17 July, 2006

Superhero Comics

I've recently become interested in the world of comics (beyond Sandman, my only real exposure to this medium), partly due to my discovery of a whole pile of excellent feminist blogs that focus on science fiction and comic fandoms. So last week I plunged into a variety of comics, including Wonder Woman, X-Men and Teen Titans.

Firstly, Wonder Woman: Down to Earth . This is a recent Wonder Woman comic by Greg Rucka, and given that the Booklist review on Amazon describes it as an "inventive attempt to make [Wonder Woman]... relevant to current readers", I imagine that it has departed somewhat from previous storylines. Wonder Woman is an ambassador from Themyscria, which seems to be a planet populated by Amazons. She spreads a message of peace and tolerance and in Down to Earth comes up against a group of people who claim she is destroying "family values". Sound familiar? I really enjoyed this, and it's very suitable for a reader who has no knowledge of the characters or their history. I had a couple of "um, what?" moments, like the appearance of Silver Swan, but overall, it was a very fun read, and I really loved the art.

I went on to read Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia , which was a shorter, self-contained story, and much darker than Down to Earth. The cover has Wonder Woman's booted foot on Batman's head, which looks very cool. (I must say that prior to this comics reading, I had no idea that superheroes had so much to do with each other. They all live in the same cities and everything. I had previously thought that they were all self contained stories.) In The Hiketeia, Wonder Woman is bound to protect a young woman who is accused of murder. It's a very touching story, and I really enjoyed it because Wonder Woman seemed much more human. I could see the difficulties she had. Again, I loved the artwork - the aforementioned stomping on Batman's head scene is especially fabulous.

After Wonder Woman (and I'm definitely going to explore the rest of Greg Rucka's stories with her), I grabbed Emma Frost: Higher Learning from the library. It's an X-Men offshoot, although given that my only contact with the X-Men universe is through the movies, I'd never actually heard of Emma Frost (and this slim book only covers part of her school years, so I'm not entirely sure about the full extent of her powers.) Higher Learning was OK. The story was a bit melodramatic, Emma's crush on her school teacher was offputting (she can hear him thinking things like, "she looks so sexy", which was disturbing), and I hated the way she was drawn - even when she's devastated about something, she looks vulnerable and gorgeous, all lips and eyes. Gah.

Still in the X-verse, I grabbed Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men - Gifted , which I loved. I had high hopes for it, given that I'm a big fan of Whedon's storytelling, and wasn't disappointed. All the characters were great, I loved the banter (even mid-battle) and I even enjoyed Emma Frost's character, despite thinking that I'd hate her after reading Higher Learning. The artwork was excellent - I loved it (and wondered how much it had been influenced by the movie characters, especially Wolverine.) Gifted has the Cure storyline which was used (in part) in the recent X-Men movie, and it does it with much more depth and style than the movie. It ends with some tantilising teasers for the next volume, which I can't wait to read.

I'm not quite sure why I picked up something called Teen Titans: The Future is Now , because it doesn't really seem like my thing at all. It wasn't half-bad, but I don't think picking up something that's Volume 4 in a series is a great idea - I found all the characters a bit hard to keep track of, and there were too many references to past events for me to really get into the storyline.

Runaways: True Believers is also Volume 4 in a series, but from the description on the back it seemed like an easier point to break into a storyline. It was fairly easy to get a handle on what had happened before, and everyone's relationships to each other, and it was a fun, tight story.

I think out of all of these, Astonishing X-Men and Wonder Woman were the ones I enjoyed most, and I'll definitely be getting more volumes of these.


Anonymous said...

Swung by through various links.

It is always good to see a possible new fan to comic books, especially another woman.

As an Emma Frost fan, I want you to know that Higher Learning is not what I'd call the definitive Emma Frost comic.

If you are still interested in the character despite that, the best I've seen her done was in Grant Morrison's run of New X-Men. It's a huge work of his, but it is well worth it for Emma's characterization.

I won't ruin Astonishing for you, but I'm not pleased with the direction Whedon is taking Emma. The first issues are very fun to read and maybe I'd enjoy the rest more if I liked Kitty, but I hate her...so...yup, hehe.

Still, I'm going to continue reading Astonishing to see where Emma ends up.

Good luck in finding interesting comics! Your reviews are even more interesting due to your blank slate (with the exception of Sandman, which is one of the best, if not THE BEST set of comic books I've ever read). ::thumbs up!::


Cee said...

Thanks Adrienne :-)

Yeah, I was a bit surprised after reading Higher Learning that adult Emma in Astonishing is so... I don't know, cold and double-crossing and so on (but I figured I'd missed a fair bit of backstory.) And I quite like Kitty, although she's pretty nasty to Emma.

Thanks for the recommendation - I'll definitely check Grant Morrison out. I wasn't sure where to go X-Men-wise after finishing off what my library has of Whedon's stuff. It does seem to most of the New X-Men books, but not Volume 1. *sigh* I guess I'll start off on Volume 2!

Lamashtar said...

Bopped in from WFA:

Mean, cold dominatrix Emma Frost is the default version. She originally started as a villain as bad as they come. She later grew into a slightly noble personality, but there is much schism between those who want her to be the cold heroine and those who prefer her villainy.

The series of her past deals with that by trying to show her starting as an actual good, innocent person, as well as how she eventually became as corrupt as she did.

Cee said...

Ahh, there you go Lamashtar - I'd missed the villian stuff. From other characters' comments, I'd gathered she'd done some bad stuff in the past, but I guess I was thinking of her default mode as "good guy".