Marvel NOW! – Why It’s A Huge Step Forward for Superheroines

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‘I Have An Issue’ is a regular opinion column from Kimberley Griffiths, with no fear or favour shown. If you’d like to suggest something for a future column, drop us a line. Also, check out Kimberley’s blog!

You’ve all probably already seen Shawn’s glowing review of X-Men #1, so I’m sure you have an idea of the general consensus around these parts on the new X team. I’m right there with him – I loved everything about the first issue, and I can only hope that high standard is maintained throughout what is hopefully a long run.  While I can’t help but feel disappointed at the cancellation of Red She-Hulk, Marvel really is doing some great stuff for women heroes at the moment.

x-menFirst off, as with most Marvel NOW! titles (I certainly have a few exceptions, and two of them are written by the same writer), the new X-Men treats its characters like just that - characters.  There’s no sense that the team is all women just to tick a box.  Marvel is certainly heading in the right direction if this is their way of respectfully portraying  women in its books, without seeming exploitative or simply attempting to jump on the feminism bandwagon.

Along with Brian Wood’s excellent writing, we also have artist Olivier Coipel at his absolute best.  One of my criticisms of many female characters, has always been many artists’ lack of ability to draw characters that look different, without falling back on obvious cues like hair colour and costume (yes, I’m looking at you, Greg Land).  Every one of Coipel’s characters is well defined, consistent, and beautifully executed, with obvious differences in facial structure, and not just using skin colour to identify diversity.

As with Captain Marvel, X-Men has shown that we don’t need characters driven by romance, abuse, or disturbing past events (remember Women in Refrigerators?) to enjoy reading about them.  We can be aware of these events in characters’ histories without having to be reminded of them continually, and for them to be the primary motivation for their actions.  While there are plenty of shippers out there – hey, I’m one of them – romance is not something we need to keep things interesting in comics.  Do we even really want it at all?  I would much rather see Carol punch a dinosaur in the face, than having [shippy hero of choice]‘s tongue down her throat.

FD9In addition to characterisation,the plethora of costume redesigns over the past year or so are a real breath of fresh air.  The movement away from the ‘traditional’ bodysuit and/or thong was badly needed, and while some detractors have called the new tac suit inspired costumes of Psylocke, Jubilee, and Captain Marvel boring, I think they are the exact opposite.  Valkyrie is also getting a makeover in issue #8 of Fearless Defenders, and it’s finally farewell to the ridiculously impractical and dangerous metal boob cups, and hello to a more simple, comfortable looking outfit, that still has nods to Asgardian styling.

Speaking of Asgardians, the Sif led incarnation of Journey into Mystery is going from strength to strength.  A combination of astonishing writing by Katherine Immonen, and the incredible artistic talents of Valerio Schiti on pencils and colourist Jordie Bellaire, is one of the best creative teams out there right now.  While I’m not as much of a fan of the fantasy elements that JiM brings – I’m more into stories rooted in what passes for the real world – I can’t deny that this book is excellent in every way that matters.

While there is still a distinct lack of female led books out there, you can’t deny that Marvel is heading in the right direction.  Less than two years ago, the only superheroine led book was X-23, and when it was cancelled, it left nothing on the roster with a female focus at all.  Now, we have X-Men, Fearless Defenders, Captain Marvel, Journey into Mystery, all with full rosters of women, or with a single focus female lead.  In addition to that, Uncanny X-Force, FF, and even Hawkeye are pushing forward with core heroines.  The only one of these failing in its characterisations is Uncanny X-Force, but it has to be a hard ask coming back from Rick Remender’s run, that was so well enjoyed by many.

Many have criticised Marvel in the past for its treatment of its women characters, but I think it’s safe to say those days are sliding into the rear view mirror.  This year we’ve had so many incredible titles featuring some of the most badass women in comics.

Women who are dangerous, powerful, and menacing, but haven’t lost any of their humanity.  Women who are characters we really want to read about, rather than just tinsel to hang around the male heroes who dominate most titles.  Women who don’t need a male presence in their team to motivate them when they lose their way.

Good on you, Marvel.  Good on you for employing writers who interact with the fans, and talk to us about what we really want in modern comics.  Don’t get me wrong, you still have problematic moments, and there are areas that need work, but over all, I’m impressed with Marvel NOW! and the clear determination to recognise more diversity, not just gender, but also sexuality, gender identity, and race.

Now if you could just give us that Spider-Woman solo, it would be greatly appreciated.

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