that Neal Adams has been drafted in to create this new title. Also interestingly enough Christos Gage is a co-writer for the series.

My concern for this though is that Adams is mainly known for his artwork over an extremely long and prestigious career; he has written for DC in the past (Batman Odyssey for example) so I was comforted to see Gage at his side as he has written on some of my favourite titles such as The Authority.

As said before, the whole story is set before Xavier has created his school, so without him where do you start? Cue a familiar but old face, Wolverine,and also a rival, Sabretooth. As a side note I have to admit that I like the idea of two comics currently out looking at very different dynamics between this pair, with the recent Wolverine title focussing on the return of Sabretooth.

Given the task of helping a friend’s son who is a “special” child, Logan seemingly fails him and strives to make amends by helping new and emerging mutants. Admittedly Creed’s involvement is more of a mercenary, as he still considers himself a hired killer. Once`involved though the team come together with a common goal. As a nice touch there are hints of the Weapon-X program that both our “heroes” are later involved in which as a reader you can find an extra depth with.

There is a nice mix of action with the story, but also building and development with the inclusion of a meeting with Xavier (who comes across as naïve and too young for the cause). Magneto is also referenced and the distinction between the motivation of this incarnation of Logan and what will become Xavier’s is made very clear by the attraction of the “blooded” Erik Lenscher. We are introduced to other characters as well, and the cover also presents us with more to tease and tantalise for future issues. There is plenty of groundwork to be covered and build upon to come.

Adams, as well as being on the writing duty, has also pencilled the issue as well. There is an almost nostalgic feel to the artwork which harks back to older comics and coupled with what feels like a paper change to the comic (please note I have felt this in other comics from Marvel too recently (this is because Marvel have changed the paper they use for the front covers to cheaper paper, creating a very tactile change to your reading. BF)) you do feel you are cast back to a time before the morals and values the Charles instilled guided the X-Men we have come to know.

As a first issue I wouldn’t say that it blew me away as it didn’t really give me anything that I wasn’t expecting or found unusual. But what it has provided is an interesting premise that sits behind the normal history, a peek behind the curtain if you will.

Matt Puddy is also wondering why Marvel haven't billed this miniseries as such on the cover.