Wednesday 5 February 2014

a meal between breakfast and lunch most often enjoyed by childless couples and gay men

This is Just Like Me, a short story by my comics wife Lee Robson about your average common or garden murderer, which originally appeared in Accent UK's Predators graphic novel.  I'd have got Lee over to explain more about it, but he's had a sip of ale today, and is thus insensible until he's had a good night's sleep.

 "Again with the old crap, Bryan?" I hear absolutely no-one say from here in my barely-inhabited corner of the web where only spiders and loneliness dwell - does anyone even use Blogger anymore but me?  It's all Twatting updates and pictures on your Tumblegrams these days, but until I clog up the data allowance of the Blogger account - and your Google update feeds, you poor sods - with every last piece of half-baked tat I've ever drawn, it'll do me just fine.

So Ms Marvel got relaunched yet again.  It's been an eventful flip-flop act for the (original) character as Marvel Comics have to keep bringing out a book every so often under the name Ms Marvel or the trademark lapses, but on top of that they have to bring out a book called Captain Marvel every so often for the same reasons, and these two titles - apart from an entertaining Captain Marvel series in the early 00s by Peter David - have been attributed to the same character on and off depending upon what copyright the company was intent on squatting upon that week, it only being now - four decades later - that someone has cottoned on to the bright idea of just using one or other of the titles on a separate character entirely.  This being the year 2014 and because we know the Nazis were wrong, diversity was floated at some point in the round table discussion and approved because... well, because it's the year 2014/Nazis were wrong and diversity is less good manners and more common sense because there are kind of plenty of honky superheroes already and if your aim is a superhero who's different from what went before, you have to actually try something different sooner or later.

Based on issue 1, it is kind of like Runaways, only I hold out hope Ms Marvel's online fandom will not be as aggressively annoying and evangelical as Runaways fans have been for the last 12 years.  Obviously the presence of Runaways' original artist and co-creator Adrian Alphona is a factor in such an observation, but there's more to tie the two together, like the central teenage female characters, an opening scene in the first issue where the protagonist dabbles in online fanfiction based around the already-established superheroes of the Marvel universe, and the main character's idolising of superheroes that owes a great deal to Runaways cast member Victor Mancha, in what I consider the first chink in the armor as Victor Mancha is one of the most boring comics characters ever created, once spending half the pages of his Son Of Ultron one-shot taking a stroll through what looks like Detroit - he is that boring.  The new Ms Marvel is not as boring so there's victory one, though it's tempered by the character - and the book - suffering from a bit of overexplaining, but it's mostly Disney-cartoon-levels of over-expository dialogue that comes off as a touch of oversharing from someone who's given too much thought to their first world problems (locally referred to as "Gobshite Syndrome"), so it at least ties into the central theme of searching for an individual identity, albeit by leaning heavily upon the usual middle class problems like parent strife and what's expected of "a proper young lady" - again, all very Disney Princess stuff so far.
To be fair on the issue of expository dialogue, it's issue #1 and there's a lot to fit in, but then again, it kind of makes it baffling when right at the end of a book that explains everything in occasionally-cringe-inducing levels of exposition from its very first page, the central conceit of how the character actually gets her powers hinges upon events elsewhere in a Marvel crossover event that goes without explanation here, the most important part of the story so far being reduced to a shrug and a "shit happens", and I'd argue that the last page and a half is redundant storytelling that could have been dropped in favor of a little explanation away from the taken-for-granted conceit among only the dedicated white comics-reading male audience that some quarters purport the book to be an antidote to that it might be explained later, or that the book you're buying on a month-to-month basis will make much more sense if you'd only buy it as a trade collection half a year from now.
G Willow Wilson's writing is solid despite the GS mentioned, and Alphona's linework - while looser and slightly rushed-looking compared to when he's been paired with more seasoned inkers - in my opinion possesses much more character and style than before.  The colour is good, too, but maybe a little more variable and less bold that would be expected of something so heavily inspired by the storytelling and visual tropes of Western animation.

It's a decent enough first issue despite its problems, but I like that Wilson throws so much of the ethnicity and religious upbringing of the character into the first issue in order to draw some drama directly from the fact that the character hasn't had a traditional WASP background despite her immersion in American culture, and though obviously this runs the risk that you might view the characters as politically correct constructions built around a corporate mandate rather than distinct personalities, it does at least avoid the trap Geoff Johns fell into when he introduced the gun-wielding, tattooed, car-thief Muslim character whose name I have hilariously forgotten already in the pages of Green Lantern.  It's a thing that tv and movie writers do all the time where they find like maybe two whole facts about something and then use those alone as the basis for their scene-setting or character-building, and in Johns' case he had to write a story about a Muslim character with tattoos based on the design sketches approved by editorial, and sure enough if you Google "Muslims" and "tattoos" the first few results explain that tattoos are "haram" in Islam, and Johns' script had a character point to the Muslim character's ink and say "I thought tattoos were Haram in Islam?"  Basically, I am positing that writers can often betray just how far they bothered delving into the cultures they're exploring, as there wasn't much else in that story to inform the reader about the religion of the character, but with Wilson - a Muslim convert - there's arguably the beginning of a sense she might have more insight than a white male writer whose first and seemingly last stop on the research trail was a Google search that took him to Yahoo Answers (a well-named site because answers are often given by total yahoos).

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