With the release of X-Men Vol. 4 #1, Marvel has officially launched its second all-female superhero team. Like Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey over at DC Comics, this latest adventure by writer Brian Wood (Ultimate Comics: X-Men) and artist Olivier Coipel (House of M, Thor) was being hailed as a new era in an industry that has had its fair share of problems with regards to gender.
Unlike Birds of Prey, however, it doesn’t quite do away with all its predecessors’ faults.
There are certainly positives in this re-launch of the 2010 title. For example, it is a rare sight in comics for women to be dressed in a manner that does not make their cleavage more crucial than their facial expressions. Here, surprisingly, the only one donning such notable assets is Storm. Sure, it would have been great to finally see the end of this neo-imperialist fantasy of the sexualized African queen, but I guess baby steps count for something.
Besides, a one out of six ratio of breast display isn’t too bad; it’s certainly closer to reality than the six out of six that artists like Frank Miller are fond of.
There’s also the fact that the female characters are given emotional depth, well-written dialogue, and proper subject status, something the superhero industry sadly lacks. Even traditional female superheroes serve as little more than the manifestation of the male artist’s pen; if they’re not getting brutalized and violently disrobed, for example, they’re giving into their “baser instincts” and having wildly out-of-context bisexual intercourse.
Luckily, that isn’t the case here.
Of course, that’s not to say the work isn’t problematic. Jubilee, who Wood has stated will be the focal point of the series, arrives at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning with a baby. After you get over celebrating that Marvel is now committed to keeping Jean Grey’s name where Professor X’s once used to reside, think about the implications of handing our former vampire teenager a baby.
Perhaps this was because Wood wanted to show her as compassionate, but simply handing a woman a child sounds like a rather easy (not to mention, horridly “classic”) move. It is such a shame that Wolverine never has to deal with this.
There’s also the fact that there still isn’t a single female that is legitimately unattractive. Keep in mind that attractiveness isn’t a negative. However, it seems strange that we can have characters such as Blob, an unmasked Deadpool or tortured Wolverine looking beyond hideous, yet a female cannot even lose some simple curvature.
Beyond the gender discourse issues, the plot itself is interesting but not quite as notable as the premise. And while a premier issue may be too much to judge, the story will have to evolve rather quickly if it ever hopes to rank alongside Gail Simone’s work.
The artwork itself is colorful and gets the job done, although none of these “superheroes” look particularly intimidating. There are no well-cut muscles, no harsh facial expressions and definitely no shows of proper comic brutality; it’s almost as if a “women only” issue had to have a “softer” look to it.
Nah, that’s just paranoia.
Critical support for the debut is tremendously positive so, hopefully, this is one time where a lack of testosterone won’t prove fatal, as it did with X-23 and Red She-Hulk. However, since Wood has promised plenty of sexual promiscuity, future issues will need to be crafted very carefully because, if that aspect is handled poorly, the author might place himself exactly on the same pedestal as the people whose past works he seemingly wishes to correct.
Also, Marvel, we understand this is supposed to be part of the Marvel NOW! and anyone is supposed to be able to “jump in,” but there isn’t enough exposition for newcomers and far too much for fans; pick one.
And for all those claims about how this is reverse sexism or misandry or the “how would you feel if there was a team of all men!?,” let me be the first to tell you, we’ve kind of had those too. Since, like, forever.