Monstress

This is probably about as good on all fronts as comics are currently capable of getting. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, that’s because it is.

Remember like 10 years ago when there was that movie about a woman who was a monster, and it was called Monster because the writers weren’t assholes who felt the need to specify that it was some kind of lesser, vagina-based monster? Good times.

The title of this makes me irrationally angry, in a straw-camel’s-back kind of way. I literally have a visceral reaction to it every time I see it. I’d go as far as to say it’s like 50% of what’s keeping me from reading the second half of the series. And you know, going into it trying to figure out fucking why, I thought, well, maybe she gets called a ‘monstress’ and it’s a commentary on the way the society views women and it’s actually a clever satirical move, but no, the word never appears in the story and the only thing it’s a commentary on is the comic industry’s continuing view of women as other.

Or to put it another way, this is a story in which, after the first issue, I started to count how many times women got called ‘bitch’ because it was so goddamn many and then before the sixth issue lost count and was too angry to go back and check.

The first collected edition of this is actually quite large, pulling together 6 of the current 17 issues, at least two of which are double issues. And for a comic, it’s coherent and competently told. The artist is Japanese, which means there was actual effort put into every panel and some semblance of art direction (edit: WHEW DID I PHRASE THAT POORLY), and the splash images are gorgeous. However, it still tends to run into some usual COMICS problem, like several panels in a row being the same image unchanged, and characters’ dialogue and body language not lining up. But overall it was definitely several cuts above the standard. The pacing is solid, the plot is intelligible, and the characters are identifiable.

But the character design is still COMICS, so there’s tits everywhere (but no nipples NIPPLES ARE EVIL EVERYONE IS JUST HAIRLESS NIPPLELESS BARBIES UNDER THEIR CLOTHING FOREVER). It’s less male-gazey by far than something like, say, Witchblade, but costuming is still whatever the fuck this is. Also, the female church police are called ‘inquisitrixes’ because remember, just because they’re not fucking doesn’t mean they’re not fuckable! If for a single second you thought this might not be for men’s benefit, you were deeply mistaken you fool.

It also has this weird thing going on where there’s like no men anywhere, but the story doesn’t bother to explain it in any way — like, is the reason there’s so much war that they can no longer procreate and it’s supposed to be a plotpoint? Or is the writer just under the impression that the only way to write a story about women is to remove all the men, who would inevitably be better and more interesting? It reminded me a lot of that Nasu quote about how all-girl shonen and the absence of boys vs the presence of girls. That’s what this felt like — the absence of men. And regardless, you have to explain the worldbuilding about something like this. You can’t have a plot point be gods fucking mortals and making babies and then create a world where no procreation can take place. It just doesn’t make sense.

And speaking of which, this is YET ANOTHER plot about how brown people are nonhumans and that’s why we enslave them, though like I said, it’s marginally better than average so it at least has like two nonwhite characters that are human, because it knows on some level ‘black people are animals’ is bad but doesn’t really care that much. This plot is the other half of why I just cannot continue with this. Putting aside that it’s offensive, it’s so goddamn overdone. It’s doesn’t even make fucking sense. In a world where nonhumans are absurdly powerful and apparently numerous, how is it even possible they’re still at the bottom of the ladder? I’d love to see a world where for once the nonhumans have the upper hand. Or maybe this just makes white people uncomfortable and that’s why it never happens, idk. But it’s super hard to believe that a people so powerful one can annihilate an army are struggling that hard to push back the human horde.

Underneath all this mediocrity and shittiness is a pretty interesting plot about the protagonist being possessed by some kind of cthulu, but it’s just buried under layers of old lady tits and BITCH BITCH BITCH and racism and it just doesn’t feel worth it.

And yet, it’s so much better than anything else from a major label. The art is better, the treatment of women is better, the representation of black people and old people is better, the story is better, and it’s still this. I don’t even know how to parse that. It just makes me angry.

In conclusion, just read manga and webcomics.

95 Comments

  1. Raven says:
    Aw, I was considering reading this; it’s a shame to hear it’s not that great.

     

    How’d you do the red text?

    1. Socordya says:

      How’d you do the red text?

      Act has become a witch (or rather a wizardess)

      Alternatively, when composing a comment, go to toolbar (last icon on the right) then choose the third icon on the toolbar to change text color.

    2. Act says:

      From the post end, I have to do it in the raw text editor, because for whatever reason WP doesn’t have a native color option.

  2. Cosmogone says:
    >>The title of this makes me irrationally angry, in a straw-camel’s-back kind of way. I literally have a visceral reaction to it every time I see it.

    I feel you on spiritual level. This title was recommended to me a couple of times as actively feminist, even. The art is so nice and I considered buying this comic, but decided against it because of the title alone. Though it honestly cracks me up that this title is considered acceptable by Image Comics, who are thought of as THE progressive company.

    >>It’s less male-gazey by far than something like, say, Witchblade

    You know, a big point comics like Witchblade have in their favor is honesty. These titles are just dumb sleazy cheesecake, but they don’t pretend to be anything else. YMMV, but I’m personally at the point of general exaution here I’d rather pick up something earnestly sleazy than a work that’s makes only token effort to appeal to me.

    (Oi, not to say that your review was pointless for me or anything. At the very least, now i kno with 100% certainty that Monstress is something that I wouldn’t enjoy)

    Re: nonhuman ethnic minorities in fantasy. People do it because – I’m not shitting you – they think giving nonwhite characters superpowers is a form of reparations, or at least it alleviates their white guilt somewhat.

    1. Farla says:

      I always felt the Witchblade comics were very friendly. Like, they wanted to appeal to women and were trying to do stuff a female readership would enjoy, they’d just never spoken to a woman or possibly even seen one. And they did seem to be doing sleazy stuff to the male characters as well, I think, even if I’m not sure what fetish it was supposed to be.

