In the final week of the first month of ‘The New 52’, or the easier to say DCnU (as the fans named it) reboot of the DC Comics’ universe of characters with the canceling of all existing books and retooling them with modern versions of fan favorites (most notably a extreme shift in the Superman family of books) and new #1 issues, the so-called sexist portrayal of women gets way ahead of costume changes and the like with Voodoo #1’s release. (SPOILERS AHEAD)
A little back story if you please: A few weeks back two books, Catwoman and Red Hood And The Outlaws (both from the Batman family of books) premiered with heated debates. Catwoman’s opening (and other) pages showcased more of her breasts than her skills as a master thief and ended with an intense sexual encounter with a certain Caped Crusader (leathery masks still on --meow!). Meanwhile, the character of Starfire from Red Hood And The Outlaws was retooled from her big-cleavage showing, bikini-armor clad costume, very sexual yet responsible young lady former self to a big-cleavage showing, smaller bikini-armor clad costume, overtly sexual, forgetting-my-previous-sexual-partners-and-I’m-gonna-bone-whenever-the-fancy-strikes-me-because-I’m-so-primal thinking new self. Some argue that she's both non-human and doesn't live by our standards and is also a good example of how women can be sexually liberated. Whatever the argument, this definitely ain’t the Starfire from the Cartoon Network version of Teen Titans!
Many female and male fans, arguably so, were disgusted with these portrayals of women in a universe that DC not only is supposed to be making accessible to new fans but also to a wide range of converts outside of the stereotypical 13 and 30-year old horny male ones. I can elaborate more, but there are massive amounts of online stories about the above.
Fans expected even more of this from this week’s debut of Voodoo since historically, and in the preview pages released by DC weeks ago, the titular character is as stripper – or to be P.C., an exotic dancer. Yep, a stripper super hero. A Black female stripper super hero.
Now Voodoo (Priscilla Kitean) historically isn’t really much of a hero per se, but more so a woman caught in between two worlds – one of alien conquerors and her ‘normal world’. She was gifted with the power of the "Sight" which allowed her to perceive if a person was possessed by a Daemonite alien (of which she’s half). Later she developed limited telepathy and animal-like powers including claws and limb regeneration but got sick of the hero game. In this new version, she’s still a stripper but by all appearances is an alien Daemonite spy with shape-shifting abilities. The only reason she seems to be a stripper is to learn the secrets of a nearby military base from the sexually-frustrated soldiers that come in for ‘entertainment’. Things take a deadly turn in this book, and despite what I said she is, well, we’re really not absolutely sure what her purpose on Earth is. As a reader, this is either a good or bad thing – but the mystery is compelling.
Artist Sam Basri, adept at drawing sexy women as his previous assignment was penciling the buxom Power Girl’s solo book, certainly draws us into Voodoo’s world. I would have liked a bit more revealed about Voodoo, but her fellow dancers are shown to be single mothers and college students doing what they have to do to get by, so at least they’re not plastic sexually crazed women eager to show their boobies and more. Writer Ron Marz, excellent at creating alien drama is no stranger to controversial debuts as seventeen years ago his Green Lantern Kyle Rayner’s highly-encouraging girlfriend was killed and stuffed into a refrigerator shortly after we first met her. Women’s groups and comic fans were outraged by his treatment of women since then. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything they say, I do understand where their disgust. Will I read more of Voodoo? I’m not sure yet, but I will stay abreast (pun no intended) of the books goings-on.
The Fury of Firestorm had less of a splash but good stuff within. In line with my previous posts, DC is focusing more on characters of African descent. The character of Firestorm has had numerous people under the mantle, the last prominent one being Jason Rusch, a young Black man in high school (and soon thereafter college) who became part of the ‘Firestorm matrix’ when the previous host Ronnie Raymond, was murdered. Most recently, they both merged to become Firestorm (NOTE: the hero Firestorm historically is a merge of two different people, one usually being the body of the character and the other the brain, though not necessarily smarter - it can be confusing, so don’t sweat it and just read on). In the DCnU version, Jason and Ronnie become Firestorm when some goons working for a shadow mercenary corporation attempt to recover the mysterious “Firestorm protocols”. But in this new version, they are two separate versions of the fire-haired hero (see Jason Rusch’s new Firestorm in the above picture). But when they do merge, well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.
Writer Gail Simone is notorious with writing violent scenarios in an oddly upbeat fashion. Firestorm is no exception as this is a bullet-flying and bloody book. There are moments when racism, or rather the ignorance toward inclusion, is brought up, but I feel Simone did a more natural job of doing so than Eric Wallace did in his comic Mister Terrific. From reading other reviews, people got confused about the topic and thought at one point that it was being referenced to something homosexual. I never saw that so I don’t get it. Nonetheless, that shows that not only are people extremely uncomfortable with race being brought up in everyday conversation, they have little to zero understanding of what the issues are. Artist Yildar Cinar’s pencils are quite good and I could see them getting better if he sticks with the book. All in all, I really dig the new The Fury of Firestorm. Damn you DC Comics for making me spend more money!
To wrap up September’s DCnU books, you should also check out:
Green Lantern Corps which co-stars Green Lantern John Stewart, best known as the GL from the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited cartoons. I’ve read most of the debut DCnU books, and of the returning books this was the best written.
Blue Beetle, starring a Latino teenage boy, Jaime Reyes, as the titular character was pretty good as well. Writer Tony Bedard, a Latino writer himself, interjects culture and language into the book in what I hope (I won’t assume to know Latino culture that intimately) is an accurate portrayal.
Also, check out Vixen in Justice League International. She had a prominent role in DC Comics’ previous Justice League of America series and was also featured in the excellent Justice League Unlimited cartoon.