On account of traveling to and from India this past week, my comics reading took a back-seat, as did my novel reading incidentally. Very few comics read, but most of them were good at least, a saving grace.
After the double-shipping last month, this month we get to a regular monthly schedule for Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s excellent Black Widow. The first two issues were quite stellar, both of them one-shots designed to introduce the character and set her up before launching into something approximating a long arc, like a 5-6 issue story. The art didn’t grip me as much in the first issue, given how different Noto’s art style is, but the second issue was quite an improvement still, and now with the third issue, I’m in love with his work.
The new issue is a two-headed beast. It tells a mostly standalone story, but there is also a subplot that supposedly leads in to a slightly bigger story in the next issue. And as with the previous two issues, we continue to get a look into how Natasha thinks, what her personal mission is, and what her morals are. With an espionage twist, the book really makes her come across as a hero, and I’m all for that because she is one of the in-the-grey characters who are also heroes.
It seems that Marvel is taking a pretty big chance with its All-New Marvel NOW! launch of new titles (and a sprinkling of some relaunches as well) in that the new titles all appear to be double-shipping in their first months. That’s pretty significant I believe and hints also that they trust these books to that degree. Since Black Widow is the only title I’ve read so far (two issues that is), I won’t comment on whether it is a strategy that is working for me since the bigger picture needs to be looked at, but damn, Black Widow #2 was an awesome issue on all fronts.
Black Widow #1 was a damn good issue. The writing was perfect, and the art almost perfect. It was a perfect blending of talent for a character that I’ve really come to love thanks to the recent run of Marvel movies. With Black Widow #2, Nathan Edmondson continues to build on her world, perfectly contextualising her within the movies continuity while perfectly doing his own thing as well. I love what he is doing. And having now gotten a good taste of Phil Noto’s style, the art here was damn gorgeous.
So welcome to the first Comics Picks of The Week for 2014 where I list the comics that were actually to be the first ones released in the new year. Everything that has been revealed so far about 2014 promises an amazing year, I have to say. Well, for the most part at least. There are some things that I don’t quite understand, or like, but eh, it is still going to be a great year I feel.
This past week, Marvel finally launched its All-New Marvel NOW! line with Black Widow, All-New X-Factor and Revolutionary War: Alpha and they aren’t going to stop. New releases will continue throughout March at the least and we will even be getting some of these new titles double-shipped, such as Black Widow #2 which comes out next week. In other news, I had some fun reading DC titles this week, although Detective Comics #27 proved to be quite disappointing for most of the first half. And my disappointment is on several levels, not just with one particular aspect of it. But, more on that in the reviews.
My first graphic novel of the year happened to be the (unfinished) mini-series that Steve Gerber and Matthew Sturges wrote a few years ago, with the former writing the tale of a new Doctor Fate while the latter wrote about the supervillain Eclipse. Only eight issues of this double-sized series were released, but I have to say that I definitely enjoyed it and based on that, my graphic novel reading is off to a good start.
Just earlier this week I was listening to Kelly Thompson’s podcast with Sue from DC Women Kickin’ Ass where they talked about gender parity at Marvel and DC, both in terms of the characters and the creators. And a point was raised that Marvel has done less than DC, or that DC is currently just better with it. The podcast was released just after NYCC last year, and some of the news that came out at the time was about Marvel’s All-New Marvel NOW! initiative which would mark the first big step forward in the company’s Marvel NOW! relaunch of its titles, with a slew of new titles, and a few restarts as well. In light of that news, while the creator gender parity hasn’t increased any, the character gender parity certainly has. And new title Black Widow is at the leading edge of that.
Black Widow should be familiar to anyone who’s been watching Marvel movies for about four years now. Under Scarlet Johannson, the character has seen a revival of sorts and she’s quickly become a fan favorite with the fandom demanding she get her own movie. I concur. This is why I was so taken up with the idea of a Black Widow solo comic because I see it as a great step forward to make that happen, though there’ve been a number of Black Widow titles over the years. With this new series, Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto deliver something truly amazing.
Yesterday evening, I read an article on the geek news site The Mary Sue, which touched on an interview that ToonZone had with James Tucker recently (link to article). In this interview, he was asked by Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s recent comments that the studio really needs to get on with making a Wonder Woman movie because it is too big a thing to miss out on, essentially. Tucker is a supervising producer of the studio’s DC Animated division and as such, what he says should carry some weight in the discussion that has surrounded this topic of late: Wonder Woman getting her own live action movie, or at least the failed television show being given the go ahead.
I’ve been quite frustrated with all the non-news about the topic, particularly since DC and WB seem to be dragging their heels on the subject. What little comments that have filtered down to the masses, other than Tsujihara’s somewhat positive take, have all been about gender inequality and this notion that Wonder Woman can only work if she has THE perfect script going for her because she is, in a nutshell, too difficult a character to bring to the mainstream cinema audiences. Tucker’s comments fueled that fire further with his own brand of such silliness.
So, in a fit of frustration, I took to Twitter to talk about it and had a very interesting discussion with a few people about what is happening. This post is an offshoot of that entire discussion.
I’ve blogged about diversity in comics before. I’ve even talked about it extensively on Twitter and Facebook as well. As an Indian comics reader, comics diversity is something that I think about a lot, and being a reviewer has helped me to think about it in several different ways that I didn’t quite consider before. Diversity doesn’t just stop with gender, or race. It is much more. It is about religion, geography, physical attributes, mental state, health disorders, etc. One point I’ve iterated on again and again is that today, comics readers aren’t just white males in their teens and twenties and living in UK/US. They are much. Comics readership crosses all sorts of boundaries today. All sorts of people, from all walks of life and with all kinds of backgrounds read comics in this day and age.
Hell, comics aren’t just print anymore. They went digital and they have only been growing despite the ridiculous scaremongering from those who dislike the medium or are hopelessly wedded to their print collections to the exclusion of all else.
In a world like this, diversity is an important topic to discuss. And there are no better agents to discuss this topic than the Big 2, Marvel and DC. They are the giants of the industry who together make up about 67-75% (give or take a couple percentage points) of the market in terms of unit sells and market shares in any given month. They have the longest legacies, and thus the most material to contribute to such a discussion.