      1. Cosmogone says:
        Oh, the creative team definitely spoke to a woman – Christina Z was one of the main writers, and the 2017’s relaunch is written by Caitlin Kittredge and drawn by Roberta Ingranata. I think the deal with Witchblade is that it has always been intended solely as a journey into the hellish depths of the writers’ Id, and that’s just weird, uncomfortable and vaguely insulting for everyone who doesn’t share their kinks *cough*haunted vagina*cough*
        1. Farla says:

          and that’s just weird, uncomfortable and vaguely insulting for everyone who doesn’t share their kinks

          Honestly what always weirded me out most about it was when stuff would be happening for no discernable reason so it had to be a kink thing, but the comic would just be like “yeah so for some very plot reasons that aren’t clear we needed to see that the main villain disciplines his servant with some breathplay mask, nothing weird about that, just villains being villains, anyway on to the next ten scenes about how the men are very big compared to the main character.”

          1. Cosmogone says:
            The team learned writing from the great masters: those obscure early nineties OVAs that had to squeeze in some plot between the scenes of tentacle porn to get past the censors.
        2. Act says:

          The other problem in this industry in particular is that no matter how many women you get working on the ground floor as writers and artists, they’re at the mercy of a viciously misogynistic readership and upper management. Like, when you have a art direction and marketing team looking over your shoulder at everything you do demanding it sell like hotcakes to the worst dudebros, you’re never going to produce something egalitarian even if you badly want to.

          1
        3. CrazyEd says:

          Someone get Yoko Taro to write Witchblade.

          1
    2. CrazyEd says:

      Marvel’s pretty much edged Image out as The Progressive Company… though… not in a good way. The only really good addition made for the sake of progressiveness in recent years (unless you count Miles Morales being moved over from the Ultimate Universe to the Prime Universe) that I can think of off the top of my head is Toni Ho (an Asian lesbian), who has gotten basically no promotion despite being a really interesting addition to the Iron Man sphere, and her girlfriend Aikku Jokinen. Nadia van Dyne is salvagable as a character, but the author of her recently cancelled due to low sales (and recently uncancelled due to ???) solo series Jeremy Whitley wrote the book like it was a Free Comic Book Day giveaway for people who had never read superhero comics but had a very distinct idea about what a comic book should read like. It was like… Nextwave if it was being completely straight-faced with itself?

      1. Cosmogone says:
        Pff, we all know Marvel isn’t actually progressive, only called so by the likes of Degeneracy in Comics Diversity&Comics. I’d say Marvel’s problem is aiming for good-ally status without putting in any effort, so you either end up with commercial “diversity” with flat token characters or something downright offensive like Ironheart’s backstory.

        You’re right about Toni Ho, though, she’s a blessing. I’m also pretty positive about Saladin Ahmed’s stuff (tbh, Exiles is somewhat uneven plot-wise, but it has potential). Moon Girl seems fine? I mean, she has the worst meta origin I’ve ever seen, but I’ve picked up a couple of her comics and I kinda liked them.

        1. Act says:

           I’d say Marvel’s problem is aiming for good-ally status without putting in any effort

          Literally every big corporation in 2018 tbh

          1
          1. Cosmogone says:
            There’s no name for the sound I just made.
        2. CrazyEd says:

          Oh, uh. I didn’t think of Moon Girl off the top of my head. Apparently her own books are fine? But I’ve only seen her being an insufferable spotlight hog in other people’s books, so… Can’t say.

          Saladin Ahmed seems to be one of the better writers in Marvel’s current line up (although that’s not saying much) but he’s got a real problem with starting shit on Twitter (even my the standards of Marvel’s current line up). My friend tells me his Black Bolt was good (though he just left right now so I can’t ask him how good it was), but I can’t give less of a fuck about Inhumans in general (even the old guard ones before they became Mutants We Can Use On Film like Ms. Marvel and co.) so I don’t know myself.

          But yeah, that’s pretty much it. No matter what you think about the guy, D&C actually does have at least that nail hit on the head: Marvel literally does not care what the character is like, so long as they represent someone. And the worst part is, people are falling for it. Riri Williams is a horrible person who was literally motivated by spite to become a “superhero” (and, ironically, only did so by committing  breaking and entering and felony theft) with a backstory who couldn’t be more stereotypically Urban Black Chicago Misfortune if they tried. And I do think they tried.

          Most diversity comics that Marvel has put out in the last 7 or 8 years are pretty unlikeable unless you’re the type of person who will like a character regardless of what they’re like based on what they are. Of course, not all of them are Riri Williams. Some of them are better than that (like I said, Nadia is pretty salvagable), but… others are America Chavez, Marvel’s First Leading Latin-American Character (Who Isn’t Actually Latin American).

          I was actually introduced to that character (and D&C, now that you mention him) by that same (Puerto Rican) friend being pissed off about her literal example of actual cultural appropriation; and how she’s more of a selfish, violent, and brash hothead than a character I played in an RPG with him who I intentionally wrote as being a selfish, violent, and brash hothead.

          Most of the diversity heroes I remember from around M-Day/Infinite Crisis are pretty fine, though. Everyone loves Jaime Reyes. Blue Beetle vol. 8 was one of the few DC Comics I liked back in that day (I was more of a Marvel guy), and I picked up the Teen Titans he was in because he was in it. Him and Rose Wilson are great.

          The fact that was the same Teen Titans that tied into the Amazons Attack storyline, well. I survived.

          1. Cosmogone says:
            Oh yeah, Moon Girl is abysmal in her cameos in other comics, but her own book was fine last time I checked. There just aren’t many people who can write children convincingly, and a child genius is night impossible to pull off.

