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 ofÂ like a superhero Chinese Buffet.Â The obvious raison d’Ãªtre 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!Â The Power Pack chick is half nekkid in it!”Â “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.Â Of course, long-time Spoilerites who remember the days of “The Loners” may recall that this sort of hook-driven productÂ always leads to a polarizing experience for me.Â
So, the big question is: Thrash it or Smash it?
Previously, on Marvel Divas:Â There was a time when theÂ 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.Â Luckily, things have changed…Â A young mutant who wasn’t depowered, Angelica Jones had run-ins with the Massachusetts Academy before eventually joining the New Warriors.Â Alongside her fiance, Vance Astro, she eventually joined the Avengers as Firestar!Â A former harbor policeman, Monica Rambeau was transfigured by a strange machine into a creature of pure energy.Â 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.Â 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…Â or maybe not.Â Nobody is really sure.Â NowÂ Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â Roberto Aguirre-Sacas has absolutely nailed the ‘Sex And The City’ vibe here.Â 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.Â 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.Â The three of them (and Firestar) apparently met at a speed-datingÂ event, where they found no boyfriends, but a strong feminine bond.Â 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.Â 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.Â When Voodoo suggests that she spend the night, though, Monica is out of there at the speed of light.Â 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.Â 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.Â (She’s the Black Cat.Â She’ll “FIND” the money somewhere.)Â Patsy also has a romantic entanglement to mention, the return of her own “Mr. Big,” in the form of the Son of Satan.Â Before she can share the gory details, though, Angelica arrives in tears, and breaks a little bad news of her own.Â “I have cancer.”
Huh…Â Didn’t Angelica have a run-in with cancer back in the Avengers?Â I can’t remember for sure, but I thought maybe we’d been here before.Â 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.Â 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.Â (“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 fliesÂ her gal pals away from the launch party.)Â The J Scott Campbell cover is very pretty, but the interiors…Â Oh my GAWD, the interiors.Â 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.Â Zonjic’s art is wonderful, with cinematic framing and blocking and some of the most expressive faces ever.Â It’s a deceptively simple style but one that works phenomenally well, especially with it’sÂ very European stylization.Â Bottom line here:Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.