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Hot Ink Review – Girl Comics #1 [Girl Week]

The first issue of Marvel’s “Girl Comics” releases today, and this being Girl Week here at ComicsAlliance, we’re providing an early review of the book ahead of this week’s usual reviews.

To begin with, there’s probably a small group of comic readers out there who refuse to read a book called “Girl Comics” on principle. Interestingly, that group is split further into two additional sub-groupings, one that objects to “books for girls” encroaching on their otherwise unspoiled superhero book territory, and the other finding the title “Girl Comics” a ridiculous title for a book celebrating women who’ve been working hard in all aspects of creating comics.

If you hold one of those opinions but you’re reading this anyway, you’re probably convinced you’re going to hate the book no matter what. So in the interest of not wasting your time, I will first provide two brief, entirely falsified reviews that will allow you to cling to your pre-constructed opinions and move on.Okay, group one, here’s your review. “Girl Comics” #1 is twenty some odd pages of She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel and Storm talking about which boys in the Marvel Universe would be the best kissers while they’re getting their hair done. That’s followed by a short story in which Iron Man and Captain America ride on unicorn/pegasus hybrids over rainbows before stopping to have tea with Doctor Doom. It then concludes with a two-pager where Morbius the Living Vampire talks about his feelings while taking off his shirt. It’s nauseating and you were entirely right to doubt this one.

All right, group two, step up. In “Girl Comics” #1 some of Marvel’s finest female creative talent are forced by their cruel male bosses to tell a series of stories marginalizing the roles the highest profile superheroines in the Marvel Universe. First, Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel bake a cake at Avengers headquarters while waiting for the men to get back from saving the world. Then S.W.O.R.D. agent Abigail Brand breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader to tell them it’s good her series as been cancelled so that her boyfriend Beast can get back to serious, non-romantic fighting and sciencing. And in the last story Kitty Pryde returns to Earth, meets a resurrected Jean Grey, and together they clean the X-Mansion to a sparkly like-new shine. It’s insulting and you were entirely right to doubt this one.

Fine. They’re gone now. Which is just as well because I’m not sure if they’d have listened anyway. Here’s the real review. “Girl Comics #1″ is an enjoyable anthology comic that presents a series of short comics remarkably varied in both storytelling tone and visual style. The big two have been releasing a number of similar themed anthology pieces in recent months, including “Strange Tales” and “Nation X” by Marvel and a number of 80-page anthologies by DC. And every time I read one I come away with a few pieces that I enjoy and some others that are more forgettable. My reaction to the premiere of “Girl Comics” is roughly the same. I’m actually most reminded of DC’s recent “Wednesday Comics”, as it’s the last time I’ve seen so many unique artistic styles and approaches to telling a story all in one place. And that’s certainly a positive, as it means there is something here for everyone to like.

Those afraid that the title would mean the content would be targeted solely at a what Marvel believes a female audience wants, your concerns are unfounded. Yes, there are parts that run more toward a stereotypically feminine aesthetic. Furthest on that end of the spectrum would be Trina Robbins and Stephanie Buscema’s Venus story, in which she travels to Earth from Olympus and fights Ares while working at a fashion magazine. But at the other end, squarely on the “things you would expect to be targeted at a male audience” side, there’s a full page pin-up of She-Hulk tied up and wearing something that can only barely be called a bikini and also a splash page in which Wolverine crashes a motorcycle through a wall while followed by an enormous sentinel.

So when I say something for everyone, I mean it. For me, highlights included Valerie D’Orazio and Nikki Cook’s four-pager “A Brief Rendezvous”, which is a wonderfully realized story with minimal dialogue that I unfortunately can’t say anything about without giving it all away. You really should read it for yourself. Lucy Knisley’s short story following a day in the life of Doctor Octopus as he attempts to shop at the grocery store is a fun, adorable two-pager. Robin Furth and Agnes Garbowska’s retelling of Hansel and Gretel featuring Franklin and Val Richards is filled with impressive visuals, particularly a clockwork biomechanical witch and her forest of clockwork animals.

And Devin Grayson and Emma Rios team up to provide a more traditional X-Men story. They show a moment between Jean and Scott when she peers into his mind only to discover that Scott’s constant worrying about Logan being part of the picture makes it impossible for him to find peace. Having not seen Scott and Jean together in a while, it gave me an odd feeling that maybe Scott wasn’t inherently the tool he always came off as until recently. Maybe it was just being with Jean that did it to him. I don’t believe that was Grayson and Rios’ intent, but it’s certainly a thought-provoking, visually impressive short story.

There is the larger question of why Marvel’s goal in releasing this book. An attention-grabbing effort? Sure, but then so many comic releases are built up to be attention grabbing efforts nowadays, from crossover events to series re-numberings to movie tie-ins to bringing aboard celebrity creators. The question is, is it an attention grabbing effort that’s backed up with talent and might be a good introduction to comics for hesitant new readers? I’d say that it is. The variety of stories on display here, from ordinary superhero action pieces to indie-style comics to younger audience stuff, is a good way to show off what comics has to offer. If you’re someone who’s been following comics for some time there’s still likely to be at least one story here you’ll enjoy, if not more. I’m thankful Marvel’s encouraging a variety of voices and styles with collections like these, as each story in a book like this one is another opportunity for me to discover something pleasant and unexpected I that I might otherwise never have found.

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