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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Saga: True Colours
It’s a fine line that which divides nature and a zone of comfort; so fine it’s sometimes too easy to confuse one with the other, or think them to be interchangeable terms. But the differences are there, however subtle. For one, a zone of comfort is often a treacherous foe against personal growth. It may even render you numb before coming adversities and leave you unprepared to resist them. Am I being obnoxiously specific yet? Well I can take it up a notch. A zone of comfort can also blind you, delude you into mistaking someone’s nature. Make you see a foe as a friend when the tide is calm.
But when the tide grows restless, leaving that zone of comfort is quite the rude awakening. Hope you like those, lovelies.
“Not when we were so close…”
The “Jetsam Holiday” arc has been a lovely time so far, comparatively speaking. For every dark development unfolding within or without Hazel’s immediate (and extended) family, there has been lots of sunshine and fucking. And of course, there has been plenty of wholesome entertainment for the whole family to enjoy also. If the image of Hazel waging sea war against Petrichor and Ghüs while atop Sir Robot’s shoulders isn’t heartwarming, her wishing Sir Robot didn’t have to leave absolutely is. And furthermore, Sir Robot even reciprocates it.
Old foes may turn dear friends in time – just like my dad used to say… not really, but let’s pretend he did.
In the meantime, Marko and Upsher have a thoughtful conversation while frying fishies. Beyond the perennial dynamic of the journey, one of Saga‘s thematic signatures is the encounter between worldviews. Sometimes this occurs through future Hazel’s introspection, and sometimes through calm moments like this. By learning of how Upsher and Doff learned about the fugitives and their daughter, Marko finally realises something we’d long known by now. There is no action that goes without consequence in this galaxy. Whether it’s some nameless mook who becomes a villain’s motive for revenge, or a grunt left behind who’s see too much.
Their conversation migrates then to the topic of accountability when it comes to one of the most traditional roles in war: killing. Having been a soldier, Marko has obviously taken on a very active role. But Upsher isn’t entirely clean either, despite never taking a life himself. Being a journalist, his business is all about information, but its reception always risks a response, which sometimes involves violence. This is, Marko argues, the reason he will be sticking to writing fiction. Nevertheless, Upsher’s response is a banquet for thought, and I’ll quote:
“Putting new ideas into another person’s head is an agggressive act, and aggressive acts have consequences. Face it, you can be a writer or a pacifist, but you can’t be both.” The written word, to communicate or to inspire, is necessarily a political act. We’ll take this morsel with us home to mull it over, as something else comes up, demanding all heads and hands. Alana enters the scene with the news: Squire is missing. The young Robot has followed through with his plan to leave.
Cut to Ianthe, wandering the wilderness of Jetsam, and adding a touch of danger to Squire’s stunt. Her concern over The Will, now free, angry and deadly, reaches a high point upon seeing a note pinned against a tree with a knife. Menacing even when written in cursive. The note proper says they’re even; him having killed her fiancé, and she having skinned his dog. I’d hardly call it even myself – Ianthe is still in debt, but I digress. We’d be delusional to think this warning would dissuade Ianthe – too proud a villain to heed common sense.
Meanwhile, the grownups at the beach camp find Squire’s farewell note, charmingly written in crayon. His message and how he addresses himself as Princeling make his intentions clear. Sir Robot’s son intends to return to the Robot Kingdom; maybe his ways of chivalry had an unexpected, unintended side effect on the kid. Overtaken by shame, Sir Robot insists on handling this himself, then declaring this to be his fault. He then reveals the ugly incident of hurting Squire last issue, earning Alana’s anger and Hazel’s disbelief. Before Alana can unleash a (well-deserved) fist upon Sir Robot’s face, Marko walks in full-clad in armour, bearing… mushrooms.
Ah, but these mushrooms are special mushrooms. They don’t grace soups with supreme delight or allow you to summon Frank Zappa in Bloodborne (which I’ve been playing a lot of lately). These mushrooms function as flares bright enough to see in daylight or when penetrating deep in the forest. Hazel demands to come with, but her mum won’t allow it for good reason. Upsher offers to stay with Hazel, as he’s also confident his partner Doff has already found Squire.
