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Wasp Proves She Can Sting

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Through the first 3 issues of The Unstoppable Wasp, Nadia Pym hasn’t had to do too much actual heroing. She had a battle with a big robot, and another battle with a big rodent. OK, so she’s done a fair bit of heroing. But mostly, she’s used her wits and charm to get out of danger. She’s a total sweetheart, and could make friends with anyone. As we are about to find out though, that will only get you so far.

You shouldn’t have done that.

Pounding Cakes

At the end of last issue, Nadia was trying to recruit Priya to her G.I.R.L. lab. Priya was more interested in being popular with her vapid friends than being smart. While she was out of her parents’ store, some local heavies barged in demanding their protection money. This is “Poundcakes”, an ex-wrestler with a good two feet on our hero Nadia, and probably twice as much muscle.

Nadia’s first instinct is to make nice. Nadia is a perfect cinnamon roll, so who could not instantly fall in love with her? Poundcakes certainly starts to. Nadia appeals to her better nature to diffuse the situation. It almost works, too. Unfortunately the excitable Jarvis, trying to be helpful, barges in and wrecks the whole scene.

The Wasp Can Sting

Fear the flutter…

Nadia is such a likable and sweet character that it’s easy to forget she was trained in the Red Room. This is the same spy school that trained Black Widow. Needless to say, Nadia is a total bad-ass, and she’s not going to let her new friend’s family get shaken down. She suits up in her Wasp outfit, and you can tell it’s about to go down.

What follows is perhaps one of the best fight montages in recent memory. Nadia takes down the two attackers (oh yeah, Poundcakes has an equally burly partner) with surgical precision while her usual science fact boxes explain some of the finer points of Krav Maga. Nadia is definitely underestimated by her size and demeanor, but make no mistake about it, this Wasp can kick some serious butt.

Despite her prowess in hand-to-hand combat, Nadia feels bad about how the situation turned out. She laments resorting to violence when she could have made a new friend. At least she got Priya to agree to be a member of G.I.R.L., and she got some revenge on the two popular girls who stood by and did nothing to help.

Lawyerin’ Up

After a good night’s sleep, it’s time to finally see about her citizenship. Nadia and Jarvis rush to Matt Murdock’s office (who’s name Nadia gets hilariously wrong) to discuss the difficulty she will face with becoming a citizen. She has to somehow prove she’s Hank Pym’s daughter, a thing that will be difficult with Hank being deceased.

Mr. who? Whatnow?

Her only other option is requesting asylum, which would mean testifying about her time in the Red Room. Doing that would put a huge target on her back. Matt thinks he can protect her (or at least Daredevil could). On the way out of the office, Nadia hears someone in distress and rushes to the rescue.

It looks like we are going to see some more Wasp-style butt kicking. Instead it turns out to be a trap set by her former friend and partner Ying. She uses a device to paralyze Nadia, intending to take her back into custody. In a reversal from the beginning of the book, Jarvis is now the one who has to talk the villain down.

Jarvis appeals to Ying’s humanity. He reminds Ying how good Nadia is. Nadia has done nothing but fret about her friend, and would do anything to help her get free. He basically tells Ying everything that we already know about Nadia, that she is a perfect cinnamon roll and she doesn’t deserve to be taken back to Russia. As it turns out, it’s a lot more complicated than just running away from the Red Room.

Nadia is Seriously the Best

This book just seems to get better with each issue. This issue was once again filled with delightful Nadia moments, from her messing up Matt’s name, to taking her usual jabs at Jarvis. Just when we think we couldn’t love Nadia more, we are proven wrong yet again. This issue, we saw a very different side of Nadia, the one that can hold her own in a bare-knuckled brawl. Despite her skill in hand-to-hand combat, she doesn’t like to hurt anyone, and we feel her pain when it’s over. This is not who she is. Nadia would rather talk it out and help people, even the “bad” ones, than throw a single punch.

That said, the fight scene was awesome and I loved every page of it.

The art as well just seems to get better with each issue. The fight scene is well done, and plays like a cinematic montage. Elsa Charretier’s work with expressions and body language is top-notch, and all the characters are so expressive. I almost don’t need any words to get the story. Nadia’s face after the fight is over tells us all we need to know about how violence makes her feel. Charretier’s throwback pop-arty style fits this book to a T, and I can’t imagine Nadia being drawn by anyone else.

As much fun as the first three issues were, this one really cemented Nadia as a character, and made me look forward to more. Wasp isn’t just a silly lighthearted book. It is that, of course, but it offers so much more this month. Nadia is the hero we should all aspire to be. She stands as a stark contrast to some other Marvel characters we might mention.