            Hey, I’m not advocating for you to read Black Bolt (although everyone should), but the very fact that Ahmed could make anyone give a shit about an Inhumans title is testament to his talent. And personally, I think it’s good he vents on Twitter as much as he does. He’s seems like the kind of person who needs to unload a little elsewhere to come back to writing with a cool head.

            >>No matter what you think about the guy, D&C actually does have at least that nail hit on the head

            Oh come on, dude, you can’t put me in the position of agreeing with D&C. Him being a tradcon extraordiraire is one thing, but the guy thinks Gods of Egypt was a good movie!

            >>Riri Williams is a horrible person who was literally motivated by spite to become a “superhero” (and, ironically, only did so by committing  breaking and entering and felony theft)

            Nah, nah, pettiness and theft I could almost let slide. What I can’t wrap my head around is how Bendis managed to make racism into a joke. “Ohoho, Riri wants to be oppressed, so it will motivate her! Isn’t it so quirky and adorable??” That’s the kind of joke /pol/ would come up with, except /pol/ would also know that what they’re saying is horrible and racist. Bendis, though, is convinced he’s the second comind of MLK.

            >>I was actually introduced to that character (and D&C, now that you mention him) by that same (Puerto Rican) friend being pissed off about her literal example of actual cultural appropriation;

            Heh. My favorite thing is how the team behind America Chavez thought it would be a good idea to present the entire South America as a single “country” that doesn’t have any discernible feature other than random Spanish. Comics, not even once.

            1. CrazyEd says:

              Nah, nah, pettiness and theft I could almost let slide. What I can’t wrap my head around is how Bendis managed to make racism into a joke.

              Yeah, it’s like… I’d probably give it a pass if the character is more likeable. Lots of superheroes have done not-great things before. It’s just… on top of everything… not only was she motivated by oppressing herself, but she wasn’t even successful. She had to steal from Stark to make her suit! It’s the theft on top of everything else. I don’t mind a petty superhero (Not a superhero, but I love the idea of Doctor Doom making Latveria a great place to live for the average random person because they are the subjects of DOOM and DOOM will not suffer anything less for HIS subjects)… but… don’t make the inner city black girl who had an absentee father and a stepdad AND best friend die in The Most Cliche Drive-By Ever… and then have her steal her powers.

              I don’t even mind the concept of that joke… if the reason was literally anything other than racism. If it was just some little kid trying to have a Dark Tragic Past and the teacher was having none of that, that’d be fine. But you can’t make a black character want to be oppressed, even if it’s because she wants to defeat the oppression.

              It’s doubly worse when you think that teacher is of an age where she probably was told she couldn’t be anything other than a nurse or a teacher.

              My favorite thing is how the team behind America Chavez thought it would be a good idea to present the entire South America as a single “country” that doesn’t have any discernible feature other than random Spanish.

              The worst part is that the author is a Puerto Rican lesbian… and she still did that. Hell, when America first came to America her Racedar immediately went off and she realized everyone here hated BROWN PEOPLE like her so she had to go find some BROWN PEOPLE so she went to a cookout with a lot of BROWN PEOPLE and was mistaken for a random relative because BROWN PEOPLE and given a plate of arroz con pollo and immediately adopted into LA FAMILIA because she, like them, was BROWN PEOPLE. I really think Gabby Rivera has no real clue that not all Hispanic culture is identical to Puerto Rican culture.

              Holy menstration that comic was terrible. She should stick to writing YA coming of age novels about characters who are exactly like herself.

              Reply
            2. Cosmogone says:
              >>If it was just some little kid trying to have a Dark Tragic Past and the teacher was having none of that, that’d be fine.

              That would work, I think.  And you could rework theft in something less offensive if the writing spinned it as an optimisation thing. What if Riri’s own inventions were fine, but lacked an edge, epsecially because she’s still a kid, but she’s an absolute genius when it comes to improving someone else’s tech? So Riri just borrows an Iron Man suit to understand how it works and enhance it, because it’s the kind of silly show-offy thing a teenager would do. This can even be set up as a source of character conflict: Riri is stubborn, independent and not really a team player, but she’s at her best hen there’s someone else to bounce her ideas off. (Maybe I’m lingering on this for too long, but I know Ironheart would be a pretty cool character if only Marvel gave her to the right writer; hell, Chip Zdarsky writes her well!)

              >>The worst part is that the author is a Puerto Rican lesbian… and she still did that.

              Rivera didn’t come up with the character, though. She’s the writer, but the concept is as old as 2011, though I don’t know how well it was handled back then. Imo, making America basically Puerto Rican was a pretty understandable decision on Rivera’s part, as there’s really no way to write a semi-realistic character if you follow the concept faithfully.

              Reply
            3. CrazyEd says:

              This can even be set up as a source of character conflict: Riri is stubborn, independent and not really a team player

              If Marvel could write a character with flaws, Riri Williams wouldn’t be so hated.

              She’s the writer, but the concept is as old as 2011, though I don’t know how well it was handled back then

              I’m pretty sure the Being Adopted By The Brown People and Visiting The Country of South America parts were Rivera?

              Reply
            4. Cosmogone says:
              >>I’m pretty sure the Being Adopted By The Brown People and Visiting The Country of South America parts were Rivera?

              Idek anymore. I’m left to assume that the American comics industry is an eldritch abomination that feeds on its eployees’ brains and dignity.

              Reply
          2. Hyatt says:
            The old run of Batman Beyond had some great legacies. The new Catwoman was interesting (and actually not a legacy of Catwoman, but a cat thief who could make clones of herself that she called her “nine lives”), I don’t think anyone disliked Danica Williams’s Flash, Nissa’s Batgirl was also loved and had her own niche but was barely used. Not to mention the diverse characters from the cartoon that were ported to the comics. Unfortunately the current run hasn’t had much of the Justice League, so no Kai-Ro or Warhawk or Flash, and it’s pushing Terry’s cartoon WOC supporting characters out for his white brother and a white girl love interest.
            1
            1. CrazyEd says:

              Terry had a white (or possibly Asian?) love interest in the original batman beyond. Dana, I think her name was?

