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.
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.
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.