Gail Williams has Marvel in her sights...
If you take a look at my back catalogue of reviews, you might notice something - the comics tend not to come from DC or Marvel. It’s not that I have anything specific against those publishers, I just prefer other stuff. I like to read about a hero from start to finish, and I can’t really do that with Superman or Spiderman - well not without going back one hell of a way and spending a great deal more money than I have.
My local comic shop (Comix Shoppe in Swansea) has got to know me over the years, they know I review titles and the owner has several times pointed me at series that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. So I had a surprise last Saturday when I went to pick up my standing order and was given a huge wedge of comics that he thought I might enjoy. What I’ve decided to do, is to give you a quick rundown of the titles and my impressions. I’ll do this by publisher, and first up I’m going to take a nibble at Marvel.
Now like most people I know a little about Marvel superheroes. I’ve watched the movies, am vaguely aware of the mythology, but never really got into it big time. So there were some surprises in the bag for me.
I’ll start with the one I enjoyed the least. This was Hellcat #1. The comic itself makes reference to a past life, but I had never knowingly encountered Hellcat as an entity strong enough to carry a comic series before, and having read this comic I’m still not sure I have. Now there are themes in here that struck a chord for me, Patsy wants to start an employment agency where people with super-powers can be hired, after all they have to pay the rent to, just like writers have to pay the mortgage so have day jobs. But nothing clicked for me with Patsy. She didn’t call to me as a woman, a working woman, or a woman with family issues. She was just a non-entity for me.
Then there was the drawing. Not really sure how to describe it for you. Bad seems a little unfair - but only a very little. There was something reminiscent of the cheap tacky cartoons that were on Saturday morning TV when I was little that I just don’t find appealing. She-Hulk in this is particularly not superhero-ish. Since I have to rate this I’ll give it a one, in a more generous mood I’d give it a two, as I have seen worse, just not very often. Would I buy issue #2? Only if my life depended on it and then I wouldn’t read it.
Next comes Red Wolf #1. Now this falls down on the fact that it is a first issue but it starts by giving me a paragraph on the back story of the “injun” (hate that word but the comic uses it) Sheriff Red Wolf. It’s the sort of thing that, as a fiction editor, I will always cross out in big red pen and put a note to the author that such an opening tells me right off the bat that they can’t write - and yes I did in fact say that to the face of one newbie author only two weeks ago. That means that I was predisposed not to like this issue before I got to the first real panel. Now I recognise that that might be a little unfair so I approached the reading with as open a mind as possible and now that I’ve read the issue, I see that there simply wasn’t time to have put all that paragraph into the panels and got to where the issue ended, and it did need to end there in issue #1 or reader expectations for the series would have been totally misplaced.
The story has pace and promise, so thumbs up to that. The drawing however, didn’t do much for me. A few times Red Wolf looked like a girl and his mother frequently looked more likely to be his father. The question with this comic by the end of the read is did I care that Red Wolf had been shot? No not really. Did I care about where he landed after he got shot? Well actually, sorta. The twist at the end of this issue is a good one. I can see how it would hook many a reader. Am I one of those readers? Not really. If I saw this one on a coffee table, yeah I’d pick it up and read it but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do so. If you like cops and Indians, if the film “Cowboys and Aliens” floated your boat, you’ll probably enjoy this title, but it’s not my beverage of choice. Still I’d give this a solid two out of five.
Now Scarlet Witch I have heard of - mostly because my kids have explained that she’s Magneto's daughter and Quicksilver’s twin sister, and then complained about what the films have done with these two characters. So when I opened this one I didn’t know what to expect. Which was probably just as well because I wouldn’t have expected what I got. There’s not a lot of back story in this issue, but what there is is fast paced and interesting. I have no idea who ghostly Agatha is or why her shade walks with the Scarlet Witch, but she works well in the place of any other familiar.
The artwork is okay, the “history” lesson is intriguing, the hook is there, but it didn’t catch this fish. If you’re into the Scarlet Witch already I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed, if you’ve never heard of her I can see how this would interest you, but I’m in the uncomfortable medium of I know a little and I care less. For writing and graphics I have to give this one a two, nearly tempted to a three, but not near enough, nope, two out of five.
Next on the list is The Totally Awesome Hulk. I was impressed with the cover, I thought the artwork was lovely, though I had no idea who the guy in the bottom bubble was. On page one I think I can be forgiven thinking this looked more like an opening for Godzilla, but it’s a good front page. Turn to page two and things get interesting, with the introduction of Amadeus Cho who, it turns out, is the new Hulk. Of course “HULK SMASH” things, defeats the monster, and then we find out that this is just one of many monsters that Amadeus and his sister Maddy are looking into. The Cho siblings, it transpires, are two of the smartest people on the plant. It’s not yet clear why Cho is now Hulk instead of Bruce Banner, but a little bit of the end of Banner’s story is shown - and very well I have to say. We also encounter a much better drawn She-Hulk in this issue, better drawn in terms of both artwork and character action/reaction. There’s more “Hulk Smash” and then we’re introduced to Lady Hellbender who I also know nothing about so I have no idea if this is her first appearance or what, but she’s an interesting looking character.
I have to say I enjoyed this one. I might even buy #2 when it comes out. Good drawing, good story, pace, action and humour. A good three out of five from me.
Last but certainly not least comes The Mighty Thor. This is the lady Thor, the existence of which was something I was only vaguely aware of in passing. The story starts off rather oddly, in a hospital with Dr Jane Foster having chemotherapy and not looking at all well. Finding out that Jane is Thor was rather a surprise, but the story is well told and handled particularly well in that by taking The Hammer, Jane turns into Thor and the magic of The Hammer burns all the poisons of the chemo out of her system but doesn’t touch the cancer, because, as horrible as this is to think, cancer is a part of the patient in the same way any other body part is, it’s just, unfortunately the part that could well kill you.
Cut to a space station weather channel and we see debris coming through from some other realm. The debris is a bunch of dead elves, one of which has the words “SO BEGINS THE WARD OF REALMS” carved into his torso. What comes after with is well written, beautifully drawn shows an affinity for both the Marvel universe of Thor and the real world of cancer patients.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this comic. It’s not something I would have picked up out of choice, but I am now considering getting the second issue. If all things Norse creed is something you’re into, this won’t disappoint, except perhaps in one aspect - Loki doesn’t look enough like Tom Hiddleston, but that could just be my idiosyncrasy. This one gets a good four out of five.
In short my taste of the Marvel universe wasn’t as bitter as I was expecting, it was actually quite sweet. Just goes to show it’s always worth trying something new every now and then.
Gail Williams lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and
the wonderful she can imagine. Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits
and pieces are a bit wonderful. Well okay, she lives in Swansea with
her husband and daughter. And the world’s most demanding cat. To find
out more about Gail, check out www.gailbwilliams.co.uk - Dare you!