              Reply
            2. SpoonyViking says:

              He did. She didn’t appear that much, though, she was mostly sidelined in favour of his friend Maxine.

              Reply
            3. Hyatt says:
              Yeah. Poor girl. And like I said, in the current comic not only is she getting sidelined for a (white) love interest, Max is also getting sidelined for Matt, who is Terry’s official first sidekick (and is apparently more familiar with things like the Batcave, if him leading her in blindfolded is any indication).
              Reply
          3. SpoonyViking says:

            I’m not black, but I’m still incredibly insulted by those panels. What, does Bendis seriously believe racism is over?

            1. Cosmogone says:
              >>does Bendis seriously believe racism is over?

              Either racism is over or we’re still in the fifties, depenting on what side of the bed Bendis wakes up on. In Ironheart we have this gem of a “joke”, but in the Defenders comic Bendis spends two pages bragging about what an awesome ally he is, because writing about Luke Cage could apparently cost him the job (I like to think that what really costed him the job was making Luke “uncontroversial”, because the guy reeeeally doen’t understand the character).

              Reply
            2. CrazyEd says:

              He made Luke Cage into Static’s dad.

              1
              Reply
            3. Hyatt says:
              Those are characters from two rival companies! How does that even work!?
              Reply
            4. CrazyEd says:

              I mean… not literally… but he turned Luke Cage into a totally tame inoffensive family man community leader.

              Reply
          4. Act says:

            Holy shit that image. What the actual fuck.

          1. Cosmogone says:
            If you say the words “diversity and comics” three times, he’ll physically manifest in your house to tell you about his dog PTSD.
            1
            1. CrazyEd says:

              … Totally doing this. I wanna hear that story.

              Reply
    3. Act says:

       but decided against it because of the title alone. 

      I literally have avoided touching it for month because of the title. I found the first trade at a used bookstorefor $3 and couldn’t pass up the deal so figured I’d finally try.

      You know, a big point comics like Witchblade have in their favor is honesty. These titles are just dumb sleazy cheesecake, but they don’t pretend to be anything else. YMMV, but I’m personally at the point of general exaution here I’d rather pick up something earnestly sleazy than a work that’s makes only token effort to appeal to me.

      I agree with all this 100%. It’s the disingenuity I’m so damned tired of. Like, I literally do not care if an artist wants to draw nakes ladies. What I do care about is having something sold to me as not-naked-ladies and that being a lie, or someone getting attacked for the crime of suggesting maybe we should have an actual selection instead of only naked lady stories. It’s so much less exhausting to deal with something honest, and it doesn’t have the problem of promoting internalization, because everyone’s open about why decisions are being made.

       they think giving nonwhite characters superpowers is a form of reparations, or at least it alleviates their white guilt somewhat.

      See, I could see that from the whole ‘let’s make a black Spiderman’ perspective, but I can’t imagine the internal logic of ‘you know how brown people hate being called animals, let’s make them animals that would be great.’

      4
      1. Cosmogone says:
        >>What I do care about is having something sold to me as not-naked-ladies and that being a lie, or someone getting attacked for the crime of suggesting maybe we should have an actual selection instead of only naked lady stories.

        But Act, don’t you see that your suggestions are destroying America?? Having selection means a teenage boy could accidentally see a small-chested female character who might even be driving a car or, worst of all, she might be engaging in too much or too little straight sex! After this kind of shock our hypothetical boy would inevitably become a trans Mexican woman (with blue hair). Tragic.

        >>I can’t imagine the internal logic of ‘you know how brown people hate being called animals, let’s make them animals that would be great.’

        They probably thought that animal motifs are cool and didn’t run this decision by a single halfway-rational person? Yeah, I don’t know either.

        1
  3. Socordya says:

    -random feminization of words

    -“bitch”s everywhere

    Are we sure Jim Butcher isn’t involved?

    1. Roarke says:

      Are we sure Jim Butcher isn’t involved?

      Hah, it wouldn’t be such an issue if this kind of thing were limited to a small group of idiots, even that specific idiot. 

      It really hits home how this article rips apart this comic series and then says “and this is better than the norm.” Though Act’s advice to just read manga is spot-on. 

    2. CrazyEd says:

      Inquisitrix is the proper latin word for a female inquisitor, though. So that’s not really wrong.

      1. Act says:

        I think this bothers me for three reasons:

        – It’s completely unnecessary gendering

        – The costumes are clearly fetishistic

        – There’s no other weird Latinisms anywhere

        All three of those things together make it look like it was a decision made with ulterior motives.

        2
    3. Act says:

      This was literally all I could think about the whole time, which very much did not help the comic’s case.

  4. Farla says:

    That’s so disappointing because “Monstress” is such a great title. The fact the word doesn’t normally get gendered makes it stand out – wtf is going on that you’re bringing that up??? And it sounds like “monstrous” and there’s how male monsters can look like all sorts of things and still turn out to be good, but female monsters actually looking like monsters is horrible and either can’t happen or means they’re definitely extra evil, and there’s how women can be labeled monstrous so much more easily than men. And how it begs the question of how you could be an actual straight up monster and the most important thing would still be your gender. And the tension in how a monstress is at once greater and lesser than a monster – they can’t accomplish anything big because lol they’re a woman, so their crimes are limited and excuses are made for how anyway you can’t expect anything more from a woman anyway, yet at the same time even slight sins are magnified into something unforgivable when greater things are easily forgiven for men. (It’s also 100% something that sounds like it’s just been shouted by some old-timey religious dude to blame someone else for what he’s thinking and/or doing, so there’s yet another layer of uncertainty – is the point about how we deal with monstresses, or to ask if they even exist in the first place?)

