Or – “I Always Had A Huge Crush On Miranda…”


In recent years, Marvel Comics has become known (to me, at least) for grabbing handfuls of characters and slapping them together to see what sticks, sort of like a superhero Chinese Buffet.  The obvious raison d’être for this miniseries is to reproduce the dynamics of ‘Sex And The City’ using superhuman women, the kind of built-in story hook (“It’s a superhero support group, and GET THIS!  The Power Pack chick is half nekkid in it!”  “Oh, wait, how about a superhero who works for a newspaper and has all sorts of reporter adventures and stuff!”) that Joe Quesada and Marvel editorial love.  Of course, long-time Spoilerites who remember the days of “The Loners” may recall that this sort of hook-driven product always leads to a polarizing experience for me. 

So, the big question is: Thrash it or Smash it?

Previously, on Marvel Divas:  There was a time when the Marvel Universe once lacked for strong female characters, instead giving us various takes on the “housewife heroine” that worked so well with the early Susan Storm-Richards characterization.  Luckily, things have changed…  A young MD1.jpgmutant who wasn’t depowered, Angelica Jones had run-ins with the Massachusetts Academy before eventually joining the New Warriors.  Alongside her fiance, Vance Astro, she eventually joined the Avengers as Firestar!  A former harbor policeman, Monica Rambeau was transfigured by a strange machine into a creature of pure energy.  As first Captain Marvel, then Photon, then Pulsar, then just plain old Monica, she has led the Avengers, NextWave, and has generally been better at everything than you.  A former teen model, Patsy Walker grew up in what she thought was a picture perfect home, before finding out that her father was the devil…  or maybe not.  Nobody is really sure.  Now  a former Avenger, Defender, and the entirety of the Alaska branch of the Initiative as Hellcat, Patsy Walker is a published author who doesn’t find the phrase “she’s been to hell and back” nearly as funny as some might.  A former sneak thief gone (mostly) straight, Felicia Hardy has long been a fixture of the New York superhuman scene, as you’d expect a blonde in skin-tight black leather to be.  No longer a Hero for Hire, The Black Cat is setting out to find her own place in the sun (where she will promptly fall asleep and shed all over the good pillow shams.)

Let’s get this out of the way, first.  Roberto Aguirre-Sacas has absolutely nailed the ‘Sex And The City’ vibe here.  From Patsy’s book opening (a tell-all about Tony Stark sending her to Alaska, implying that he did it because she wouldn’t sleep with him, apparently) to the interactions between the main characters, to the arch and sexual tone, it’s note-perfect.  When She-Hulk, the Invisible Woman, Storm and the White Queen arrive at the pre-launch party for her book, Patsy, Felicia and Monica disappear (“How tacky is it to ditch one’s own party?”) and go for drinks together.  The three of them (and Firestar) apparently met at a speed-dating  event, where they found no boyfriends, but a strong feminine bond.  Together, they go to French movies, hang out in art galleries, go to the salon, and other Carrie Bradshaw dream dates while occasionally burning Skrulls or microwaving monsters.  The heroic threesome (get your mind out of the gutter, Schleicher) get some nice drinks, and discuss their latest romantic problems…

In a nice bit of continuity, Monica tells the tale of her trip to New Orleans (as seen in Black Panther a couple of years ago) and her failed relationship with new sorcerer supreme Brother Voodoo.  When Voodoo suggests that she spend the night, though, Monica is out of there at the speed of light.  Felicia, for her part, has apparently been dated Thomas “Puma” Fireheart, who seems to think that he needs to take care of everything for her, something Felicia won’t stand for.  When he offers to pay the rent on her new business venture (a detective firm) she blows her top and refuses, even though she doesn’t have the cash herself.  (She’s the Black Cat.  She’ll “FIND” the money somewhere.)  Patsy also has a romantic entanglement to mention, the return of her own “Mr. Big,” in the form of the Son of Satan.  Before she can share the gory details, though, Angelica arrives in tears, and breaks a little bad news of her own.  “I have cancer.”

