Monday, May 20, 2024

‘Marvel’s Voices Pride’ 2023 Review: I Love When Gay People Are Mean

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Happy June, you know what that means. It’s Pride! Normally I would be much more cynical about the corporatization of pride month and rainbow capitalism, corporations such as Target and Starbucks have been lessening their pride sections and support, so any amount of loud and proud celebration is welcome at this point. Even if it’s from a corporation. You win this one, mouse. As usual with pride reviews (you can check out my review of the 2022 outing here), let’s just get into it.

Everything’s Coming Up Aces

Writer: Marieke Nijkamp
Penciler: Pablo Collar
Colorist: Michael Wiggam

I have many thoughts about Gwenpool and her recently confirmed aroace identity and I will be writing a separate piece about that, so here I will just get into the story as presented. Gwen using her meta-narrative to examine the burden of being the singular canonized character of a certain identity is a great way to combine her fourth wall powers with a bit of self-flagellation on marvel’s part. Using the exposition to confirm some other characters as on the asexual spectrum was great, but I’m pretty sure they used the wrong character in the New Mutants flashback panel. I read the “take some time between the panels” comment as her suggesting that not every character is going to be spelled out explicitly and that reading between the lines is sometimes necessary. Overall, Gwen reinforcing that pride should be joyful and that ace and aro people BELONG at pride is a much needed message. And Dazzler is a gay icon.

What May Bloom

Writer: Stephanie Williams

Penciler: Héctor Barros

Inker: Oren Junior

Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse

I’m a big fan of Stephanie Williams’ work and was super excited when I saw she was introducing a new character this year in the anthology. I think there’s a bigger issue with constantly adding more new characters that inevitably only turn up in their respective anthologies, but that is a separate problem. The story is wonderfully written and I love the new character, Nightshade. It just felt out of place in the pride anthology. The story is mostly about Logan finding her strength to use the powers she accidentally gave herself and less about her experience as a queer person. A Black queer woman in STEM is an incredible background for a character rich with intricacies that could be explored in relation to identity but it fell flat. I hope this character perseveres and I hope that Williams gets a chance to flesh out the backstory and identity of Logan aka Nightshade some more.

Marvel's Voices Pride Nightshade

Purim Spiel

Writer: Katherine Locke
Penciler: Joanna Estep
Colorist: Manuel Puppo

This is my first experience with Web Weaver as a character and I’ll admit that I went into it with a chip on my shoulder. I’ve been irrationally annoyed with Web Weaver since he was announced purely because as an Araña fan, the title of “first LGBT+ spider-hero” should have been hers. I recognize this is no fault of the character or his creators, but entirely on me. But much like the queer community in real life, annoying queer characters are still representation and should be celebrated. I have to admit, the “hero is running late to a date and they’re gay!” has been pretty much beaten to death in terms of short storylines for anthology titles. Much like how Nightshade’s story felt out of place, this feels like it would fit better in a Jewish Voices anthology. There are ways to weave(ha) stories about overlapping identities together but the story was not elevated by being in this anthology nor was this anthology elevated by this story. Or maybe I’m just too harsh on the guy. Like I said, annoying gay people still deserve representation.

Everywhere

Writer: Shadi Petosky
Penciler: Roberta Ingranata
Colorist: Ceci De La Cruz

I am famously ambivalent towards Billy and Teddy. They are just not for me and that’s ok.I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by their story in the pride special but it ended up being one of my favorites. With the introduction of Lacie Lorraine, an immortal and indestructible trans woman, this story becomes an avenue for exploring queer history and the often fraught topic of non-human characters and gender identity. We aren’t told if Lacie is a mutant or an alien, but we follow her story from Ancient Greece where she was one of the Gallae to disco-era through time and space. Using a trans woman Skrull to define the relationship between shape-shifting and gender presentation was heartbreaking with the fact that Skrulls revert to their original form upon death. I don’t want to speak too much on the trans experience because it is not my avenue to speak, but this story was incredible and I feel it approached many tough topics head on in a way that many have shied away from. And I love when gay people are mean. 

Be Gay, Do Crime

Writer: Sarah Gailey
Penciler: Bailie Rosenlund
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg

Corny title aside, this was one of the more fun and light-hearted stories in the book. Felicia and Gambit hanging out is always a fun read and lets be real, Gambit should be in the pride books anyway. The story starts with them messing with transphobes and stealing shit, and ends with Felicia on a date with a physically massive immortal woman. There seems to be a theme of trying to distance Felicia from Peter which is great unless you read Amazing Spider-Man which is all about Felicia being Peter’s girlfriend. I’m in favor of more queer characters having messy and short relationships and was glad that she mentioned that her and Odessa just were not meant for long-term. Stealing Candra’s ruby to ask her on a date was a fun and flirty ending and not every pride story needs to impart some wisdom or greater meaning.

No Trespassing; Beware Of Dog

Writer: H.E. Edgmon
Penciler: Lorenzo Susi
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick

One thing about me, I love a lil freaky guy in a mask. Incredible character design. Another thing about me, I love robin-hoodesque characters and stories. The small anarchist group of queer folks who steal hormones and insulin from Stark Pharmaceuticals has completely stolen my heart and I love them all so much. Muzzle, who the story features, is a trans man from Oklahoma who was a fetal experiment of some sort. We don’t know much about his abilities but it seems he has some sort of power transference which was explored a bit by him using Spider-Man’s webs and electricity against him. I hope this little funky group of characters doesn’t get written into the background because they are great.

Jumbo Carnation’s Ultimate Creations

Writer: Stephen Byrne
Penciler: Stephen Byrne

I’ve always loved Jumbo Carnation as a character who is a gay mutant celebrity. I’m not sure why there is a chicken in a rainbow shirt running around with him during this story but it was fun regardless. I was a bit annoyed at how America Chavez’s most recent breakup was referred to, seeing as she and Ramone have been established to be on speaking terms and Ramone has not appeared in anything since. I love Kate Bishop but this felt a bit like forced animosity between America and Ramone to make Kate seem more like a viable romantic option for America.

The pocket bacon quips were a bit too much 2010s random humor but Stephen Byrne art can cover many sins. I like that Viv Vision expresses her doubts about her place in the queer community as a lesbian who has only dated one girl but comes out of her shell a bit and feels more confident in new fashionable clothes from Jumbo.  The overall message of the story is well thought out and the art is beautiful but I wish each character had gotten more than just one line of exposition. 

Today’s Lesson

Writer: Steve Foxe
Penciler: Rosi Kampe
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick

I was very glad to see that Gimmick has finally made her way back onto the page along with some previously unnamed background mutants and deep pulls from the Academy X days. Gimmick taking on a leadership role among her small team of misfits to try to take down some mutants gone rogue in Central Park was great, as was her shedding her Gambit cosplay in favor of a unique uniform. The learning moment of not being able to win every fight but still growing as a team and a person and the tease of Madelyne Pryor at the very end might be enough to get me to read Dark X-Men.

This is the third year of Marvel pride anthologies and I hate to say that they’ve stagnated but…a shake-up is definitely needed. There were some standouts this year with “Everywhere” and I am beyond glad that an aroace character has finally been included. The stories themselves just seemed less genuine than previous years and several of them could have been better served in different books or as a stand-alone. Despite feeling like many of the stories are forgettable, I am still glad that Marvel stands with it’s queer fans this year and I hope they continue to do so.

Images via Marvel Comics

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