    2
    1. Cosmogone says:
      See, that? That would be something I’d love to read. It seems than whenever people want to write about monstrous women from any sort of feminist angle, they just jump head-first into 70’s style TERF insanity instead.
    2. Act says:

      This is exactly what I was hoping for going in, even if I knew it was a long shot — I think you’d get a ton of mileage out of using a title like this as a way to appeal to the exact kind of people who would use the word unironically, and then lambasting them for it. Especially since you already have the whole ‘I’m not human but still a person’ and ‘I don’t want this cthulu burden’ things already, it would have been a totally natural way to go.

      But I think it’s all waaaay too on the nose for something outside indie.

      1
  5. Hyatt says:
    Asian. Dana Tan. Probably Chinese, by her last name. She’s one of those WOC I mentioned getting pushed out.
  6. Hyatt says:
    Asian. Dana Tan. Probably Chinese, by the name. She’s one of the WOC I mentioned who’s being pushed out.
    1. Hyatt says:
      Okay, WordPress. You win. I’ll stop trying to reply to CrazyEd in our thread since you seem to have an irrational hatred of it.
  7. Sidolbert says:
    Hello there, I started reading the site for the Higurashi commentary (thoroughly enjoying the Seacats one by the way)  and then got to like most of it (my tolerance to bad fanfiction, even indirectly, is quite bad).

    I would like, Act, if you don’t mind of course and since we’re talking about comics, to know if you read Saga,and if so what do you think of it  ? Because I feel we DO have at least this one great comic currently (not a superheroes one, though). :)

    Thank you very much for everything you do, you and Farla (and Elmo too) !

     

    1. Act says:

      I haven’t read Saga, largely because it doesn’t really appeal to me genre-wise. If someone else has and could chime in about it, I’d be curious to hear.

      1. Cosmogone says:
        If you’ll accept the opinion of someone who hasn’t been keeping up with the latest chapters, I personally think that Saga starts very strongly, but the plot became meandering at some point. It’s pretty female- and minority-friendly, though. The main problems are with the execution: 1) when the comic tried to deal with serious issues it’s often… not good, as far as I remember, mainly because the writers aren’t in a serious enough mindset; 2) is2g, all the dialogue sounds like it was written by a bot that was fed tons of mellenial slang.

        I’d say the pros outweight the cons for the first part of the series?

        1
        1. Act says:

           starts very strongly, but the plot became meandering at some point.

          This is what I figured, since in America comics are not allowed to end.

          This is the main narrative reason I rarely bother with comics; I prefer plots with an actual point aside from ‘go until people stop buying.’

          I’d actually forgotten about Saga when I wrote this. From what I’ve seen of it, it certainly does make more than a token effort with women and minorities. I can’t speak to the art direction, though.

          1. Sidolbert says:
            Thanks you for answering my comment, and thanks to you too for your input, Cosmogone !
            1. Cosmogone says:
              You’re welcome! :) And thank you for bringing up Saga in the first place. (Though admittedly I’m not a good source of opinions on this comic)
              Reply
          2. Cosmogone says:
            >>This is the main narrative reason I rarely bother with comics; I prefer plots with an actual point aside from ‘go until people stop buying.’

            ^^That. Though Image, to their credit, actually understands that a narrative is supposed to have a structure, it’s just that some titles run for much longer than they were supposed to.

          3. Heatth says:

            This is what I figured, since in America comics are not allowed to end.

            I don’t think that is actually the main issue. At last on my experience, Saga’s plot was already becoming meandering relativelly early (around issue 20 maybe?). And at 50 issues it is not actually that long when compared to long form manga(even not counting long running shonens). My impression with the series is simply the authors had a good concept but not a strong direction. That is why the early stuff is so good but it kinda peters out with time.

            That said, it have been a while since I last read. Can’t say much about more recent developments and my memory is not perfect either. At any rate, despite of what I just said, I would still recomend it.

            1
            1. Farla says:

              At last on my experience, Saga’s plot was already becoming meandering relativelly early (around issue 20 maybe?)

              The biggest bane of comics is if you just heard some new comic is OMG COMPETENT WRITING GUYS AT LAST!!! then it’s exploded in popularity and everything is going slow down to milk that until the numbers tank again. (In contrast, if you find a well done comic on your own, it’s going to be canceled halfway into the arc because no one else is reading.)

              Luckily, however good the initial comics were I was too furious to enjoy it because the best character design ever, Awesome Spider Lady, died right after being introduced. I’m not generally much of an art person but you can’t introduce Awesome Spider Lady and then expect me to be fine with just panels of Ordinary Dude.

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        2. APen says:

          I’ve only read the first three volumes of Saga, and that was a while back, but I remembering enjoying them. I definately felt that the comic was making a conscious effort to break out of gender roles with the main couple, which was refreshing. Also, the premise, of space opera but with the focus on a family, isn’t one I’ve run into before and I liked the originality.

          I really don’t read many comics – Saga just happened to catch my eye at one point. So I don’t know how it compares to what else is out there, though if this review is anything to go by, it sounds way better than the norm.

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  8. SpoonyViking says:

    There have been some good comics which were genuinely diverse, but not many, and they were all screwed by the double-whammy of insanity that is the comics market “We need to constantly reset the characters and plots to present them to new audiences / We need to change the writers” mentality – which, to be fair, is something which also works against other comics, but seems to affect the diverse ones the most (if nothing else because the “main” comics have a built-in audience and can weather a few terrible runs or ideas).