Q: Could we love her more? A: Not possible.

I can’t wait for next month to see how Nadia helps her friend Ying. Maybe the agents of G.I.R.L. can come up with a solution together.

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the two profiles of women in STEM in the back matter. This time, a physicist and an anthropologist are featured, and it’s worth reading. Ive said it before, and I’ll say it again, anyone who knows a woman or girl who loves science needs to get this book in their hands.


All Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The Unstoppable Wasp #4 Credits

Writer: Jeremy Whitley

Artist: Elsa Charretier

Colorist: Megan M. Wilson

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Ian is an amateur nerd and geek-of-all-trades. His main obsessions include Star Wars, superheroes, and movies nobody else seems to like. His children grow increasingly annoyed by his “Dad jokes”.

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Unrighteous Retribution Unfolds in Saga

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If there was ever any doubt about Saga‘s creators’ ambition to create a deep narrative, it was dispelled like twenty issues ago. Hell, maybe you even knew it at first read. Wherever you look, there is something to see in this comic, something to laugh or cry over. Aside from promising features and solid story and character development, another feature that can ensure a title’s relevance is longevity. And there’s no better way to guarantee longevity than by introducing a new (efficient) baddie, which this issue is all about.

Things seem relatively calm in the throes of Alana’s painful but necessary abortion. Nobody is hot on Hazel’s trail. Thus, the conflict must come from somewhere else; otherwise, it would come off as a vulgar contrivance. For this reason, somebody else suffers the debuting antagonist’s hatred: Billy, aka The Will. Last time we saw him, a villainous presence incapacitated him right after killing Sweet Boy. Today, we see the fruition of that deed. Little happens, but there is much to say, nevertheless.

Issue #47
“Does everyone you meet end up dead?”

It makes sense that this new villain, Ianthe, takes up the cover for the issue, seeing as how all of it takes place in her living room. In terms of demeanour and style, she certainly conveys the magnificent asshole feel. But as we’ll soon know, her acts and character will imbue her with impunity, a key ingredient in the making of a despicable baddie. Interestingly, during his slightly physical, mostly emotional torture, we get to know a lot about The Will. More accurately, the key moments in his past that have led him to become this haunted, not-quite-heroic-not-quite-villainous figure.

With the use of a magical device plugged to Billy’s head, Ianthe brings out his memories, going as far as his childhood. Sophie and he were children in a broken home, where their father abused them. Things took a turn (for better and worse) when their uncle Steve came to pick them up. Things looked ripe for returning to their mum, who was successfully recovering from her alcohol addiction. But daddy dearest would have none of it. In fact, he was about to punish Sophie for writing a letter about the things he did. This triggered an active and definite response from Steve.

By the by, Uncle Steve is a Freelancer. He went by The Letter. And he axed the kids’ dad right in front of them. Although Billy’s expression is completely neutral, one can distinguish the sowing of a seed in the child. This was most likely the moment when Billy and Sophie chose their path – so nobody else would for them. Ianthe begins her villainous discourse after this sequence. She discusses her motivations and delight in reviving her captive’s ghosts, you know the drill. She is exacting revenge on the former Freelancer because he killed her fiance. Heartbreaking.

His name was Hektor, and he was a security consultant in Sextillion. Sounds harmless enough, and forgettable enough. Of course, this rings no bells for The Will, or for us. We get a visual cue when Ianthe removes her mask, but I literally had to go back to Saga‘s early issues to know who the hell this guy was. I don’t think that was an oversight on Brian’s part—rather a way to underline just how forgettable he was. And that’s because he was one of the goons trying to stop The Will from getting Sophie out of Sextillion. So, fuck this guy, and fuck the validity behind Ianthe’s vengeance.

Not that she believes The Will. Then again, she probably wouldn’t care.

The second memory Ianthe replays is the moment when The Will decided to get a sidekick. He still had hair back then and was in the middle of a mission with The Stalk. The usual banter and bicker goes on as they slaughter all the X-Files-style grey guys around them. The teasing chemistry between them is palpable, even at their current platonic bond. Well, I say platonic, but they’re basically agreeing to get together and fuck right after they’re done with the job. And the rest is history. The Stalk marks the second person in The Will’s life who is of utmost importance. Dead like his sister, though, she continued to haunt him via hallucinations.

