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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Blue Beetle #1, Wonder Woman #1, Catwoman #1, Supergirl #1 [DC Reboot Reviews]

September 22nd, 2011 at 21:46

Blue Beetle #1
Written by: Tony Bedard
Pencils: Ig Guara

A very likeable re-introduction to Jaime Reyes, the modern Hispanic teenage Blue Beetle. I avoided him for a long time because of my grief and resentment about the death of Ted Kord (NOT SAYING I’M OVER IT) but thanks to Batman: Brave and the Bold I accidentally got introduced to Jaime and I like that his Blue Beetle is completely different to *mine* and that the version I saw in the cartoon was so respectful of the past.

It feels a bit odd having the origin story retold again so soon after Jaime’s Blue Beetle was introduced to the DC Universe, but given that I’ve never read his title before, I’m not complaining – this is a great comic, and we’ve been lacking in nice simple origin stories in the New 52. Not much Blue Beetle as such, but we get a lot of Jaime’s family and school life, and the culture he belongs to. I really like the way that we are getting common phrases of Spanish (is this the same as Hispanic? Help!) thrown into the dialogue so we can learn them, because it constantly reminds me that the story is not for the most part taking place in an Anglo US setting, and it’s great to see a comic marketed at teens which isn’t treating them like idiots. Is it wrong that I kept getting Veronica Mars vibes whenever the cool gang leader friend turned up? That’s probably a wrong thing. Though if that means Jaime gets to be Veronica, that’s pretty cool.

Also, having recently rewatched the Rise of the Blue Beetle and Fall of the Blue Beetle episodes of B:B&B with Raeli, in which Jaime questions whether he deserves to be a hero, having come into his powers by accident (and arguing with his mate about whether Hal Jordan’s origin story meant he was deserving or just plain lucky), it’s cool to see that the circumstances by which he acquires his magical scarab (cue Ted Kord from the grave complaining that no one ever gave him a magical scarab, in his day you had to build your own) are pretty heroic: sure, he lucks out, but he’s in that place because he did something stupidly brave.

Verdict: good stuff, I’m sticking around. And not just in the hopes of a dead Ted cameo. Not even. Maybe a little bit.

Wonder Woman #1
Written by BRIAN AZZARELLO
Art and cover by CLIFF CHIANG

It didn’t offend me. Seriously, it didn’t. I don’t know if I like it yet, I am highly suspicious after so many fails, but there was nothing in this comic that outright offended me. So there’s that.

The art is an oddity to me. It isn’t a style that appeals in the first instance – it’s a bit blocky and spiky and definitely an acquired taste. But I think on the whole I approve of it because even though WW is running around in her star spangled knickers, and even though she does spend about three pages of the comic randomly naked, the style does make her feel less sexualised than many other art styles do. If anything there’s a similarity to the angular version of Diana that we see in the various DC animated series, and I like the impression that if she elbows you in the gut, you stay down.

Also, while the comic as a whole is taken up with a lot of pages of monsters and violent action thingies that don’t involve our heroine at all, I like the use of Greek mythology as something a bit more scary and less – well, comic book – than has often been done in the past. Sure, there are no Amazons riding giant kangas, which is sad, but I very much liked the cameo of a sardonic wounded Hermes, and the monsters.

The thing I really REALLY like about the comic, though, is that the POV character through whom we are first introduced to Diana is a young woman with issues and problems of her own. I love, love, love when the iconic female warrior is paired with a female ‘client’ (in the noir detective sense) who needs help – a revelation about my own story preferences that I learned from Joanna Russ’ The Adventures of Alyx, even though I should have already learned it from Xena.

Yes, I did just compare an issue of Wonder Woman to Joanna Russ. Oh help, I think I like this comic. Shut up. Don’t tell anyone. Let’s hang in there for a few more issues and see if it gets stupid all over it.

Do you know what I really REALLY like, apart from all the lack of stupid and the Bechdel passing, and so on? There is no attempt to make Wonder Woman ‘relatable’ (yes, Jodi Picoult, I’m looking at you). Also no first steps off Paradise Island, which would have made me want to bite walls. Wonder Woman is out there in the world, she’s recognisable, people know who she is, and she doesn’t have to fumble with a credit card or be vulnerable or have a bad hair day or appear like a clueless teenager in anyway, because she’s FREAKING WONDER WOMAN and if you can’t relate to the awesome then fine, go read something else and get out of the way while she saves the world. Again.

Apparently I liked this comic more than I thought. Obviously it will break my heart.

Verdict: yeah, yeah.

Catwoman #1
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Guillem March

Another pleasant surprise. Yes, as io9 informed us, this issue is largely about Catwoman’s rack. But you know, that’s okay, because it’s an awesome rack, and unlike almost every other female superhero, a sexy attitude is a huge part of whom this character is supposed to be. I liked this version of Selina a lot – having not read any modern Catwoman comics other than her occasional appearances in Birds of Prey. I very much liked the use of her voice through monologue, the fact that she was effectively ‘towered’ in the first episode (everything you have gets smashed so you can start from scratch – classic story opening trope), that we see a friendship with another woman, and that the last several pages are pretty much all about shagging Batman.

It’s kind of funny how many comics of this new 52 have an obligatory Batman appearance in them, from a single panel to a whole guest role. Anyone counting?

The best sex scenes in any fiction are the ones that tell you about character, and you learn all you need to know about the Batman-Catwoman chemistry, past relationship and current state of play from this one. I also like the panel which actually shows how you can have sex while keeping most of the costumes on – and even that is not only playing with the joke, but also tells you a lot about why they are attracted to each other.

So yes, I liked this one – comics seem to be much shorter than they were in my day, and many of these first issues have ended quite abruptly or seem to be telling far less story than I expect. This one uses that length effectively by using the double layer of Selena’s inner voice as well as her cat-like moves, shocking violence, defending the defenceless, and raunchiness. I feel that I have a very strong sense of what this book is, from the first issue, which makes it an excellent first issue. I will probably have to read a few more before I decide if I actually care enough to be in it for the long haul, but I do like the fact that this is a comic that promotes sensuality through the female gaze, and utterly justifies the sexiness of the lead character through a convincing narrative. I’m willing to bet this is… a rarity in modern comics.

Verdict: great rack.

Supergirl
Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Art by Mahmud Asrar

Ah, yes. Supergirl. It was interesting reading this one straight after Catwoman, because everything Catwoman does right, this comic does wrong. It also utilises an inner voice monologue, but it’s a boring, boring by the numbers monologue, devoid of a compelling character voice. There’s a lot of action shots but nothing happens, and unlike Catwoman, we get no character interactions.

We get a lot of shots of Supergirl in an unreasonably tiny outfit, in the snow. This bugs me because she refers to her outfit as being a form of official robes in Kryptonian culture, something that she would normally only don upon her graduation in a year’s time. So… Kryptonians are basically straight out of Mad Men, then? Because if it’s an outfit that conveys status and maturity, let her put some FUCKING pants on. I don’t care about Wonder Woman wearing trousers or not (though I adore the Tiny Titans approach to this question) but when you use the narrative of the story to justify a teenager walking around in her knickers, at least LET IT MAKE SENSE.

Oh, and Superman turns up at the end. But that’s it.

A very disappointing first issue that does nothing to tell us what kind of comic this is going to be. Unless the teenage girl in her underwear being shot at is the point.

VERDICT: I think I may just stick to Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th grade, which had a far more awesome first issue and packs so much more story into its pages. Possibly because it’s not lingering over the teenage girl’s body as she crouches unhappily in the snow.

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