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Marvel Divas #1

Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2009
By: Matthew J. Brady

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Tonci Zonjic
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Marvel Divas #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, July 1.

"Bad News on a Good Day"

This comic has been somewhat controversial ever since it was announced, eliciting annoyed reactions from online commentators, mostly due to the disconnect between Joe Quesada calling the series "Sex in the City in the Marvel Universe" and the only art being the ugly cover image of the title characters wearing skin-tight costumes and posing sexily. If Marvel was going to entice the female reader with a character- and relationship-based comic, they didn't get off to a good start. But does the actual comic lay those fears of sexism to rest?

Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa certainly took the Sex in the City comparison to heart, putting together a series in which his superheroine characters spend all their time chatting about men and relationships while doing stereotypical "girl stuff" like getting facials and sipping cocktails. Our four leads are Patsy "Hellcat" Walker, Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy, Monica "Captain Marvel" Rambeau, and Angelica "Firestar" Jones, and this issue mostly lets us get (re)acquainted with them and lets us know how they met, while setting up some relationship and professional plots that should play out over the course of the miniseries. Monica is having trouble committing after hooking up with Brother Voodoo, and Felicia wants to succeed with her private detective agency without her boyfriend having to support her. Patsy has a new book out, and Angelica has received some bad news. It should all play out like an episode of a TV show, with everybody learning lessons while trading quippy dialogue and supporting each other in their times of need.

On the art front, Croatian artist Tonci Zonjic brings the story to life in a laid-back style that emphasizes down-to-earth characters existing in real locations; other than a one-panel flashback to "Secret Invasion" and a couple brief uses of superpowers, the Marvel milieu is deemphasized, and Zonjic does a great job of making the women all seem unique and realistic. It's a really pretty comic, and Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic and June Chung bathe it in mostly flat colors rather than painting all over it with computery hues like most Marvel books. For a comic about women talking about relationships, it's about as good-looking as one could hope for.

Of course, this all begs the question of what the purpose of the book really is. Is Marvel trying to capture the elusive female audience here and get them hooked on their rich universe? Perhaps, but it seems odd to almost completely ignore the costumes and powers; if you like this, Marvel doesn't really have anywhere for you to go next. Still, it's a mostly enjoyable read, even if it does wear its inspiration on its sleeve. Aguirre-Sacasa seems to be relating a nice little slice-of-superheroine-life drama; it should be pleasant enough while it lasts.






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