So far, Ianthe hasn’t been pulling up any noteworthy vulnerabilities to exact her revenge. That is, until the third memory, featuring Gwendolyn on the green planet of wacky meats. Naturally, Ianthe pinpoints her as his weak point, an asset to inflict proportionate pain to The Will by killing her. Sinister. However, something is discussed in this memory that also captures Ianthe’s attention. Gwendolyn talks about Marko, Alana… and their offspring, Hazel. Being a diplomat (basically an untouchable criminal), Ianthe realizes she can use this information to her advantage. And if state villains have taught us anything, she’ll be willing to do horrendous things to gain this asset.

With The Will as her prisoner, Ianthe takes off and joins the pursuit, bringing heat to a path going cool. Alas, let’s not forget, she also brings a promise of carnage upon The Will’s beloved. And there’s no guarantee she’ll stop there. Lying Cat and Sophie may be in peril as well. As Ianthe’s potential for cruelty was early proven when telling Bill she made a rug out of Sweet Boy, we readers are left to shudder at this new villain’s approach. Because of all things that can make an already dangerous villain more of a menace, purpose ranks high.

Stay tuned, lovelies. A vengeful scourge is about to unite our heroes’ and The Will’s path. Expect a catastrophe for the whole family to enjoy.


Saga Issue #47 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

Images Courtesy of Image Comics

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Batwoman Isn’t Built For One-Shots Or Fill-Ins

Griffin

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[Danny Elfman Theme DOES NOT Play]

Wow. Just…wow. Okay, I was already keenly aware that any solo outing for Kate needed a very strong writer to actually work. Someone who did the homework, and understood that you can’t just throw her at things and expect it all to make sense later. That’s all a given, considering how atypical a character Kate Kane became. She’s not idealized. She’s not an icon, or an immovable concept.

All of that I knew. After Batwoman #11, written by Kate Perkins* and illustrated by a criminally underused Scott Godlewski (Copperhead was great until he stopped doing the art) however, I learned something new. I learned that Kate is just not a character built for one-and-dones or fill-ins. Because that was the single worst Batwoman story I’ve read since that time she got raped by a vampire for like eight issues.

Pictured: someone who can write Kate. Not pictured: that time she got raped by a vampire for eight issues

Which, okay, not a super high bar, but it’s still worse than that abysmal hyper-goyish Batwoman “Hanukkah” story from last year’s DC Holiday Special…which was also written by Kate Perkins. She just wanted pie or something. It was bad.

Anyway, the problems Batwoman #11 has are emblematic of how this kind of story just doesn’t work for Kate. And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s even a meta-textual reasoning behind all of it, too! Because of course there is; it’s Kate.

Kate’s continuity has always progressed forward since 2006, having never actually been reset or rebooted. She’s in a weird position that leaves her extremely well-characterized, but also makes it nigh impossible to write her “passably”. That is, mediocre. She’s sort of all-or-nothing just due to her own context.

This is also why cameos for her are either pitch perfect or laughably bad. For example: Kate’s brief appearances in Mother Panic and Red Hood and the Outlaws were excellent (though the latter had a weird art problem where it didn’t match the tone of the script, but that’s minimal), while her extended existence in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey was…abysmal.

More to the point, the fact that Kate has never actually stopped developing (EVEN ANDREYKO KNEW THIS AND HE IS THE WORST) means that any narrative where she’s the focal point in which it’s just “filling dead air” isn’t going to work. And no matter how you look at it, that’s exactly what Batwoman #11 was.

It was a series of beats that were hit by a writer who seems to have a very odd “blueprint” of what a Batwoman story needs to have to be a Batwoman story. Despite the fact that that’s not how any kind of story works, unless it’s supposed to be formulaic by design. Perkins seems to be under the impression that a Batwoman story is the following things:

  1. Reference Family
  2. Fuck up
  3. Relate to Larger Arc, somehow
  4. Kate blames herself and mopes

In all fairness, this is technically correct from a certain point of view. If I were to explain how to write a Batwoman story, I’d probably tell you make sure her family is somehow involved. Aside from that…you kind of need to understand who Kate is if you’re going to have her mope or blame herself.

You have literally never done this.

Uh. No. That’s the opposite of what Kate does. She doesn’t get distracted like that while working, because that’s the only time things “make sense” for her. Also, that’s not how you soldier. I don’t have an issue with her getting clocked on the head by Pyg (his Grant Morrison Weird Factor justifies quite a bit) but I do have a problem with inverted characterization. Also, hey, uh, you can’t just like drop a huge revelation like Beth used to wear glasses but Kate didn’t on us???

They’re twins. Identical twins. That’s not how this works. We have NEVER seen either of them with glasses before, and also it took me several tries to realize that the one in the pirate costume wasn’t Beth because literally every other flashback we’ve ever seen with those two had Beth be the happy one trying to cheer a mopey Kate up.

