Current Reviews


Flare #36

Posted: Saturday, March 3, 2007
By: Ray Tate

Writer: Wilson Hill
Artists: Chris Marrinen, Mike Estlich
Publisher: Heroic

You know. Two years ago, I would have gone for this issue of Flare's metaphorical jugular, but something happened. That something was J. Michael Straczynski.

Giant pays a visit to Terri Ferran also known as Flare as well as the goddess Eos. Giant wishes to use the Champions' database. Flare is a Champion, and she naturally has access. The Champions are Heroic's The Champions are Heroic's answer to the Justice League, or the Avengers if you prefer. All of these scenes are handled with care and considerable wit courtesy of writer Wilson Hill. Chris Marrinen and Mike Estlich add subtle tweaks to the characters' expressions to facilitate Hill's light touch.

This is the second incarnation of Giant, and he is actually the adult alter-ego of a boy. Terri who knew the first Giant souses out the second Giant's secret within two pages and confirms the ruse on the third page. That's perfectly in keeping with Flare's intellect, which is one of the reasons why I like this character.

The artwork by Chris Marrinen and Mike Estlich leans early toward depicting Flare in lingerie and a peignoir, yet the very good pencils, inks and colors do not exploit the character, and the artists' very easily could have used the excuse of Flare recuperating from last issue's battle to do so. They in fact show Flare from the back without displaying Flare's buttocks. She as well suits up quickly.

While using the database, Giant discovers his powerhouse mother--Nemesis Girl--has been kidnapped by an analogue of Sid and Marty Kroft's Dr. Shrinker, "Dr. Shrinker, Dr. Shrinker, he's a madman with an evil mind..." Again, this is a case where Hill, Marrinen and Estlich could have exploited a character, but do not. Nemesis Girl used to be an introvert. With the change in form, she has become an extrovert. They don't just make her sexy. They make her powerful. So while she swims in a thong bikini, and she gets shrunk out of said bikini, they illustrate the scene tastefully and have her act in a way that literally carries impact.

Now comes the elephant. You see. The plot works well enough. It's almost a nostalgic mad scientist armed with dubious science attacks the good guys type of plot, but then a mother--Nemesis Girl--kisses Giant--her son--full on the mouth for six panels.

Right. Now, see. How do I put this? Two years ago, this incestuous kiss would have been the most disturbing thing I had ever seen in comics, but J. Michael Straczynski had the corpse of Gwen Stacy make sweaty "snuggle-bunnies" with the corpse of Norman Osborne, all in order to bear his, Osborne's, super-powered children in a weakly plotted example of an author's hubris.

That's bad enough, and the device arguably should be less disturbing than an incestuous kiss. It's not, but it should be. Then one Kaare Andrews who has an astonishingly diseased mind, came up with something that stands out as the most repellent use of sex in the history of comics. There's no way I can even properly euphemize what was done, Andrews thought a good story idea was to have Spider-Man give Mary Jane cancer, thus wasting her away until dead, through--there's no real delicate way to put this--ejaculating inside of her. Just typing those words causes a sheen of filth to appear on one's skin. If I had a TARDIS and visited my younger self happily eating Cheerios while watching Spidey on The Electric Company, I could have curtailed a life-time of reading comic books by simply telling my younger self that there will exist a hack below all hacks, a hack so impressed by his alleged talent that he will know no restraint, and that hack will have Spider-Man, yes, him, kill Mary Jane by "hitting the jackpot."

J. Michael Straczynski thought it was a good idea to have Spider-Man's dead arch-villain plow the fields of Spidey's dead girlfriend. Kaare Andrews thought it was a helluva good idea to make Spidey's sperm radioactive and use it to kill Spidey's wife. Not only does the latter make not one bloody ounce of sense from a scientific viewpoint, but, also standing proudly with the former, the examples of each author's disrespect for the characters make an incestuous kiss between mother and son for six panels positively charming and innocent by comparison. So, Heroic should send bouquets of roses to J. Michael Straczynski and Kaare Andrews for imbedding the bar so deep in the asphalt.

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