Comic Book Resources is reporting that Marvel is set to debut a new Ms. Marvel title in spring 2014, featuring a brand-new character taking on the mantle and, much to the surprise of many in the internet community, it will feature a Muslim teenager and be written by a female writer. You’ll have to excuse me while I take this all in. You see, on the same day that the internet shat it’s collective trousers over Brian Michael Bendis tweeting out a photo of the Marvel retreat that featured a solo female, we get a new title featuring a POC lead written by a female writer, and a hell of a talented one at that. G. Willow Wilson wrote Air for Vertigo a few years back and it was a damn fine piece of graphic literature. It didn’t last nearly long enough in my opinion and I am happy to see someone with such talent creating and shaping a new character and title at one of the mainstream comic companies.
I don’t normally spend much of my time bemoaning the lack of diversity in media. This blog has almost no reach. I feel like I’m shouting in a room filled with stuffed animals I believe are real when I start to pontificate too heavily. That having been said, there is a serious lack of diversity in mainstream comics. We don’t have nearly enough A-list female talent, or roundly beloved creators that aren’t old white dudes honestly. I mean, as a crusty white dude myself you would think I’d want to keep my mouth shut but I’m also a reader of comics. And part of the reason so many titles run together for me and fail to keep my interest is because the point of view of the person holding the pen is the same as twenty of his peers. I am happy that we have our Gail Simones rallying female creators for projects like Legends of Red Sonja. I am happy we have people like Kelly Sue DeConnick changing the public dialog about what diversity in comics really means. And G. Willow Wilson taking on Ms. Marvel puts a big ol’ smile on my face as well. She obviously has a lot she wants to say with the character.
The new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, will reportedly be a New Jersey native with relatives in Pakistan and be a huge fangirl for Carol Danvers, the previous Ms. Marvel and current Captain Marvel. The character is described as a shape-shifter and according Wilson admires Danvers because she leads the existence that the young Kamala wishes to attain. As Willow said, “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.'” Willow herself having some familiarity with that conflict, as she herself converted to Islam even going so far as to release a memoir about the experience.
The book will be released in February 2014 and feature artwork from original Runaways artist Adrian Alphona. We can only speculate as to whether the fan support this book will have can equal the momentum of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and the “Carol Corps.” I’ll begin drafting ideas for the fan group name now, anyway.
I grew up watching westerns. Not by choice, really. My dad was obsessed with John Wayne. He named me after a John Wayne movie, for crying out loud. I never did get into The Duke myself, although The Searchers is now one of my all time favorites and I absolutely love a few others, like Rio Bravo, True Grit, and The Shootist. My real love of westerns came almost by accident. My dad being a John Wayne fan meant inevitably that I would skew against his tastes and end up a bigger fan of folks like Clint Eastwood. The spaghetti western spoke to me in ways that the usual “cowboys and indians” stuff my dad enjoyed simply couldn’t. It was the moral ambiguity, the dirt and the grime and the absurdity of those films that really got me searching out other westerns. I took in all the Leone westerns, my favorite being a tossup between Once Upon a Time In The West or The Good The Bad and The Ugly. I found the Django movies and Lee Van Cleef’s Sabata series. Latter day westerns like Unforgiven, Tombstone, and Open Range also made their way into my DVD collection.
I also happen to enjoy western comics. I have a complete run of Palmiotti and Gray’s Jonah Hex series from the pre-New 52 days in issue format. I think I was the only person in the store who had it on their pull-list at the time. I’m also still digging the hell out of All-Star Western, though that is so cross genre I’m not sure if it counts. I’ll say it does and beg you to read the trades if you haven’t already, as it’s an overlooked gem at DC. Remember Brian Azzarello’s Loveless? I Do, and I loved it enough to get it signed when I met him a few years back. I don’t know if all this has something to do with me being from Texas, but I’ll wager it is a factor. The genre simply speaks to me on a certain level, so when I heard that Kelly Sue DeConnick would be teaming with Emma Rios to write a western book for Image I got real excited real quick. Kelly Sue is one of the finest writers working right now. She’s getting a lot of respect for her work on Captain Marvel which is more than deserved as that book is just aces. DeConnick previously worked with Rios on their Osborne mini-series for Marvel, which was well written and filled with dark, emotive artwork. That team working together on a creator-owned western book was bound to pique my interest.
Issue one drops today and it is a stunning book. I’ve sung the praises of the creator-owned comic renaissance we seem to be in the middle of before when talking about Sex Criminals and Rocket Girl, this book certainly gives credence to my claims. Pretty Deadly is a book that defies genre expectations and utilizes every aspect of the graphic medium to tell a story that is intriguing, beautiful and unlike anything else on the stands. While it is most certainly a western book, elements of more whimsical and introspective genres creep into the text as well. The traveling “blind man” and the young girl evoke Eastern manga and film imagery from “Zatoichi” and “Lone Wolf and Cub.” Considering the history of Japanese and American culture borrowing from each other, with Seven Samurai becoming The Magnificent Seven and Unforgiven being turned into a samurai film called Yurusarezaru mono, this blending of genres feels organic and not at all like a forced mash-up. This also creates a very somber tone that puts it more in line with the modern cinematic western aesthetic of say, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but with the added twist of a supernatural element.