That’s sort of an important tonal through-line that Perkins wanted to subvert without realizing how confusing and inconsistent it would be? Or…got them mixed up? Or just didn’t care? I have no idea. Look, this whole issue is just one big hot mess. Julia Pennyworth, an SAS operative who unlike Kate actually is a professional soldier getting captured by Pyg and…being helpless for the entire story after being absent from this book since issue #4 is just really stupid and bad.

Kate’s inner monologue is overwritten to the point where any nuance that may have been there is drilled into the dirt. Her tattoos are, once again, missing, despite those actually being super important, and everything Kate says sounds like someone trying to do a really half-effort impression of how a good writer writes Kate.

What even is this

She still talks “weird’, but the wrong kind of weird. “Creepazoid” is very much the wrong decade, to put it lightly. And then it just sort of ends, with nothing happening or changing (since it couldn’t because it was a fill-in and that’s still the largest issue) and we’re back exactly where we were so we can slip into another flashback issue next month. Which would have been perfect right after #10, but alas that was not to be. As for why that is, why any of this exists at all, well, it’s pretty simple.

Because, uh, yeah, Perkins is gone now. Bennett is back next month, hopefully forever, but…see, here’s the thing: Bennett is about as busy as a writer in her industry can get without literally dying. Not quite Brian Michael Bendis, but y’know he was just in the hospital for like a month so…probably better that she’s not doing that.

As of this moment, she is/was concurrently writing:

  • Batwoman
  • DC Bombshells
  • Animosity
  • Animosity: The Rise
  • Animosity: Evolution
  • Sheena: Queen of the Jungle
  • InSexts
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • At least three other things we don’t know about/I couldn’t find/I forgot about

Can you guess which one on that list can actually have a fill-in writer? It’s Batwoman and only Batwoman. Ironically, the one thing that absolutely should never have a fill-in was the only one that truly could due to how schedules work with the Big Two.

God, this is just gonna be bad in trade, huh? Ugh. I’d shoot the fail counter up by 52 or something but this isn’t Kate Kane’s fault; she doesn’t choose her writer. If she did, she sure as hell wouldn’t choose Perkins, that much I know for sure.


[*Editor’s Note: The name of the writer for this issue has been corrected from Kelly Perkins to Kate Perkins throughout.]

Images courtesy of DC Comics

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A “Beer Swilling, Lady-Wooing” Valkyrie Is Coming To Marvel Comics

Dan

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From Rocket Raccoon to Yellowjacket to the Collector, Marvel has made a habit of rescuing characters from the depths of nerd trivia night and sending them straight into the mainstream. Their most recent success in this pattern has been Valkyrie, a character best known for anchoring one of the Avengers’ C-squads and being one of the few bisexual heroes in comics. Despite a misstep or two regarding that last point, Valkyrie’s portrayal in Thor: Ragnarok by the phenomenal Tessa Thompson was considered by many the best part of an already fantastic movie. Marvel seems to have agreed, with Entertainment Weekly announcing that the company announcing that Thompson’s rendition of the Maiden of Valhalla will migrate from screen to page as a part of their comics universe.

Fans of the blonde haired, spear chucking,  pointy boob-armored heroine that’s been around since 1970 need not worry. Perhaps as a response to their controversial decisions with a Female Thor and a Black Captain America, Marvel has not “recast” Annabelle Riggs as the host of Brunnhilde. Instead, the new Valkyrie will exist alongside her more venerable counterpart as a member of the Exiles, a dimension-hopping team of misfits that has paid host to heroes like Spider-Gwen, Deadpool, and longtime member Morph.

The new version of this team, created in 2001 by Judd Winnick, will be written by poet and SFF author Saladin Ahmed (Black Bolt) with an art team that includes Javier Rodriguez (Batgirl: Year One, Daredevil) and Alvaro Lopez (Royals). Valkyrie will be joined by Kamala Khan(a dark, older version of the shapeshifting teen hero), Iron Lad (a time-shifted version of Kang the Conqueror), Wolvie (an X-Baby version of Wolverine), and Blink (a veteran of the Exiles with teleporting abilities). The team will be lead by a version of Nick Fury.

Writer Ahmed has been bullish in his enthusiasm for the new Valkyrie, describing her as a “tankard-draining, maiden-wooing, giant-slaying thunderbolt of a woman.” Thanks to a quote like this, and the backlash the film faced for downplaying Valkyrie’s bisexuality, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that this Valkyrie will be a WLW. Now if they could just get that on screen…

The new series of The Exiles will be released on April 11 as a part of the Marvel Legacy relaunch.

Please support your local comic shop.


Image Courtesy Marvel Comics

 

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