We’re No. 1! “Ladies with Swords, Guns, and Proton Packs”

There’s lots to talk about this week, with new #1’s in some of the biggest franchises around, including the Avengers, an all new DC book featuring a female superhero in her first ongoing series, and the debut of the new comic series from music icons Coldplay.

PowersWomen with tons of guts take center stage this week, and one of the standouts is the return of Deena Pilgrim in Powers: Bureau #1, by comics rock stars Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. This is a new run on a series that’s been around at Icon – Marvel’s creator owned imprint – for a while now,  a story of the human cops who pick up the pieces in a super human filled world.  The Powers, as they are referred to rather disdainfully, aren’t always as friendly as you’d think, and Deena Pilgrim has had her share of their troubles. Having spent a year out of the crime fighting game, she gets pulled back in, trying to save a little girl. Deena is also searching for her lost partner, all while being recruited into the FBI. Deep down, Pilgrim feels that they’re out of her league – not because she’s a woman but because she’s human. Still, she’s tough and uncompromising in her belief in doing the right thing. Her efforts to rescue a powered little girl, all while working to bust a super powered smuggling operation, make for a great lead character in this issue. It’s not for younger readers, but this is a good place to get into the Powers series if you’ve not been here before.

Katana_1_Full-665x1024DC takes a step forward, giving Birds of Prey member Katana her own ongoing series in Katana #1. Katana is a trained martial arts warrior, who believes that the soul of her murdered husband lives on in her sword. This book is heavy on the Japanese mysticism, and heavy on the denigration of women in the older forms of that culture, as well. Katana’s enemy, known as Coil, derides her for not wanting to wash the feet of a man, among other things, and though Katana is ready to show him a thing or two, she does have trouble giving up her husband. She’s a powerful warrior to be sure, but tied to the death of the man she loved in a way that could be her undoing. That, and the book’s somewhat liberal interpretation of Japantown in San Francisco, seems to create a world that’s fairly mono-cultural, and this has a vibe of some of that 80’s era Japanese fascination that was so prevalent. While Katana does pretty well on the Bechdel scoring, this isn’t a story about a strong female character quite yet, but rather about one who is growing into herself, with lots of room for improvement.

secfet#1Marvel’s big female gun of late, The Black Widow, makes a brief appearance in Marvel’s Secret Avengers #1, but takes a back seat to Hawkeye and the mainstream Marvel continuity’s Nick Fury (oddly ret-conned to also look like Sam Jackson).  This story feels closer to a high tech Jason Bourne spin-off than a super hero book. Hawkeye is his usual flippantly funny self (more common in the comics than in his film incarnation), and fan favorite Agent Phil Coulson makes an appearance as well. The real woman of strength in this action adventure story is SHIELD director Maria Hill, who’s evolved into a force of will personified, taking the reins of SHIELD and refusing to compromise. She’s almost untrustworthy here, so powerful is her belief in saving the world from whatever might harm it, and both she and the new Nick Fury almost seem like the villains in heroes’ clothing here. It’s an interesting read, for a simple adventure, but there is so much that writer Nick Spencer is trying to force into the narrative that it’s easy to get lost with questions. Ultimately, it feels a bit like an excuse to publish more books with characters that new readers have seen onscreen and want more from. Whether what their getting is of much value seems to be a lesser concern here.

uxmenMarvel’s last #1 of the week is one of it’s biggest reboots to date. The flagship book of the X-series Uncanny X-Men #1 gets a new start with the tale of Scott Summers (Cyclops), long time leader of the X-men, in a blurry role as either mutant leader or terrorist, depending on your point of view. Scott, after the events of the Avengers vs. X-men storyline, is a wanted fugitive. Pursuing the role of mutant freedom fighter, he gathers new mutants to join his cause with the help of Emma Frost and even his old enemy, Magneto. Charles Xavier’s death at Scott’s hands has shaken Xavier’s vision, and Scott is doing what he can to hold it together.  This book is definitely in the spirit of some of the X-books of old, filled with grand myth building, plenty of backstabbing intrigue, and some hard-core mutant combat and firepower. It does lack the witty banter of older X-titles, and it lacks Wolverine, but we’re also introduced to new characters with a bit of diversity, newcomers Tempus and an unnamed Black mutant healer. The additions to the lineup are included a bit like they’re auditioning for model U.N., but the message of equality still manages to find its way into the book, though with less force than the old days.

NewGhostbusters_01_CvrSUBBest representation of strong women this week comes in the most unlikely of franchises: IDW’s The New Ghostbusters #1. This is a really well done comic, dropping us right into the ongoing comic world of the Ghostbusters we know from the 80’s movies. They’ve been up to their usual tricks, but the Boys in Grey have been kidnapped to some otherworldly dimension, and it’s up to their trusty receptionist Janine Melnitz (played so well in the original film by Annie Potts) to assemble a new team to tackle the paranormal troubles that plague the world.  She’s joined by some of the characters from previous Ghostbusters series, including Ray Stantz’s research assistant Kylie Griffin, a young woman with a touch of goth style and a bit of magic in her to boot, and FBI Agent Melanie Ortiz, the voice of reason in a world full of slimers. They’re joined by the comic villain Ron Alexander, and even tormented by the comic version of the first film’s villain, Walter Peck, whose backhanded dealings helped assemble this new line-up. These ladies are every bit as capable of wielding the proton packs as the guys they’re out to rescue, and the book is lots of fun, as the original source material intended. I highly recommend it.

Mylo-1-SDCC-Cover_1 A while back at San Diego International Comic-con, the world got a preview look at a book that’s supposed to shed some light on the meanings behind Coldplay’s latest album, Mylo Xyloto. Now, several months later, the series is available to the public, taking a classic comic spin on the album, which “references the early NYC graffiti scene as well as a variety of resistance movements.” Mylo Xyloto #1 is co-written by the band and Academy Award-nominated writer and director Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda). It’s the story of an alien world called Silencia, where the people are taught to fear an evil race known as The Eaters, devourers of all in their path, attracted by loud noises and bright colors. The citizens are kept under the thumb of The Silencers, a police force made up of their own people and ruled by an alien species. These troopers attempt to weed out the influence of the rebellious graffiti artist known as Fly, whose vivid, glow-in-the-dark murals try to tell the people the truth about those who have a boot on their throats. When Silencer Mylo Xyloto meets Fly, it’s love at first sight. The book goes form a slightly trippy space adventure with a message (one we’re being beaten over our heads with a bit too obviously), to an interstellar Dances with Wolves scenario. All of this is only likely to make the message all the more unbearable. Predictably, we’re to understand that bright color and loud music are important and can set us free – most likely in the form of buying Coldplay records – but thankfully, there is a tasteful lack of commercialism in the book, and in fact no advertising of any kind, for albums or otherwise.

And then, as always, there are the #1’s that aren’t really this week. If those Damned Dirty Apes are your thing, you can pick up Boom Studios’ Planet of the Apes Special #1, a continuation of the ongoing story that was almost incomprehensible to an uninitiated reader like myself. And, just in time for the return to television of The Walking Dead, you can pick up Image’s The Walking Dead: The Governor Special one shot, which holds previously printed stories about the series’ one-eyed main antagonist. Otherwise, happy reading to all, until next week.

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