Mar 4, 2015

Spider-Gwen #1, Silk #1, and the Batgirl of Burnside

Spider-Gwen #1, Silk #1, and the Batgirl of Burnside
Ben Smith

“I think I’ve always been different. Maybe a little weird. Too smart.
Too driven. Even before the costume. I’ve always been Batgirl.
I’m still Batgirl.” -Secret Origins #10, by Cameron Stewart,
Brenden Fletcher, and Irene Koh.

I love female protagonists. Aliens, starring the immortal Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, was a staple of the Smith household growing up. Horror movies were big for kids of my generation too, and the female was always the last character standing in those. Princess Leia kicked much ass in the Star Wars movies, sometimes even in a metal bikini. Later on, the Matrix’s Trinity, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer would continue the trend of literal ass-kicking women in popular entertainment. Comic books themselves had Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel. Even during my teenage years, when I started to expand my musical tastes beyond the singular genre of hiphop music, some of my early favorite bands had female lead singers, like Shirley Manson from Garbage or Gwen Stefani from No Doubt, all the way up to now when Flyleaf and Evanescence are personal favorites.

But all that is a little bit of a false conclusion though. I don’t specifically like female protagonists, I like strong protagonists in general, no matter the color, gender, or species. The continual need to point out that there are some strong female heroes in comics of late only serves to highlight how badly comics needed, and still needs, to diversify their lineup. But just because it shouldn’t be significant, doesn’t mean it isn’t. From She-Hulk, to Black Widow, to Captain Marvel, to Ms Marvel, to Batwoman and more, female-led comics are exploding, and the books are really good too. I’m on record with my adoration for Batgirl, but recently two new contenders have arrived to challenge her throne. Silk, from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, and Spider-Gwen, from the Spider-Verse crossover event.

Spider-Gwen is one of the true phenomena in the history of comic books. She was introduced in the second issue (second, not even the first issue, the second) of an anthology title, and generated so much fan buzz that Marvel had no choice but to fast track a solo ongoing series. I’ve been trying to wrack my addled brain for any precedent for this in the history of comics, but I can’t come up with any. The Golden Age and Silver Age booms aren’t really comparable situations, since there were so many new characters being thrust into the waiting hands of readers, it’s difficult to pick one over another. Comic superheroes in general were the phenomenon, at both those times. Spider-Man debuted in an anthology title also, selling well enough to get his own book, but I can’t really say he was an outlier in a time when Thor, Iron Man, or the Avengers were all created. New Warriors, believe it or not, was a big thing in my neck of the woods for a little while back in the early ‘90s, but even that was planned, if I had to bet. X-23 had a big debut in the pages of NYX, worth a lot of money on the back issue market, but she didn’t immediately demand her own ongoing series. This might be the first time the internet willed a book into existence, through their enthusiasm, fan art, and cosplay pictures.

Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi picked up right where they left off in Edge of Spider-Verse #2. Spider-Gwen #1 was fun, engaging, and left me wanting more. I’m admittedly a caveman when it comes to things like coloring, but I can definitely tell that Renzi is bringing something special to the look of the book. Rodriguez continues to impress, and Latour is a writer right in line with my sense of humor. One of the things I’ve always hated about bad alternate universe stories is when everyone is just a kid of the heroes we all know, or it’s just a play on all the characters we all know and love, except now they’re evil. Spider-Gwen does a bit of that but it’s all done with such energy and skill that it doesn’t come off as rote. I’ve been in love with Gwen Stacy since I was 8 years old, but that’s not the reason I love this series, at least, not the only one. This Gwen is young and confident in her abilities, joking in the face of danger, but still insecure enough to spy on her old bandmates to see if they miss her. That sounds much more like Peter Parker than anyone else.

I didn’t care much for Silk right out of the gate. Introduced in conjunction with the Original Sins event, it was revealed that she was the second person bitten by the same radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker. I’ve never been one for playing around with, or altering, classic origin stories, so the character was going to have to win me over. I did like that whatever bond she shared with Peter Parker made them go at each other like dogs in heat, but I’m a guy so of course I would. I wasn’t that enamored with her spider webbing costume, and it was a little too close to her running around naked for my comfort level. (I love a well-drawn voluptuous female in comics, but it’s never been about sexualizing them, or wanting to see them drawn naked. I don’t like fan art that does either of those things.)

Silk #1, written by veteran Supernatural writer Robbie Thompson, was a welcome surprise. Supernatural is one of my all-time favorite shows, but I can’t even cite that as a factor, because I completely forgot that Thompson was a writer for the show until after I read the first issue. Stacy Lee has a similar style to Robbi Rodriguez, creating almost a house style for the Spider books (along with Javier Rodriguez taking over the Spider-Woman comic) which isn’t a bad thing.

 Thompson and Lee have set up a solid corner of the universe for Silk in this first issue, and I’m interested in finding out more about her missing family, and about who is watching that bunker. Plus, I’m a long-time Black Cat fan. Having her fight Spider-Man just seems wrong, but making her a foil for Silk is an intriguing prospect.

Last but not least, Batgirl continues to entertain on a monthly basis. Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr have given us a supremely capable Batgirl, that’s a bit of a mess in her personal life. She may be the greatest superhero alive when she’s in costume, but that doesn’t prevent her from saying the wrong things to her friends, or messing up her college thesis.

 The only thing that can beat Batgirl is Batgirl, so it’s pretty ingenious that they’ve had her accidentally create an algorithm based off her own brain patterns that is now causing her a lot of trouble. I can’t wait to read more of Batgirl up against digital Batgirl.

Look, I’m not much for reviews. I can’t break down the storytelling, art, or color choices the way some other people can. Mostly all I have to say is that I really liked the comics, and that Spider-Gwen and Batgirl come alphabetically before their male counterparts, so somehow that makes them better. Silk and Spider-Gwen were two of the strongest first issues I’ve read in a long time, and I felt like I had to say something about them. If nothing else, maybe you’ll pick them up when you otherwise weren’t planning to (if you can, they both sold out lickity quick).

Also, if you’re one of those fans that doesn’t like female leads, or feels like you have to pick one between Silk and Spider-Gwen, then you’re an idiot and missing out on some great comics.

Next time, things!

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Not liking something doesn't make you an idiot. What's say we try being less confrontational, hmm?

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