If only he knew…
The pinky oath between Alana and Hazel marks the beginning of the search.
The scene then changes to Squire/Princeling’s point of view. He has definitely taken a shine to Hazel’s Ponk Konk, who now accompanies him as a friend to “talk with”. And it’s just as well: Squire is terrified. He roams what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, which is a creepy setting in any galaxy. According to a conversation he overheard between the grownups, the magical ingredients for the “body swap” are transported through pipes that run through these unsettling parts. Therefore, his course to take appears obvious, quite unlike the strange creatures following his movements, concealed in the overgrowth.
The worm-like creatures lunge forward, ensnaring Squire to be devoured by a nightmarish mouth spreading wide across the grass. Amidst the horror of the moment, he drops Ponk Konk, possibly into the maws of this hideous creature. Someone makes the save in the nick of time with a few well-aimed shots, however. Thankful, Squire hugs his unlikely saviour: Ianthe. Could it be he has managed to survive one beast only to end up in the maws of another?
Elsewhere, Sir Robot spots a strange jellyfish-like ship while searching for his son. The Will gets the drop on the former Prince, skewering his arm-cannon with his spear. Sir Robot doesn’t quite recognise his attacker, but The Will him well enough; not as the disgraced noble, but as the killer of his former love, Spider woman extraordinaire, The Stalk. A vengeful intent is clearly approaching. And though Sir Robot frets over being interrupted from his search and disarmed, he keeps his cool to talk with the reinstated Freelancer.
The Will is back on the job to catch the fugitives, but not before killing Sir Robot. Knowing that an ordinary, desperate plea won’t do the job, Sir Robot presents another possibility as a bargaining chip to secure his and his son’s safety: to surrender Hazel to The Will.
Seems old foes turn into friends dear when the tide is calm… otherwise, they’re only placated foes, only for so long. Treacherous asshole.
Saga Issue #52 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
All images are courtesy of Image Comics
Batgirl is Getting a New Direction And a New Look
Can I say that I, for one, am glad that we’re finally getting a new author for Batgirl? Because I am. Now this is no disrespect to Hope Larson; she is a competent writer who has told some really good stories over the last two years, but for me she just wasn’t a good fit for one of my favorite DC superheroes. Now I’ll probably get backlash from the community of fans who like to criticize the whole DC darkness thing for this but you know what? Yes, it should be dark and gritty, that’s always been associated with the “bat” name. Should it try to be a little more light hearted? Sure, but it’s a balance. My issue with Hope Larson’s run was that it was way too “tweeny” considering the kind of comics we’ve seen in the past with Barbara, Cass, and Stephanie.
Now, I also get that heroes need to evolve in order to meet their targeted audience. Hope Larson in retrospect did something that I very much like. Like the political nature of Green Arrow, Hope managed to construct her stories centered around the criticisms of overuse of technology, freedom of the internet, and the use of personal data. These are topics that remains very relevant this year and will be for some time to come. The fact that she was able to use this to tell stories that no matter what I say, were still entertaining, is a testament to the fact that she was a very good writer.
However, it is still time for a change. Despite the great motivations behind her stories, they were still cringe-y sometimes. Seeing Barbara juggle her nightlife with her student life is a common theme among younger heroes, and her friends in the LGBTQ community offered real understanding for audiences, but it still felt like a teen drama.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love her supporting cast, especially Alyssa who was created by Gail Simone in her well loved Batgirl New 52 run. The author was very outspoken for gender identity and the over sexualization of females in comic books. To see Hope Larson treat characters created by Simone with love and care was really something. By now I probably sound like I loved Hope’s run on Batgirl. As I said before, it wasn’t a bad run and I enjoyed reading it for the most part but I need something a bit more than that.
Starting with issue 24, we’ll be getting a plethora of new authors for the next few issues. Like with Green Arrow, finding a new permanent author takes time but with the Benson sisters spearheading that comic, Mairghread Scott will be taking over exclusively come August and issue 26. Now, I haven’t read anything by her save the most recent Green Arrow title, which I liked hell of a lot more than the previous two. So, I’ll be seeing her writing without bias and without former convictions. I’m really excited to see where she leads Barbara in her new adventures, but hopefully she focuses more on Batgirl and Barbara rather than love interests and overly cringe worthy situations. I get Barbara is awkward but that was just painful.
