Editor's Note: Girl Comics #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 3.
Marvel's latest stunt anthology series has received a fair bit of attention, both positive and negative, and while it's an interesting idea, the result does kind of beg the question of what the purpose of the whole thing is, other than "Hey, look! We occasionally employ women!" The most direct comparison would probably be the recent Strange Tales miniseries, which saw various "indie" creators give their gently satirical takes on Marvel's characters and milieu. Girl Comics seems to be taking a similar approach, although rather than comedy, the creators here seem to be attempting to bring a feminine viewpoint to the stories. That doesn't necessarily bode well for short pieces of only a few pages each, but it's an interesting experiment nonetheless.
Not every piece here is super-girly; Lucy Knisley's two-page Dr. Octopus strip would have fit right into the goofy atmosphere of Strange Tales, and Valerie D'Orazio and Nikki Cook contribute a four-page Punisher story that sees him use Chris Hansen's tactics to snare a serial killer. Some of the other, longer pieces do seem to take a more effeminate approach, although that is certainly a difficult aspect to define. G. Willow Wilson and Ming Doyle contribute a story in which Nightcrawler gets in a fight backstage at what appears to be a 1920s-style nightclub, and the main emphasis of the piece seems to be all sensual, focusing on costumes, colors, atmosphere, and the words of the performer's song. Taking a different tack, Devin Grayson and Emma Rios submit a tale of Scott "Cyclops" Summers and Jean "Phoenix" Grey in which their alone time keeps getting interrupted by Wolverine and various threats like ninjas or robots. It's a bit hard to follow, but it ends up being an examination of the emotional aspect of their relationship, which Scott feels is always threatened by the presence of Wolverine.
And then there are two other types of stories, which might or might not be woman-focused. Trina Robbins and Stephanie Buscema contribute a retro-style tale of Venus, who comes to earth to be a superheroine as a bet with Zeus. It's done in a big-headed, cartoony style, full of 1950s graphical flourishes, and it's kind of strange in that Venus is mostly interested in succeeding at a fashion magazine rather than fighting crime, although she does use the power of love to solve one or two problems. That might be what the original character was like, but it ends up feeling kind of light and silly. The same could also be said for Robin Furth and Agnes Garbowska's storybook-style story that sees Franklin and Valeria Richards mess with a weird tree in their father's lab and get transported into a sort of clockwork fairytale-land. It's cute, but moves too fast to really have any impact, and nothing is explained beyond the moral that they shouldn't have played in Mr. Fantastic's lab.
As with any anthology, it's a bit hit-or-miss, but it's still pretty good reading overall, especially for offering a different sort of take on the Marvel universe than we usually see. And for extra value, in addition to the stories mentioned, there's an introductory "girl power!" montage by Colleen Coover, a kind of creepily sexual pin-up by Sana Takeda, and text pieces celebrating two influential women in the history of Marvel as a company, Flo Steinberg and Marie Severin. Not a bad package overall, and while it might not garner the effusive plaudits of its indie predecessor, it's still a worthwhile read. Bring on the next issue!
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