The closest model that I can reference for the tone of this book is Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. That melding of genres seems similar to what DeConnick and Rios are presenting here, although Pretty Deadly steers mostly clear of absurdity and stays more in line with a feeling of dark fantasy within a western setting. When I say there is nothing like it on the stands, I am not exaggerating. Pretty Deadly is an inventive, original title that deserves all the acclaim that it can handle. I had exceedingly high hopes for this book and they were met on every level. The narrative structure is well crafted and tells an inventive story that plays with genre tropes and conventions without getting trapped in them while the artwork is gorgeous, dark, and evocative of the exact mood this book requires. The creative team really hit the nail on the head.
All things considered, this is the definite pick of the week if not the pick of the month. Do yourself a favor and get your copy today.
I haven’t done day-and-date reviews for individual comics in a while. I get my books mail-0rder nowadays for financial and convenience reasons and I only rarely will pick up a book off of the rack. Usually it’s when I have some spare cash laying around and want to give something different a chance. Today I got some issues that I initially passed on because I didn’t have the cash for them in my budget at the time.
AVENGING SPIDER-MAN # 9
STORY BY Kelly Sue DeConnick
ART BY Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
COLORS BY Edgar Delgado
LETTERS BY VC – Joe Caramagna
COVER BY Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
PUBLISHER Marvel Comics
Next week sees the first issue of Carol Danvers’ turn as Captain Marvel. This week gives us a sort of primer as she teams up with Spider-Man in a fun little issue written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who will be handling the ongoing series as well. I have said that while I don’t consider myself one of those “shipper” fans, I would totally support Peter Parker and Carol Danvers as a couple. Their banter and flirtations are often a delight to read, especially if they’re written by someone who gets the voice of those characters individually. Kelly Sue does. She’s one of the writers at Marvel who can seemingly write any character with ease and put them into a story that is fun and breezy in a more classic tradition that eschews the post Bendis style that seems to find its way into every book no matter who is actually penning it.
Avenging Spider-Man # 9 feels like a classic issue of Marvel Team-Up in all the right ways. The story centers around Peter and Carol going for a flight in Carol’s new junker of a plane when they find themselves caught in a dispute between a young lady who has had a brush with the law and a private security firm trying to bring her in. It is a fun read and a welcome change from what I’ve been reading from Marvel at the moment. I’m hoping that trend continues with the ongoing series. Kelly Sue has set the stage for something that could easily be just as good or better than the last volume of Ms. Marvel which I enjoyed from end-to-end.
REVIVAL # 1
STORY BY Tim Seeley
ART BY Mike Norton
COVER BY Jenny Frison, Craig Thompson
PUBLISHER Image Comics
SYNOPSIS: For one day in rural central Wisconsin, the dead came back to life. Now it’s up to Officer Dana Cypress to deal with the media scrutiny, religious zealots, and government quarantine that has come with them. In a town where the living have to learn to deal with those who are supposed to be dead, Officer Cypress must solve a brutal murder, and everyone, alive or undead, is a suspect. A beautiful “farm noir” that puts a new twist on the zombie genre, created by NYT Bestselling author TIM SEELEY and acclaimed artist MIKE NORTON.
Tim Seeley has made a name for himself on Hack/Slash and I bought this based off of that reputation alone. I haven’t been following his run on Witchblade, but this seemed more up my alley. Revival seems like it fits more into the mold of Image comics like The Walking Dead in that there is definitely a lot of world building being done but the core of the series is going to be centered around the interactions of our main characters. The danger with something like that is that you have to give people something to like. I wouldn’t say that Seeley’s character work is the best thing about Hack/Slash. The characters there are somewhat thin but the reader is still able to connect. In this series, Seeley has severely stepped up his game. Right off the bat we are given small looks at Dana and her personal life that make her immediately relate-able. She has family issues aplenty as well as personal issues relating to her own personal successes. This is one of the best first issues of a new comic I have read since Chew with regards to getting a sense of character.
Revival is definitely worth a look. It isn’t just another zombie book. To even use that term in association with it is somewhat misleading. This is a horror book, to be sure. I’ll even admit that parts gave me goosebumps. It’s been a while since I’ve read something that did that. Aside from the character work, Seeley has done a great job setting the mood here. Mike Norton’s illustration of the gore really hammers it home as well. I think this one could very well be one of the best things to come out of Image in a good long while.
So there you are. Go buy those things. You won’t regret it.