Huh…  Didn’t Angelica have a run-in with cancer back in the Avengers?  I can’t remember for sure, but I thought maybe we’d been here before.  Doesn’t matter though, because the last panel of the issue is a stunning shot, with Monica and Felicia stunned, and Angelica’s expression so heartbreaking you want to give her a hug.  The characterization is razor-sharp here, as the ladies discuss their team histories (pointing out that each of them, save Firestar, has recently been in a “mashup” super-team in recent years: Patsy in the Initiative, Felicia the Heroes for Hire, Monica in NextWave) and remaining as witty as the influential source material.  (“It’s like we’re in high school and I’m the only one with a driver’s license,” remarks the former Captain Marvel as she flies her gal pals away from the launch party.)  The J Scott Campbell cover is very pretty, but the interiors…  Oh my GAWD, the interiors.  Tonci Zonjic is a name I’ve never heard before, but I’m going to be watching for it in the future, because these are some wonderful pictures.  Zonjic’s art is wonderful, with cinematic framing and blocking and some of the most expressive faces ever.  It’s a deceptively simple style but one that works phenomenally well, especially with it’s very European stylization.  Bottom line here:  While I hate, hate, HATE the title of this book and it’s “Aren’t girls cute when the play dress up?” implications, I really liked this.  Marvel Divas #1 scores a completely out of left field 4.5 out of 5 stars overall, with only a slight deduction for the awful name.  If you’re willing to read it for what it is, and don’t expect Frank Miller grittiness or badassery in a Chaykin vein, this is a book that delivers on all levels…

…except for the damn name.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. paul nolann
    July 5, 2009 at 11:13 pm — Reply

    Angelica was becoming infertile in the Avengers due to her “self preservation” bit of her powers not working properly….

  2. Rodrigo
    July 5, 2009 at 11:23 pm — Reply

    As I recall this was the whole thing with firestar’s cancer:


  3. Salieri
    July 6, 2009 at 12:45 am — Reply

    “In recent years, Marvel Comics has become known (to me, at least) for grabbing handfuls of characters and slapping them together to see what sticks, sort of like a superhero Chinese Buffet.”

    you should be glad that they rejected my Fantastic Force pitch. The Prowler, Ch’od, Spider-Woman III and an all-new Xorn who is secretly a small dragon inside a man’s skull – united to defend the world against an invasion from the universe in which the 19th Century never ended!

  4. Slappy
    July 6, 2009 at 5:54 am — Reply

    All they need is a buxom Asian superheroine in a school girl outfit. Are there any out there that match that description? Perhaps Gogo Yubari can switch sides once she returns from the dead.

  5. mosdef
    July 6, 2009 at 2:43 pm — Reply

    Great review Matthew, but im really surprised that you know Carrie Bradshaw and Mr Big by name. lol

    • July 6, 2009 at 11:12 pm — Reply

      Great review Matthew, but im really surprised that you know Carrie Bradshaw and Mr Big by name. lol

      Never be surprised at the things Matthew knows… My brain is like the world’s least reliable TiVo.

  6. Ricco
    July 6, 2009 at 3:37 pm — Reply

    Even if the interactions of the main characters hadn’t been good, and it was good, you could almost hear the “Sex and city” music inbetween them flying off and the how they met flashback. A Firestar with nothing to lose is very intersting (in an end of the world kind of way). In the Super Nova arc when we find out Firestar is more powerfull then the Heralds of Galactus: Air-Walker and Firelord. She always held back her power because her microwaves are powerfull enough to damage the planet itself and now she’s dying of cancer, they’re one freak out away from her melting New York.

  7. Brother129
    July 6, 2009 at 7:45 pm — Reply

    I actually knew I would like this book the moment I heard about it because I already had an extreme liking for Black Cat, Firestar, and Captain Marvel (Photon). To be honest, while I dug the Sex and The City vibe, it just made me wish that all of these heroines were playing a more prominent role in the Marvel U. Oh well….

  8. Crash
    July 9, 2009 at 5:37 am — Reply

    I was actually bored to tears with how cliche this book was. “I have issues with commitment” “I have a guy I can’t get over” “I have issues with the guy I’m dating” “I have cancer”. OK maybe not so much the last one but COME ON! Putting characters in a relationship and giving them personality traits/flaws that model a popular show on HBO does not make a interesting read. If someone wants Sex and the City go watch Sex and the City. I was expecting to read a book that actually didn’t make these characters into stereotypes. I guess that’s too much to ask.

    Ohh and on a side note what happened to Firestar hanging up her costume? She basically quit the biz during Civil War and has never registered as far as I know so what is she doing out superheroing it up again?

  9. July 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm — Reply

    I agree about the name, it really marginalizes what is starting off to be a great book. I picked up three comics this week, to test the waters, and this was the one that Katie (wife) told me I had to start picking up for her.

    Hate the cover, hate the name, enjoyed the book. It is now one of two titles on my must buy list. I’m usually not a fan of this minimalist art style, but it doesn’t really detract from the story.

    If you like this, pick up ULTRA, by the Luna Brothers. Marvel Divas (ugh) has a similar feel and they just put out a new printing of it.

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