According to previews, we will see the return of Barbara to Gotham and of another character, or rather villain, created by Gail Simone called Grotesque. In this version, he plays a murderous art thief who moves to create his own vile art gallery with the pieces of his victims. He ends up getting the jump on Babs and setting the device in her spine off, effectively taking away her ability to walk again.
It looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more continuity from the Gail Simone days and either the nostalgia will hit long time fans or Scott will be taking us in a whole new direction. So many questions, the main one being: could this be the end for Barbara as Batgirl? As much as I love Babs, I am part of the group who feels she needs to pass on the cowl to someone new. But that’s a topic for another day.
Speaking of getting a new author, we also have a revamp of Batgirl’s look, which is also a huge plus for me. If you’ve read Batman: White Knight you’ll no doubt recognize this costume from it. Sean Murphy, the genius behind that story, must have allowed the costume to be used as main canon. I’m happy for this because I really, really like the new look. I was never a huge fan of the purple zip up jacket-like outfit she was sporting in “Burnside,” but that just comes down to aesthetics.
The new look is sleek and more “batty” adding more to her own persona. Batgirl and Nightwing were among the first to leave Bruce behind and create their own identity and damn if this is not screaming that she’s the best “bat” out there.
All Images Courtesy of DC Comics
DC Is Relaunching Vertigo, Doubling Down On Millennials
It’s been 25 years since DC Comics launched perhaps the most successful imprint in comics history: Vertigo. Since its foundation in 1993, some of the biggest graphic novels ever have come out under the Big V. Its initial run of titles made a splash on the shelves of comic stores and would cement their authors as comics royalty: Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughn, Brian Azzarello. Old properties (The Sandman) and old legends (Alan Moore) found new life at Vertigo. These new comics were no longer the whiff! bam! pow! of the past, but they also largely avoided the hyper-violence and darkness of the 90s. They handled adult themes like alienation, religion, feminism, and, yes, violence. But they handled these themes with more nuance and variety than ever before. For the first time in the medium’s history, comics were becoming literature.
But all of the original titles have ended, with Hellblazer being the last of the old guard, closing in 2013. After a few years on the down low, DC is planning a massive relaunch of the classic brand for a new generation. With it comes a clear emphasis on the political power of comics. They aim not for the Gen-Xers who made Preacher, iZombie, and Fables bestsellers, but for millennials. Titles will deal with the topics its readers care about: immigration, white supremacy, sex work.
Just like in 1993, the creators taking part in the relaunch are a vibrant mix of rising stars and new faces in the comics world. Eric M. Esquivel (Roberto Roberto) will bring us a tale of demons run amok in a border town while Ben Blacker (The Thrilling Adventure Hour) will spin a tale of brainwashed witches reclaiming their power. Bryan Hill (Postal, Batman) will put a biracial cop in harm’s way as he investigates a white supremacist group. Frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator, Rob Sheridan, is sending a smuggler on an impossible quest, and Mark Russel (God Is Disappointed In You) pits Jesus against “Superman”.
The group of writers and artists are a nice mix of diverse voices, with two women serving as writers their own titles, both of which will no doubt invite controversy. The first, Goddess Mode, takes place in a cyberpunk VR hellscape where tech support involves a huge neon sword. Its author will be video game developer Zoe Quinn, perhaps most famous for being the internet’s biggest scapegoat and the original source of the “Gamergate” controversy. The second comic, Safe Sex, will be a dystopian book focusing on sex workers who dare to love in a world where all sex is under government control. Its author is sex-work advocate and LGBTQ+ journalist Tina Horn, who will no doubt bring an expert opinion to a topic that comics really, REALLY has never handled very well.
The new books start in September of this year, with Border Town, and the rest will follow month by month right through into the new year. They will join the pre-existing raft of Vertigo titles, as well as Neil Gaiman’s brand new Sandman Universe line.