Marvel Divas #2

This is actually pretty good.

Marvel Divas #1

   Marvel Divas #1

Given the booby-focused cover of issue #1, and this ridiculous description:

What happens when you take four of the Marvel Universe’s most fabulous single girls and throw them together, adding liberal amounts of suds and drama? You get the sassiest, sexiest, soapiest series to come out of the House of Ideas since Millie the Model! Romance, action, ex-boyfriends, and a last page that changes everything! Let your inner divas out with this one, fellas, you won’t regret it!

I expected typical “treating women characters as blow-up dolls, posing and flirting for titillating enjoyment for the male reader”. That’s what you get in most superhero comics, especially those with that kind of cover, featuring impossible anatomy. Heck, they’re even addressing the boys directly in the sell copy!

However, this is the kind of dialogue-driven character piece that one would expect from writer/playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. It’s a shame that its audience won’t find it, due to Marvel’s incompetent advertising and marketing. The boys attracted by that cover will be disappointed by what they find inside, while those who will appreciate the storytelling will be repulsed by the stupid wrapper.

Marvel Divas #2

Marvel Divas #2

Firestar has breast cancer, being treated by Night Nurse and Dr. Strange for a second opinion. Hellcat is writing an article about Firestar’s experience to inspire other women. Photon is getting advice on what to do about her fling with Doctor Voodoo, since they still share sparks. And Black Cat is having money issues, trying to get a business loan with her (now-reformed) past hanging over her.

The interior art is reminiscent of the work of Don Heck. It’s not dynamic, but Tonci Zonjic is good with expression and keeping the camera moving during the many talking scenes.

This is the kind of story long-time superhero fans like, exploring what everyday life would be like in the fantastic world of costumes. Of course, it doesn’t make any sense, for cancer to be much of a threat in a world with real magicians and people coming back from the dead all the time. But it’s rare to see women talk to each other about anything but men, let alone exploring life-and-death issues that don’t involve punching something. It shouldn’t be surprising that Marvel doesn’t know how to sell a story in which the women don’t even put on spandex (at least, not in this issue).

15 Responses to “Marvel Divas #2”

  1. Bill D. Says:

    The solicit copy and cover for the first issue turned me off, too, but what I’ve heard about the story makes me really want to check this out when the collection comes down the line, especially since I enjoyed Kathryn Immonen’s Patsy Walker: Hellcat series so much. I’m totally in the mood to read more well-written Patsy, now, and given her history, that’s a rarity, so I really feel the need to grab this one.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I hope the conclusion holds up to the quality of this issue, because yes, that would make for a spiffy collection (except for the doofus title). Great point about how Hellcat has been so poorly used. I feel the same way.

  3. Thad Says:

    You’re exactly right — saw the cover to #1 and just went “Ew.” Can’t stand J Scott Campbell.

    (I was actually in the store with my girlfriend and she laughed and asked if I was going to buy Marvel Divas. I responded, “No, but Sirens of Gotham is pretty good.”)

    Thanks for the heads-up; might have to give this one a second look rather than judging the book by its proverbial cover. I like the sound of the breast cancer story arc (Busiek played with the potential side effects of Firestar’s radiation-based powers back when he was on Avengers), and all in all this sounds reminiscent of one of the better bits of Millar’s Fantastic Four run, where Sue started a charity for victims of superhuman violence with She-Hulk and the Wasp.

  4. Johanna Says:

    The Firestar reference appears in Divas, too, so they’re acknowledging that history. I haven’t tried Sirens of Gotham, because I can’t stand how the fanboys (both readers and writers) giggle over Ivy and Harley. But yes, this is better than the packaging indicates.

    Although, come to think of it, if they did a full-out superheroine porn comic, I might read that, if they were honest about their intent and it was good porn. It’s this trying to have all the audiences and not commit that screws things up.

  5. Tommy Raiko Says:

    “Although, come to think of it, if they did a full-out superheroine porn comic, I might read that, if they were honest about their intent and it was good porn.”

    Didn’t PENTHOUSE COMIX have a feature or two that would fit such a description?

    I was recently reminded of that chapter of publishing history when I happened to re-read this (work-safe) remembrance by Mark Evanier about the editor of those comics. Tragic story, really:

  6. Link Roundup Strikes Back | Geek Feminism Blog Says:

    […] at Comics Worth Reading Reviews Marvel Divas #2: “This is actually pretty good.” (Background on the […]

  7. Steven R. Stahl Says:

    MARVEL DIVAS #2 suggests that Aguirre-Sacasa has problems when he tries to write superhero stories with plots, rather than just slice of life pieces. He might have had the best of intentions, but his handling of breast cancer was a mess. From my post om Kirk Warren’s blog:

    MARVEL DIVAS #2 was terrible, unfortunately, mainly because writer Aguirre-Sacasa decided to make breast cancer central to the story without knowing much about breast cancer. Jones has a lump, and has supposedly been told she has breast cancer, stage two, but the lump could be a number of things. An oncologist wouldn’t have Jones get X-rays — the term should have been “mammogram” — because mammograms are screening tools. She would have an MRI, followed by a biopsy, cellular analysis, and, if the lump was cancerous, further tests, staging, and recommendations for treatment. That’s not like the story, in which Jones gets a diagnosis without tests (Stage II is worse than a pea-sized lump), then asks for a second opinion on a breast lump.

