‘Marcy Madison: Valedictorian at Columbia University. She has a few black belts. And she has a nifty superpower. Marcy’s got it going on, and she’s ready to do her part to make the world a better place. But will the New Sentrymen accept her into their team of superheroes?’
Written/art by: Ted Naifeh
Publisher: Space Goat Productions
Released: 20th December 2017
Space Goat Productions
Full disclosure: I’m already a fan of Ted Naifeh’s work, especially the Courtney Crumrin series. So, I was excited when the opportunity to read this came up. Naifeh has tackled the expectations of women in different situations before, and I’ve told you guys before about my love of examining superhero tropes – this one is a recipe for interesting.
This follows themes along the lines of examining how to help people, and working together, with a big dose of intrigue. A very naïve and inexperienced super-person wants to help but discovers that the current recognised group of heroes are entrenched in their ways and unwilling to hire women, and so she recruits some other female heroes to form their own group, getting support and funding from the same young genius entrepreneur who funds the original superhero force. Of course, this isn’t suddenly the start of a well-oiled team going on adventures and fighting villians; each member has definite flaws and strengths, and different backgrounds, desires, and goals. On top of that, questions start arising about another of the heroes and their benefactor, adding conspiracy and manipulation in an intriguing plot twist which is introduced slowly, yet packs a punch in the story line.
I really like examinations of how to help people, especially in the context of having superhuman powers (that’s a whole ‘nother conversation if you want to philosophically apply it to real life, the concept of how we all have power to help others in some way, etc., though superhero stories are often an escape from feelings of helplessness), and while this so far hasn’t been as direct an examination as Strong Female Protagonist for example, it is a display of very human characters. Aas I said, these are flawed people with their own definite strengths and weaknesses, of the kinds that often get women dismissed as ‘crazy’ or unreliable/unlikeable in some way, despite it being a reflection of being actual complicated people. None of them are perfect Wonder Women (although there’s a definitely Wonder Woman-inspired character that I can’t wait to find out more about), and while the examination of how these people with different ideals and goals work together is happening slowly, the addition of the conspiracy complication adds a cool story line to follow that I’m looking forward to finding out more about. This volume ends on a real cliffhanger there; if you hadn’t already figured out, I’m hooked.
Space Goat Productions
Female action characters are never far away from a rape or sexual assault backstory, and there’s at least one here. There’s also an obligatory ‘using sexuality against a male villain’ scene (again, a whole ‘nother conversation about that trope and its chicken/egg relationship with sexualisation of women in entertainment), but only worth one eye roll from me – not done so terribly that I didn’t want to see what happened next, but heads up for some skin show and a sexual reference (two different situations plot-wise), but no nudity. Naifeh gives all of the characters real personality in their looks, all very visually individual and interesting, not just in their appearance but their movements and stances as well, so they’re always engaging to watch.
The rich colours and backgrounds, detailed settings and costuming, are all usual for Naifeh (Princess Ugg is probably the highest example of his work in that department). His style is recognisable if you know it already – including the occasional oddly angled face – so if you already know his work, there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. As a rule of thumb I like strong colours with superhero stories (obviously it depends on the story though), so even when plots and situations get temporarily gritty the visuals don’t bring the whole thing into grim-darkness. It’s a pretty tricky game to balance dark visuals with a story that’s not all dark itself, so it’s often better to keep the visuals consistent with the overall tone, even when it risks derailing the darker moments – which there isn’t an issue with here, as Naifeh is experienced enough to balance it.
I’m definitely watching this series. The individual issues are shorter than average, and while this volume contains six issues they’re redivided into four chapters with some pieces of extra artwork at the ends/starts, though the story flows well so the reorganisation isn’t noticeable. The storytelling overall isn’t perfect – I think some of the issues approached are done kinda clumsily, but approaching strange or tricky issues is better than avoiding them if you want to tell interesting stories. And an interesting story this is, examining the human side of superhuman endeavours with an intriguing plot to boot.
Thanks to Comixology.com for providing this issue of ‘Heroines: Volume 1’ for review.