    Let’s see, my personal recommendations:

    – The original Blue Beetle ongoing series from 2006, by Keith Giffen and John Rogers, though mostly Rogers (Giffen left around issue #10, I think), and I only recommend it up to issue #25, when Rogers left; the new writers didn’t have a good handle on the characters or plots, sadly, but fortunately Rogers managed to wrap up the comic’s main conflict very well, so it’s a good stopping point anyway. I STRONGLY encourage you not to read Geoff Johns’ Blue Beetle run in the New 52; not only is it terrible in terms of diversity, it’s just plain bad.

    – Both runs of the current Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. The original one is from 2014, I think, and only ended because of Marvel’s Secret Wars event (a.k.a. their Crisis on Infinite Earths rip-off), but the second one picks up exactly where that one left off and is still ongoing.

    – The recent Loki, Agent of Asgard run was very good in terms of presence of women who were plot- and character-relevant, running the gamut from heroes, villains, and everything in between. The main character becomes genderfluid near the end of the series, and it’s a development which honestly feels very natural for this Loki – it’s a shame it seems Marvel didn’t continue with it elsewhere.

    – Farla’s already talked about Empowered, so I’ll just add my recommendation to hers.

    – The Jane Foster!Thor also had some very good stories, alongside the usual meh-worthy ones.

    – I think that’s it, off the top of my head? I mean, those are the ones I can recommend with a clean conscience in terms of diversity and quality, at least (for instance, Dan Slott had two great She-Hulk runs, but both felt very slut-shamey).

    ETA: Just to be clear, I am in no way trying to “disprove” the idea that comics are terrible about representation. I’d have to be insane to attempt that.

    1. Cosmogone says:
      If we’re using somewhat more relaxed standard of what diverse means, what do you think about The Silencer?
      1. SpoonyViking says:

        “More relaxed”?

        And sorry, I don’t think I’ve read that one.

        ETA: I read a synopsis of the premise. Doesn’t seem like my cup of tea, but I’m willing to give it a try. Would you recommend it?

        1. Cosmogone says:
          >>“More relaxed”?

          …I know it always sounds like I actively look for things to be offended about, but the awy writers always treat Jane Foster!Thor just rubs me the wrong way. It’s not some big thing, rather a bunch of small hang-ups that wouldn’t be noticeable on their own, but leave a bad aftertaste in combination.

          As for The Silencer, it’s an epitome of 90’s action cheese, but, you know, with a Melanesian woman as the protagonist. I’m talking the kind of cheese where someone gets killed with a colored pensil. Anyone who’s into that sort of thing would love the comic, but if it’s not your thing it’s better to pass.

          I feel like I should recommend Batwoman and Tynion IV’s run on Batman, but those are already pretty obvious picks.

          1. SpoonyViking says:

            Not at all, this sounds very interesting! Can you please elaborate on what you felt were the issues with the Jane Foster!Thor?

            1. Cosmogone says:
              Okay, hm. From the top of my head:

              1) Remember how early on, Jane confronts Titania, who, instead of fighting, turns herself in as a form of female solidarity? It’s a dumb OOC moment that exists for the sake of a joke (also, seriously, what about She Hulk?), but my problem isn’t with it, it’s with how weirdly patronizingly it’s presented. Why did Marvel even opted in favor of a joke over a serious fight?

              2) Jane is inesplicably written as if she was cosplaying Thor. It’s sort of a running joke that she doesn’t naturally assume… Thor speak ( Idk how to call it, butyou know what I’m talking about) but rather intentionally imitates it and reverts back to her normal speach when distracted. Why is it a thing?

              3) The fucking cancer plot. It’s incredibly idiotic from the writing perspective, but, again, the main problem is context. Jane is the only female Thor – and, of course, she gets cancer for it. Yeah, it’s explained as her not being an Asgardian, but what about Beta Ray Bill? Or the frog? Did they get a cancer plot each?

              4) This one is really hard to show without having the comics at hand and showing panel-by-panel comparisons, but Jane is almost never treated with pathos or dignity. You’ll have stuff like… Volstagg being in the middle of some epic battle – and the next panel is Jane!Thor lifting a hot dog cart with wurstels raining out of it. I don’t demand female characters to always be written in a super solemn way, but it just never stops.

              I know, each of these things can be rationalized away, but together they bother me to a ridiculous degree.

              Reply
            2. SpoonyViking says:

              Hmmm… Some of those give me pause and make me want to re-read the issues. But the cancer wasn’t caused by Mjolnir, she already had cancer before becoming Thor; what Mjolnir did was burn away the drugs used in chemotherapy (essentially reverting her treatment to square one).

              Reply
            3. Cosmogone says:
              Whait, what. I’m sorry, but that’s even dumber than how I interpreted this plot point. Mjolnir giving people cancer I could barely buy, but why the hell would it do this instead? If it just interfers with the treatment, why doesn’t Jane take care of the cancer first, then go back to being Thor? It’s not like the world will collapse if one superhero will retire for a while. Why can’t she let someone else borrow the hammer for a while, like Falcon or? Why does she refuse Asgard’s instacure for cancer? Why is this plot point even a thing, bar the fact that Americans really love forced Jesus metaphors? And did nobody learn anything from One more day?

              Christ, I hate comics.

              Reply
            4. CrazyEd says:
              1. All women are friends with all other women.
              2. See, the big problem with someone who isn’t Thor being Thor is that… Thor is a character, he’s not a title. You can’t just make another character Thor the same way you can put someone in the Spider-man suit. Thor talks like that because he is a person who talks like that.
              3. As a friend of the one fan of Beta Ray Bill, I have to point out that he only had Actual Mjolnir for a very short period of time, and was given his own hammer pretty quickly. So it could have different properties. Also, he’s a member of a highly genetically modified member of an alien species, who might react uniquely to the hammer.
              Reply
            5. Cosmogone says:
              >>See, the big problem with someone who isn’t Thor being Thor is that… Thor is a character, he’s not a title.

