Rude Chapbooks 06.13.11 | Girls, Girls, Girls

This week’s column goes Mötley Crüesing by scrutinizing a quintet of new releases featuring female protagonists (and perhaps even more shockingly in two places, female creators): 15-Love #1, Birds of Prey #13, Echo #30, Empowered Special #2, and Vampirella #6.

Tennis, anyone? Although Marvel continues to warrant censure for “events” like Fear Itself, one must give the devil its due for 15-Love #1. At the risk of jumbling sports, three strikes instantly burden this debut of a tripartite miniseries: (a) beyond a nod to Millie the Model, it lacks any ties to so-called continuity; (b) it involves not cosmic cataclysms but clay courts; and (c) it kinda halfway maybe just a teensy bit targets a distaff readership. It also ranks among the company’s most interesting offerings of the past year. 15-Love comes from writer Andi Watson (one of the medium’s more underappreciated talents) and artist Tommy Ohtsuka and focuses on the efforts of plucky, blonde Mill Collins to succeed at her sport in general and at Florida’s snooty Wayde Tennis Academy in particular. Complicating those efforts is an enigmatic new coach who looks like a career beachcomber, drinks like a comics columnist, and exhibits a maddeningly Zen brand of pedagogy. Whether Mill wins her forthcoming matches, this miniseries makes a winning first impression. Recommended? Yes!
“Whooo?” asks the owl, as any child can attest. DC’s Birds of Prey #13 coos a different query: Why? Moreover, it does so with multiple inflections. To wit—if not tu-whit tu-whoo—why does this team exist? “When citizens are in trouble, they call the heroes. When the heroes are in trouble, they call the…Birds of Prey,” avers the tagline until recently gracing each issue, but thus far, nothing about the series has vouched for that declaration. Moreover, why is writer Gail Simone squandering her talents on this nonsense? Nothing in this komics kaffeeflatsch approaches the delirious depravity of her concurrent Secret Six. Emphasizing this title’s deficiencies, in fact, is the appropriation of a villain from that one; although Junior made a memorably Clive Barkeresque debut in Secret Six, here Ragdoll’s psycho sis degenerates to a plot contrivance, a spook with shears. Artist Diego Olmos illustrates the flashing panties in a workmanlike way, with a few lapses—including a signally goofy error in perspective in the second panel of the seventh page. Otherwise, though? Ho-hum.
Readers coming to this critique of Echo #30 all unawares are arriving a tad tardily: Terry Moore’s sterling science fictional adventure from Abstract Studio concludes with this issue. Happily enough for such innocents, the publisher has already compiled in trim trade paperbacks all but the last five issues of the successor to writer/artist Moore’s sprawling, sui generis Strangers in Paradise, with the final trade paperback and an über-compilation already solicited by Diamond. For everyone else, Moore subjects his motley little crew (Julie/Annie, Dillon, the ever-alluring Ivy, and Vijay) to the end of the world involving Alloy 618 and the phi collider in the polar wastes. Annoyingly, in places, the climax, if not the denouement, feels somewhat truncated—no pun intended pursuant to that denouement, but not all of the narrative joints Moore planed so carefully and lovingly in prior issues dovetail. Still, despite this valedictory’s missing fourth, Moore, even on the brink of doomsday, agreeably maintains his humane viewpoint—wherein the glimpse of one’s own unblemished hand and the smile of a friend speak volumes.
Since 2007, in six black-and-white Dark Horse trade paperbacks, prodigious writer/artist Adam Warren has chronicled the misadventures of one of today’s most irresistible superheroes, and preparatory to a seventh such volume scheduled for next spring, he continues those misadventures in Empowered Special #2. In addition to revisiting the title heroine—a zaftig blonde with a singularly endearing inferiority complex and a tendency to have foes not only truss her unforgivably but also underestimate her even more unforgivably—“Ten Questions for the Maidman” focuses, in color interludes with art by guest Emily Warren, on the cross-dressing supporting character variously dubbed herein “the garter-belted gladiator,” “the dark-night domestic,” “the delicate-cycle detective,” “the hard-hitting hygienist,” “the sanitary sentinel,” and “the iron-handed immaculist.” It also includes perhaps the most memorable bit of fisticuff-related repartee likely to grace a comic this year: “Taste white-gloved, chicken-and-vegetable justice, punk.” Emp, her adoring Thugboy, B.F.F. Ninjette, the hilariously alliterative and imperious Demonwolf, the tragically conflicted Sistah Spooky, the gone-but-scarce-forgotten Mindf██k—these number among some of the mainstream’s most endearing and potentially enduring characters.
To anyone who subscribes to Playboy and The Journal of Applied Phlebotomy alike, Vampirella’s existence constitutes a conundrum in 2011. Then again, the same conundrum obtained in 2001. And 1991. And even 1981. The character’s 1969 genesis in magazine format struck a (small) blow against the Comics Code Authority, a tyrant long since overthrown even by the Riverdale gang. Nevertheless, like clockwork, some publisher or other feels compelled to resurrect the sanguine queen of cheesecake, as Dynamite Entertainment did last year under writer Eric Trautmann and artist Wagner Reis. The latest issue, Vampirella #6, includes Fabiano Neves as co-artist (as earlier) and closes an opening arc involving Dracula, a primeval, evil worm the size of a city, and togs for the title character that suggest she shares a couturier with the “new” Wonder Woman. (At least initially here, the infamous crimson maillot largely adorned Vampi’s bloody booty only on covers.) No fang goes unsmirked, alas, and worse yet, our heroine’s become enamored of interior monologues as inflated as a dozen or so dirigibles. Terminally anemic. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of 15-Love #1, right here at PLAYBACK:stl.
Click here for a preview of Empowered Special #2, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Vampirella #6, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

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