When I first read about Voodoo, I was intrigued. The central character was a biracial, bisexual woman who was also, apparently, part-alien. Later, I saw some pencils of pages from Issue #1, and I was horribly disappointed. The main character was a stripper. I didn’t have a problem with that per se. Plenty of sex workers in the real world are fighting for recognition. But the images released, with Voodoo kneeling or crawling as money was thrown at her, repelled me. There was no strength in these images. No sense of agency. No sense of the woman taking off her clothes as an individual. To me, they sent the message that she was to be seen as an object, not a person.
I was angry. I planned a scathing review.
Then I actually got my hands on the comic. And…
I didn’t hate it.
At this point, I’m not sure whether I can say that I liked it – but I didn’t hate it.
The story is told entirely with dialogue and imagery — no narration boxes, no thought boxes. This gives the reader the feeling of watching a movie. There’s a sense of detachment. I found myself paying far more attention to the dialogue and interactions of the characters than to the stripping, which faded into the background despite how graphic it was. My husband said the same thing when I asked him what he thought of the comic.
The second main character, Jessie, pretty much defines the “tough, female cop” trope. I didn’t mind, because it’s a trope I enjoy. When a bunch of guys start hassling her on the street, you know immediately that they’re going to get their asses kicked, and sure enough, they do. No surprises there, except maybe for the fact that she throws the first punch, but it was still fun to watch.
Voodoo’s fellow strippers are seen backstage, discussing their customers and their lives. One of them worries because her babysitter canceled, leaving her in the lurch. The women are in various states of undress, but their poses, by and large, seem natural and unaffected. To me, their conversation rang true. I felt like the author was actually making an effort to show them as real people.
Jessie having left the club in disgust, her male partner hires Voodoo (whose name, we learn, is Priscilla) for a lap dance against all regulations. Again, the dialogue here was more important to me than the sexual actions or poses. This scene isn’t really about sex. It’s about power.
The resolution of the scene — and the comic — tells us something very important about Priscilla. It tells us that she’s not a mixed-race woman, even one who’s part-alien. Priscilla is an alien disguised as a mixed-race woman. Voodoo isn’t about a Creole woman working as a stripper. It’s about a shapeshifting alien spy who is posing as a mixed-race woman and infiltrating the human race.
At least, this was what the first issue conveyed to me.
We learn something else from the climax, too. We learn that Voodoo is a villain.
Taken by itself, Voodoo‘s not a bad story. It’s not a comic for kids, but it makes no claim to be.
In the context of the rest of the New 52, I’m still disappointed in Voodoo.
First, I felt that the stripping could have been more tastefully and subtly done. The imagery was less offensive in the full context of the story than it was as pencil sketches, but it was still a turn-off. This is a story with two strong female leads. It could potentially appeal to female readers. But a lot of women won’t get past the first page, and I can’t blame them. If I hadn’t been planning on reviewing it, I wouldn’t have, either.
Second, there are six solo female titles in the New 52, the same number as there were pre-relaunch, though the titles themselves are different. Two of those titles, Catwoman and Voodoo, explicitly use sex or sexual activities as part of the plotline. Out of the over 20 solo male titles in the New 52, how many explicitly used sex or sexual activity as a major plot element? There’s nothing wrong with having sex as a plot element, but it feels much more prevalent in female-led books than male-led books, which leads to a sense of imbalance, as though female characters are more defined by sex than their male counterparts.
Third, I’m disappointed that the only biracial lead character in the New 52 isn’t really biracial. She isn’t even human. I was talking about Miles Morales, Marvel’s new biracial lead character, with a friend of mine the other day. As a mixed-race person herself, she expressed to me how excited she was to see a biracial lead, and I promised I would share my copies of Ultimate Comics: Spiderman with her after I’d read them.
I don’t have any desire to show Voodoo to my friend. For one thing, she’s talked to me before about feeling fetishized due to the color of her skin. The choice to make the only biracial lead character in the New 52 a stripper seems ill-advised. On top of that, the character is actually an alien who could, it is implied, take any form she wished. Promoting an evil shape-shifting alien spy as a biracial character isn’t just false advertising, it’s insulting.
Now, I don’t know the character’s true background. Maybe it will turn out that she really is part human. If she is, though, it will be even more disturbing. Do you really want to equate “mixed-race” with “alien?” Especially “evil alien”?
These concerns, though, are directed more toward DC Comics as a company. Two comics out of six is a big ratio. If there were more female-led titles or a greater variety of races among the leads, Voodoo would be less important, and these issues less of a big deal. Voodoo stands out because there are so few other choices and there is so little real diversity amongst the lead characters, especially the lead female characters, of the New 52.
Despite these very real concerns, taken on its own merits, Voodoo was a decent comic. I’m actually interested in what happens in the next issue…which is more than I can say for certain other titles!
Kyrax2, in her secret identity, is:
A. A part-time model.
B. An ace World War I pilot.
C. A mild-mannered office manager.
She has a bachelor’s degree in:
A. Was sent to Earth by her real parents to escape the destruction of their home planet.
B. Is secretly a robot who can remove her own head.
C. Loves comics and reads any she can get her hands on. (I know, this one’s pretty farfetched!)
A. Races ultralights for fun and profit.
B. Used to have a crush on Kitty Pryde.
C. Was born during a total eclipse of the sun.
In her spare time she enjoys:
A. Reading (books and comics), writing (fiction and non), gaming (everything from tabletop wargames and RPGs to Cardcaptor Sakura, Tetris, Rock Band, and DCUO) and watching TV (mainly anime, animated superhero cartoons, and Rifftrax).
B. Building emissions-free vehicles out of recycled materials.
C. Alligator wrestling.