Gender Issues: Comics of August 28, 2013

It’s time to sing praises for what, it turns out, will be Matt Fraction’s final issue of FF and to say farewell to Kathryn Immonen’s short run on Journey into Mystery. Thankfully it is also time to say hello to the darling new Itty Bitty Hellboy and to a softer side of the title character in Lazarus.

Copyright: Marvel Comics

Copyright: Marvel Comics

FF #11 – Matt Fraction (W) & Mike Allred (A)

If you’ve been following these segments, you know that this is one of my favourite current Marvel titles. Even in this issue where they aren’t the focus, the presence of women in the overall series is strong. Darla Deering is absolutely adorable, and I continue to love that she embodies so many archetypal qualities of a young starlet while kicking butt in a giant rocky suit. Jenn does a lot of punching, but it’s ultimately Medusa who shines in this issue. Facing an attack by the son of the Impossible Man, Medusa reminds him that she has many roles: “A queen, a wife, a sister, a warrior, a leader, a teacher… and most of all, a mother.” She tells the boy, who attacks out of fear of going to New York to join the FF, that her most important job is to protect children. She is comforting but also stern, telling him that unleashing his powers on well-meaning strangers is no way to behave. Even Jenn, who has been critical of Medusa since the start, has nothing negative to say after Medusa’s triumph. This series continues to be a must-read for anyone who likes their superheroes fun and their ladies badass.

Copyright: Dark Horse Comics

Copyright: Dark Horse Comics

Itty Bitty Hellboy #01 – Franco Aureliani (W) & Art Balthazar (W&A)

This comic barely has a plot, but it’s been a while since I’ve thrown an all-ages comic into this mix and I just loved this one, so I thought I’d throw it out to you. In case you’re unfamiliar, this is a kid-friendly comic featuring Hellboy characters by the folks who brought us Tiny Titans. I was disappointed that Kate Corrigan wasn’t in this issue, but their take on Liz Sherman is adorable. She seems to love baseball, and when Johann has a cold, she helps put chicken soup inside his containment suit. This comic is lighthearted silliness at its most charming, and while it isn’t teaching kids any valuable lessons about women’s empowerment, it’s not really trying to teach them anything. If you’re a fan of any incarnation of Hellboy and would like to see the characters re-imagined as children, this series is an absolute delight.

Copyright: Marvel Comics

Copyright: Marvel Comics

Journey into Mystery #655 – Kathryn Immonen (W) & Valerio Schiti (A)

This is unfortunately the final issue of this Sif-helmed series, but Immonen told me at Fan Expo Canada that she was surprised and grateful to get even this many issues. Sif and Beta-Ray Bill continue their awkward post-relationship banter as they work to rescue Gaea as well as Bill’s current girlfriend and the mind of his ship. We also catch glimpses of a woman scientist, so to the end this series is packing in as many ladies as possible. Schiti’s art is always engaging, and Immonen intentionally ended the series with a big close-up on Sif’s “dorky” face. I especially loved Gaea towering over Sif at the end of the issue; Schiti is not afraid to draw powerful Amazon women, and they’re all gorgeous without feeling like the subjects of the male gaze. This series wasn’t my favourite, but it’s always hard to see women-helmed books get cancelled, so I’m sad to see it go.

Copyright: Image Comics

Copyright: Image Comics

Lazarus #03 – Greg Rucka (W) & Michael Lark (A)

This series is growing on me as we learn more about our protagonist, and in this issue we get to see a new side of Forever Carlyle. Delivering a message to the Morray family, Forever spends time with their Lazarus, Joacquim. She still has the chance to demonstrate her remorseless badassery when a Morray guard tries to take her weapons, but Forever seems to have found a friend and potential romantic interest in Joacquim. Unfortunately, he may have died in an explosion meant to kill Forever that was set up by her devious sister Johanna. The Morray family notes wariness of Johan, the most overtly hostile Carlyle, but it seems that Johanna is really the bite behind his bark. Forever continues to get more interesting and her sister more threatening, so I can’t wait to see them face off, especially with the rest of the family seeming to dislike both of them. This issue brings us closer to seeing things from Forever’s perspective, and if she continues to develop and unfold like this, she could be one of the most complex and interesting women characters in modern comics.

FF is always reliable for a more fun take on superheroes, and one that is guaranteed to have some significant ladies every issue. Fraction will be replaced by Lee Allred, artist Mike’s older brother, and if their writing styles are at all similar, the series will hopefully maintain its sense of glee as well as its great ladies. Itty Bitty Hellboy is enjoyable for any age, and will be a great read for any youngsters in your life who might be interested in the characters after seeing one of the movie adaptations. Journey Into Mystery will no doubt be missed, but at least we still have Lazarus giving us a kickass lady warrior protagonist.

Which member of the FF would you want to be your best friend? Which Hellboy characters (other than Kate, of course) are you most hoping to see in the Itty Bitty series? Any idea why Johanna Carlyle has so far only been shown in water? I feel like that must symbolize something, although I’m not sure what… Any other comics thoughts? Talk to us in the comments!

Allison is a part-time superhero, space bounty-hunter and crayon-colour-namer. When not reading or editing comics, you may find her watching old horror films or looking at pictures of puppies on the Internet.