              Yes and no. I mean, Thor Odinson sure is a character, but that’s not where it gets stupid. Other characters also can earn the title of Thor, though fuck me if I know how it works. The dumb part is Marvel being confused about their own lore enough that they thought Thor Odinson can somehow lose his own name if he becomes unworthy.

              >>№3

              It could be, but that’s the kind of stuff that should be explained by the comic itself, not rationalized by the readers. Also, that’s still stupid, because now I have a whole new bunch of questions.

              Reply
            6. CrazyEd says:

              Fucking hell, that’s right. The Unworthy Thor. Goddamn Marvel you are trying to be bad at this point.

              Reply
            7. Heatth says:

              See, the big problem with someone who isn’t Thor being Thor is that… Thor is a character, he’s not a title.

              Except it is also a title, kinda. It more or less always have been. Originally Thor wasn’t his real name, just the alter ego Dr. Donald Blake assumed after picking up the hammer. And even after that had been retconned away Eric Masterson still used that name for a while.

              There are criticism to be made about that storyline and how it was handled. But someone using the name Thor after picking up Mjolnir is not one of them. That is more or less how it have always worked.

              Reply
            8. SpoonyViking says:

              Mjolnir burns off all the poison in her body when she uses it to transform, and chemotherapy is basically poison.

              I actually really liked the premise, and I feel like it can be (and sometimes was) well-handled. The actual execution wasn’t always the best, but in general, I never really had a problem with it, myself.

              Reply
            9. CrazyEd says:

              Yeah, except, somewhere along the line, Thor became just… Thor. What do you call Thor when someone else is Thor?

              Reply
            10. SpoonyViking says:

              Took the words right out of my mouth! Even after Thor recovered his own body and was de-fused from Masterson, Masterson at first still had the powers and body of Thor when he used Mjolnir to transform; it was only after he gained his own magical mace (which explicitly worked  in a different way from Mjolnir) that his identity also changed.

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            11. Hyatt says:
              I thought Thor decided on his own that because he wasn’t worthy of Mjolnir and the powers of Thor he also wasn’t worthy of the name of Thor. That’s why he chose to call himself Odinson and tell Jane (not that he knew who she was at the time) to call herself Thor.
              Reply
            12. Cosmogone says:
              >>I thought Thor decided on his own that because he wasn’t worthy of Mjolnir and the powers of Thor he also wasn’t worthy of the name of Thor.

              Oh thank god, that finally makes sense. Yeeah, as you may have guessed, I haven’t been following the comics intently and was confused as all hell by this ( cue obbligatory Fake Geek joke).

              Reply
            13. CrazyEd says:

              I thought Thor decided on his own that because he wasn’t worthy of Mjolnir and the powers of Thor he also wasn’t worthy of the name of Thor. That’s why he chose to call himself Odinson and tell Jane (not that he knew who she was at the time) to call herself Thor.

              Yeah, modern Marvel has a real habit of trying (and failing) to get new characters over with fans by having the characters whose identities they’re assuming fawn over them and tell them how they’re the real version of that identity now and anyone who liked the old one better just suck it up because they’re wrong.

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            14. SpoonyViking says:

              Honestly, while the actual reason for Thor feeling he’s unworthy was stupid, I’d say this fits his character perfectly. My main criticism regarding characterisation for that run was how it treated Odin and Loki.

              Reply
            15. Heatth says:

              I didn’t read that run past a few issues or so. What did it did with Odin and Loki?

              Reply
            16. Cosmogone says:
              Odin is an angry MRA and Loki is a GamerGater.
              Reply
            17. Hyatt says:
              I’m pretty sure that reference is supposed to be Loki mocking GG.
              Reply
            18. CrazyEd says:

              … Oh, yeah. What better way to get a new, female Thor, over with your audiences? Compare people who don’t like her to GamerGaters. Genius.

              Reply
            19. SpoonyViking says:

              I mean, let’s be fair: a LOT of people decried the very idea of a female Thor right out of the gate, without considering there was plenty of precedent for Thor relinquishing his powers and identity, for instance. That doesn’t speak well to their supposed standards regarding the character.

              But yes, my main issue with the characterisation of both Odin and Loki is that they were reduced to barely two-dimensional characters, completely ignoring developments both recent (in Loki’s case) and decades-old (in Odin’s case). Not to mention the whole “Odin being at odds with Thor because he’s being an unreasonable ass” device was already tired by the eighties, much less these days.

              Reply
            20. SpoonyViking says:

              Oh, how I hate not being able to edit comments after a certain point! Anyway, the plot point of Odin being angry at the new Thor is perfectly valid for the character, it’s the actual execution which leaves much to be desired – basically, Jason Aaron doesn’t seem to have a grasp on subtlety.

              Reply
            21. Cosmogone says:
              >>I mean, let’s be fair: a LOT of people decried the very idea of a female Thor right out of the gate, without considering there was plenty of precedent for Thor relinquishing his powers and identity

              Viking, but don’t you see how it’s totally different?? A female Thor is culturally appropriative toward Scandinavians and religiously offensive toward neopagans. But not the rest of Thor comics, which are an accurate and respectful potrayal of the Scandinavian pantheon.

