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The Women of Marvel.NOW
For the past year, Marvel Comics has been relaunching many of their current stories and classic characters. Not to be confused with a reboot like DC’s New 52, Marvel.NOW has more or less been a renumbering of series rather than a rewriting of comic history and lore. Possibly a better way to define it is that Marvel.NOW is like a new volume in Britannica encyclopedias, now I’m definitely dating myself, the history is the same but new content is being added in a different collection.
Arguably the biggest benefactors of this campaign is Marvel’s line of female characters. Like Britannica, these women have been a part of the Marvel Universe for decades on top of decades but most of the time they’ve been relegated to being side-characters or eye candy. There are exceptions to this, The Dark Phoenix Saga, but such stories a few and far between. However, this is 2014 and Marvel is looking to make sure their female characters stand out for more than just their looks alongside their male counterparts.
The first of Marvel’s solo female books in the NOW campaign Black Widow, written by Nathan Edmondson and art by Phil Noto, shows the life of Natasha Romanov outside of the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. So what does a Russian assassin do when not helping Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? Save the world on her own of course. Ok so the threats aren’t exactly on Galactus’s level, but there are still plenty of Earth-bound baddies that need justice served to them.
In Black Widow, readers get to see that there is more to Natasha than just good looks and butt kicking fighting skills. Outside of her lawyer/manager and a stray cat, Natasha leads a rather isolated life. She longs to find atonement for her past and believes that completing contracts that target the scum of the world will help to bring her said atonement. All money Natasha receives for completing contracts goes to various charities rather than into her pockets, emphasizing the fact that these jobs aren’t for monetary gain.
Edmondson’s writing follows classic spy novella and spy cinema. Showcasing her raw fighting, preparation, and thinking-on-the-fly abilities, Natasha is presented as a character who can hold her own in any situation, even when things don’t go according to plan. Coupled with Noto’s unique artwork that helps to give the book it’s own atmosphere and identity, Marvel has launched the ball out of the park in just two issues with Black Widow.
The second solo female book to release under Marvel.NOW sees a new leading lady fill the shoes of a classic Marvel character. While the character of (Captain)Ms. Marvel has had several reincarnations, this latest one has brought with it some controversy much in the same way that Miles Morales did when he replaced Peter Parker as Spider-Man in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man.
Kamala Khan is a 16 year old Pakistani-American girl living in Jersey City with a strict, and somewhat stereotypical, Muslim family and she has a very interesting imagination. Kamala wants to be “normal” as she puts it; celebrate “normal” holidays, eat “normal” food, and hang out with the “normal” kids but her family and beliefs don’t allow for that. The one time she tries to fit in, she is laughed at and her beliefs and family are made fun of.
Kamala dreams of being a superhero. She writes fanfic about the Avengers online and idolizes Captain Marvel. During what she believes to be a hallucination cased from a single sip of orange juice with vodka, Kamala sees Iron Man, Captain America, and Captain Marvel. She vents her frustrations from the night to them and tells Captain Marvel that she wants to be her. Kamala gets her wish as it’s revealed that the hallucination was not because of vodka but a result of the Terrigen Bomb.
The new Ms. Marvel goes against what has been considered the norm for characters that portray Ms. Marvel. In an interview with Comic Book Resources author G. Willow Wilson expresses her thoughts on the controversy:
“The real challenge really has nothing to do with controversy as such, it has to do more with getting people excited about a book that’s a little bit different from what they usually see.“
Releasing in April of this year, writer Haden Blackmon and artist Mike Del Mundo will look to make Elektra more than the side character she has become in this self-titled series about one of Marvel’s deadliest assassins.
Currently Elektra is part of the Thunderbolts team, but in a Q&A with Marvel.com, Blackmon says that Elektra, the comic, will focus on Elektra, the character, being on her own and no longer answering to anyone.
Similar to Black Widow, Elektra will be looking to find herself. She is an assassin, but that is all she knows. Her identity and purpose in life is unknown to her at the moment. With so much of her past tied to the city of New York, Elektra will set out on a mission that takes her away from the city.
Blackmon says that he wants to show readers that there is more going on under the surface than just the killing and that he can hopefully write a voice for Elektra that “feels true to the character.” Del Mundo will look to do the same for when Elektra needs to get physical.
“Ultimately the most important element is what that fight means to the character and the story.”
She has the looks, she has the brains, and she throws one of the hardest punches of any superhero in the Marvel Universe, she is She-Hulk. Releasing later this month, She-Hulk, from the creative team of Charles Soule and Javier Pulido will be the fourth solo female title of the Marvel.NOW initiative.
A member of the Avengers and FF (Future Foundation, not Fantastic Four), Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) has helped to save the world countless times over from the crazy and weird with her fists, but she is certainly a capable lady when not big and green. Jennifer is a lawyer with a plethora of degrees who is very idealistic when it comes to human and superhero rights.
Jennifer Walters has one of the most likable and colorful personalities of any of Marvel’s ladies which means that any series featuring her, let alone putting her in the spotlight, won’t be short of entertaining and fun.
Her new ongoing series will see Jennifer with a new practice, a new paralegal, and a growing list of personal enemies. With a tagline of “She Hulk might have bitten off a little more than she can chew…but she just calls that that Tuesday,” it’s clear that Soule and Pulido will deliver a more light-hearted series than the other solo female Marvel.NOW titles.
Women and comic books have always had an interesting relationship. Many potentially great female characters/heroes are cast off into being a sidekick or only make an appearance when the artist has need of their “assets.” It still happens, even in 2014, but it’s becoming clear that this type of behavior isn’t as acceptable as it once was. Readers, new and old alike, want women to have personalities, who are strong and independent, who can stand up for themselves and lead, and (most importantly) are relatable. Marvel looks to be delivering on exactly that. Even if any or all four of these books don’t see critical or commercial success, Marvel and other publishers need to continue pushing their female characters in directions that make these women more than just pretty faces and disproportionate body dimensions. Sex isn’t all that sells.