Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Issue Review: X-Women (one-shot)

Chris Claremont is a writer I often have mixed opinions on. Reading various works from his decades-long career has elicited many different reactions from me, ranging from, "This man is a genius!" to, "What is this guy smoking?" Nevertheless, he is a man I also ought to thank. He can be credited with the creation of a host of strong mutant heroines, including two of my favorites: Rogue and Emma Frost. If any long-time writer is truly a supporter of the female super hero, it is Claremont.

That said, X-Women may not have been his strongest work, but I still found it to be a fairly decent read. It relies on the many-times-done plot device of our mutant heroes suddenly losing their powers due to some external influence. It does have bits of "typical Claremont" all over it. It stars an all-female cast of entirely his creations (Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey, Emma Frost, Psylocke), with Storm as the only exception. However, unlike some of Claremont's other more recent work, it did pass the "can I understand this without a Wikipedia backup?" test. That is always a plus. And, while I may be a continuity nerd, I think I can forgive the fact that placing this story within continuity will be a nearly impossible task.

There is always a fine line in deliberately female-centric super hero team tales between "a team that happens to be all female" and just a gimmick. The most enjoyable aspect of this story is that it solidly achieves the former. The grouping of X-Women with nary an X-Man in sight felt natural. This is a team of ladies and friends who can work skillfully and efficiently together and the story makes it feel like this is a normal rather than an exceptional thing. This is something the X-Men franchise has always done well in comparison to some other team-centric books.

It is the art that will undoubtedly generate the debate over whether X-Women is a feminist or misogynist work. Milo Manara is, without a doubt, a master of his craft. His art is beautiful, but it is also known for its eroticism. Admittedly, I don't think I can approach this with my usual points of critique. Yes, nearly every panel is drawn in a way I can only call "sexily". However, the panels are also detailed and more importantly... highly realistic. The characters may be unfailingly sexy, sultry and gorgeous, but they also are proportioned like real women. One doesn't hire Manara to illustrate a comic book without expecting women and sex. It is very easy to argue that his depictions of the X-Ladies is very objectifying. However, if one steps back and simply looks at this as a piece of art... it is quite stunning.

I often comment on how our favorite heroines end up dressed when they aren't in costume. Unlike their masculine counterparts, it is a rare thing that they wear anything that would be worn by a real woman on any occasion that doesn't involve photoshoots and catwalks. This issue is guilty if the same... that is unless these "real women" are unapologetic hookers. Again, this may be typical of Manara, but habit demanded that it be said. As a final positive though, despite the overall tone of Manara's artwork, some of the clothing choices are the only things I found to be specifically exploitative.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable read and a beautiful piece of art.

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