              (Honestly, the most interesting part of this controversy was the amount of rightwingers repurposing “SJW” terms for their own points)

              >>Anyway, the plot point of Odin being angry at the new Thor is perfectly valid for the character, it’s the actual execution which leaves much to be desired

              Stole the words right out of my mouth. Although my problem isn’t as much with the potrayal of Odin as it is with it being the intersection of two most annoying trends in superhero comics: inconsistent characterisation and utter failure to address real-life issues with any kind of consideration. The former is barely understandable because of how American comics are made, but the later isn’t even an inherent feature of the genre! There used to be comics that talked about sociopolitical issues… well, not necessarily intellegently, but earnestly. If Marvel wanted to address the nontrovercy around Jane!Thor and thought about it for a second, there were a million more interesting things to do (like how people love the old version of Valkyrie, but lose their shit at a female Thor; not the most in-depth social commentary, sure, but at least the sort of stuff you can properly explore in comic format).

              Reply
            22. Cosmogone says:
              >>Compare people who don’t like her to GamerGaters. Genius.

              Ed, my dude, most people (yes, even comic book writers) realise that you can hate a work that elicits controvercy for unrelated reasons. BUT if most people hate X work for having a female lead, it’s inevitable and even pretty resonable to assume that the default state of X-haters as misogynists, unless explicitly stated otherwise. I don’t like saying that I hate Depression Quest and people immediately assuming that I’m a GamerGater, too, but that’s just ho human brains process information.

              Reply
            23. CrazyEd says:

              That’s exactly my point, though. I don’t know why not liking Depression Quest makes you a gamergater, but they know exactly what they’re doing, and it’s a stupid thing that will win exactly no one to their side that wasn’t already on it, and turn people away who aren’t.

              We all know that not everyone who disliked the female Thor does so because of misogyny, but it’s an easy claim to make, which is why they brought it up (in an absolutely tortured topical reference that no one will understand in a decade, because Modern Marvel Political Commentary is all week-specific hot issues and references instead of the broader social trends of the era like it used to be). Because they want anyone who dislikes it, for whatever reason, to have to take time away to explaining why they dislike it, to explaining why they’re not a misogynist for disliking it.

              Reply
            24. Act says:

              I agree with you in the context of conversation, but I think you have to deliniate between a tactic like that used to shut down discussion and something hyperbolic said as a joke to another person who gets the joke.

              More than anything I think this is a lesson in how the internet really fucks with communication, because when you post that on a personal blog, say, it feels like a joke between friends, but the internet is actually a huge public place so inevitably it gets picked up by people who go SEE SEE LOOK AT THE EVIL FEMINAZIS regardless of how it was meant, and part of being a responsible adult human is knowing how what you say comes across to people who might overhear it even if you never meant it that way and in fact possibly meant the opposite.

              This is something I, personally, think about a lot here — I do with some regularity make glib comments (jokes about mental illness, for instance) that someone unfamiliar with me or the blog could very understandably decontextualize and get upset about or recontextualize for nefarious purposes, which has absolutely happened (some of the emails I get you would not believe), and I have to weigh all the time how much I want to make a crack about anorexia versus how many angry comments/emails I want to deal with from people too lazy and/or malicious to discern the context versus how far decontextualized I think it’s going to get and how much I’m willing to deal with that fallout.

              So yeah, I get why the image exists and I empathize with the joke. I also get why it’s kind of cringey and probably not a smart thing to immortalize in pixels. It’s a really tough catch-22. I personally tend to fall on the side of, “Make the joke,” but I’ve also pulled posts and edited out lines because I just could not cope with the wrong person finding it, so it’s more an ideal than a practice.

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            25. Act says:

              (somewhere right now on tumblr I’m being accurately quoted as having said “LOOK AT THE EVIL FEMINAZIS”)

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            26. CrazyEd says:

              Oh shit, you found my blog? Damn, I’ve been compromised.

              Reply
  9. Nerem says:
    I’ve always been astonished by the fact that the Witchblade anime is insanely superior to the comics.
  10. Nerem says:
    Also to add on to what I said, while trashy fanservice shows generally don’t appeal to me, I’ve really enjoyed both Valkyrie Drive and Cross Ange, which are both extremely fanservice-oriented but also actually have plots and characters and are super entertaining train wrecks.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcwMgPQrBKo

     

    Valkyrie Drive’s OP, to taste.

  11. Random says:
    So being Japanese automatically gives you intristic superior graphic knowledge…

    I get the intent of manga style vs western house style but that phrasing strikes me as uncomfortable. Similar to “He’s Chinese so of course he must be good at martial arts” or “She’s black so of course she’s good at running” feeling.

    From what I understand Image is closer to a self-publishing house in that if you can pony up the money and they will take care of your comic’s distrubution so that’s why it’s attractive to creator-owned comics because creators can take a bigger cut. If they’re successful. Everyone’s hoping they could be the next The Walking Dead or Saga.

    Speaking of Image Comics I enjoyed Sex Criminals and Wicked + Divine a lot more than I thought I would. Wicked + Divine might be an interesting review since it’s leaning on the feminist/progressive-minded/millenial/tumblr audience.

     

    1. Act says:

      Ahhh yes, that was some Unfortunate phrasing; my bad.

    2. Nerem says:
      Well the real advantage manga and manwha tend to have over American comics is that they don’t change author and artist every couple of years, so the quality is a lot more consistent and not as proud to wild changes.

       

      Of course, the flip side to that is that if a mangaka is bad then the manga will be consistently bad.

  12. SpoonyViking says:

    Ok, just re-read the entire Jane Foster!Thor run. I stand by my recommendation in that I do think it had some good stories (plus, as a somewhat recently-converted Whovian, I can finally appreciate the “War Thor” reference), but the characterisation issues… Argh. Odin and Loki got the worst of it, but few really came out unscathed (Malekith, for instance, was a pale shadow of who he used to be, even if he’s been promoted to main villain of the entire arc). Basically, Jason Aaron had Things He Wanted to Say, and he didn’t care what he twisted in order to say those things.

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