There’s an old saying that has do with things that aren’t broke, and how you ought not to bother repairing them. Generally I’m a big fan of this idea, as there are times to leave well enough alone, but there are also times when things that clearly ARE broken should get put back together in brand new ways. This week DC has done just that with two rather dull, poorly conceived, and even more poorly represented women from its Golden Age past, recasting them in brand new series. We’ll take a look at them both, along with a one-off Locke and Key story with a couple of very tough ladies who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
First up is Looker #1, a poorly titled book that’s been launched by DC as the second book to carry it’s National Comics series (the first being the previously reviewed Eternity #1), featuring older DC Universe characters from the fringes of bigger titles, recast and rebooted in all new continuities. Each series seems to begin with something of a one-off story, so new readers can take on these oldies but goodies with little to fear. Looker #1 is exactly that, quite a looker at first glance. It’s the story of Emily Biggs, high-end supermodel turned vampire/owner of a modeling agency. Having been made vampire by an unknown blood-sucker, Emily has gathered together a pair of human confidants and struck up an awkward romantic friendship with a blind former policeman and sculptor. Emily, channeling her admittedly less-than-pleasant personality from her human life, has turned to feeding on the not so innocent in the gritty underbelly of … the super modeling world. Yikes! Still, she seems to have, begrudgingly, come into some form of understanding of her womanhood as a vampire. It takes a little time for her to go from viewing her thin as nails employees as more than just numbers, but as people who need her protection, and need it they do! Emily and her assistant Roma have a solid female friendship that revolves largely around shared business interests, helping Looker pass the all-important Bechdel Test. More than that, Emily is a powerful (literally) woman in a world where men seem to feel the need to … well, kill her repeatedly, and she doesn’t take it lying down. She, like so many of her comic book sisters before her, can’t seem to fight crime without a bare midriff, at the very least, but she’s more than a sexual being in someone else’s story, and is thus an improvement over the Golden Age original.
DC’s next foray in to it’s golden past comes in Phantom Lady #1. Ripped form the pages of the Outsiders, these two heroes are also relative unknowns in the supporting casts of some of DC’s tent-poles, reimagined and rebooted for a new world. Oddly, this book is listed neither as part of DC’s New 52, nor as one of it’s National Comics series, and thus it’s tough to figure out where these two new heroes fit into the universe at large. Phantom Lady, whose real name is Jennifer Knight, is the daughter of Metropolis journalist Henry Knight, who was killed years earlier by some of the big city’s most notorious crime families for attempting to expose them. Having witnessed her parents’ death by house fire, young Jennifer has sworn revenge, and years later became the light manipulating Phantom Lady (not entirely sure how from the first issue). Her partner is Doll Man, standing 2 feet tall, after inadvertently getting caught is some sort of “Honey-I-Shrunk-the-Super-Hero” machine. Doll Man, also known as Dane Maxwell, has been in love with Miss Knight since they were kids, and isn’t shy about telling her. Sadly, he’s also not shy about getting in touch with the same baddies that Jennifer is trying to bring down, thus getting them both into a real pickle that we have to assume will be resolved in future issues. Again, the previous incarnations of the female lead in the Gold and Silver ages represented her as high-strung and stuck-up towards even other female super-heroes. (She once, rather rudely, rejected the invitation to become part of Batman’s female support cast the Birds of Prey.) Here, Jennifer Knight is an angry young woman with a hefty chip on her shoulder, going about revenge in all the wrong ways, including seducing the son of the man who murdered her parents. Dane seems intent on convincing her of the errors of her ways, and as he’s a super genius of some type, we have to assume he will be the one to turn her in to the titular super hero. ( The series is a little all over the place in issue #1.) Based on the flashes of the costume we’ve seen, she too is unable to fight crime without presenting ample cleavage, but at least she has pants on. Again, this character is a powerful woman who’s only beginning to realize her capabilities, but it’s too bad she’s relying on help from the man in her life and not taking on that strength on her own. Time will tell with this one, whether or not she grows into a more positive role model, but it has the beginnings of a move in the right direction.
Lastly, we have the very R-rated one off from Joe Hill’s Locke and Key series, Locke and Key: Grindhouse. Here, everyone’s favorite indie-comic house of mystery is seized by home invaders, a trio of petty armed robbers on the run after the heist to end all heists and, if all goes well, their criminal careers. Their only problem is their escape plan. One of the crew, formerly a gardener working for this early generation of the Locke Family (the series is set in the 1920’s), knows the house has a dock on the river with a boat slip. He and his companions are just waiting it out with the family, while their aquatic getaway driver takes his time arriving, apparently. What they don’t know are the things that readers of Locke and Key do: the house has many nooks, many crannies, and many, many locked doors, all leading to some very unpleasant places. The Locke family knows just what to do with the keys to those doors, especially when the goons try to avail themselves of the younger Locke daughter and her femme fatale mother. Not content to be assaulted and raped, these ladies turn This Old House to their advantage, with spectacular results. There’s one particularly disturbing scene that reminds us all that when Momma Bear’s cubs are threatened, you’d better not be in the woods, especially when those woods hold Keyhouse. (Side note, for the super geeky among us that collect comics for value as well as good story telling, this is the most nicely printed issue I’ve seen in a while, with a gorgeous foiled cover. Keep it bagged and boarded, people.)
And that’s pretty much that for the world of new stories in comics this week. You might also pick up what looks like a #1, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master, by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, but it’s really just issue 98 of the Hell on Earth series, and the beginning of a 5 issue miniseries event, not really a new start. It left this reader, who doesn’t follow the series, very confused. Still, new comics are always just around the next page, so happy reading!