    If Jones’s use of her power without shielding threatened to make her infertile, then the physical threat was localized to her reproductive organs. Supposing that her power caused breast cancer doesn’t make sense.

    Strange shouldn’t have used magic to detect cancer if magic couldn’t treat it; the two subjects are related. If a writer wanted to use magic, he could have supposed that magic would boost the effectiveness of alternative therapies or supposed the existence of a healing spring. Having Walker consider giving up her soul to save Jones before they even know how treatable the cancer is makes the situation upside down.

    The mistakes re breast cancer aren’t minor missteps; they ruin the storyline and the miniseries. Considering how common breast cancer is, Aguirre-Sacasa and his editor were obligated to get the details right.

    The threat to Jones’s internal organs in Busiek’s AVENGERS concerned cell death and loss of function, rather than cancer, presumably. Still, having Jones deal with uterine or ovarian cancer could have worked, but how would male readers have reacted?


  8. Johanna Says:

    I think you’re looking for things to nitpick. As someone who herself has had a lump that had to be investigated, I didn’t have any problem with the portrayal, because the *emotions* rang true — uncertainty, fear, feeling overwhelmed. For the rest of it, it’s the Marvel Universe, Jake. These things are what the writer says they are.

  9. Steven R. Stahl Says:

    You’re saying, basically, that superhero comics generally, and Marvel Universe comics in particular, are kiddie junk, with so little substance in terms of story content that plot details don’t matter. At all. If what the characters are shown doing and saying evoke emotional responses that are roughly appropriate, then the writer and artist have done their jobs.

    If the storytelling standard you’re using for MARVEL DIVAS #2 was used by other reviewers, for any material, there wouldn’t be serious reviews of anything. The goal for a writer would be to see how strongly a reader’s emotions could be manipulated.

    I’m left wondering if you’ve taken literature courses that actually sunk in, or whether you believe that superhero comics are such worthless junk that reviewing them seriously as literature would antagonize people you need to stay friendly with.

    And as for personal experience: You had a breast lump; I had an aunt who died from breast cancer, and a sister who’s undergoing chemotherapy now for breast cancer. Getting the details wrong when it comes to diagnosis and treatment can rob people of their lives.


  10. Johanna Says:

    Anyone who would take medical advice from a Marvel superhero comic is insane, so let’s put that aside right now.

    I didn’t say plot details don’t matter, but you’re not complaining about the plot. You’re complaining that a playwright instead of a doctor wrote a story about superhero women supporting each other during a medical crisis. You’re looking for things to nitpick and ignoring the emotional realism of the story. And when told your reaction is overblown, you start insulting me, a sure sign that you know your points are insupportable. (If you think I’m afraid of antagonizing anyone at Marvel, this must be the first review of a comic of theirs you’ve ever read on this site.)

    Obviously, your family situation makes you sensitive to this topic, and I’m sorry they are going through such difficult times. Perhaps you would be better served by reading other comics than this one, since it’s touching on such raw nerves for you.

  11. Steven R. Stahl Says:

    My family history with breast cancer wasn’t relevant in terms of criticism; I mentioned it only because your history might have made you more susceptible to manipulation.

    I was being “insulting” only because you and Aguirre-Sacasa are ignoring basic aspects of storytelling. The “second opinion” that takes up a lot of the issue is terrible writing that’s based on a failure to describe basic medicine correctly. The diagnosis that Jones supposedly got should have been based on a biopsy, pathological tests, etc., not on the feel of a breast lump. A second opinion would have been about treatment options — amount of breast tissue to be removed, chemotherapy drugs to use, etc. — not whether she *had* breast cancer. If you’re unable to recognize or unwilling to deal with an incompetent treatment of a real-life subject, why should I take your review(s) seriously?


  12. Johanna Says:

    You shouldn’t. And you should stop reading them immediately, and find other sites you like better. Ones where no one ever praises the work of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

  13. Hsifeng Says:

    Johanna Says:

    “You shouldn’t. And you should stop reading them immediately, and find other sites you like better…”

    I’m thinking Polite Dissent might be an appropriate site. ;)

  14. politescott Says:

    Sorry I’m late to the party, but I just caught upon my reading and here’s my two cents:

    I agree that there do appear to be some medical errors in Marvel Divas #2, particularly in regards to the staging of the cancer and how it was diagnosed. However, other than a brief comment of “That’s not stage two,” to myself, I didn’t find that it detracted from the story. It’s a story about emotions, not about cancer staging.

    I say “appear” because
    1) there’s a couple of ways A-S could explain away the inconsistencies before the end of the series, and
    2) the information we’re getting is filtered through the interpretation of Night Nurse and Angelica, and their understanding may not be complete. When evaluating medical scenes in comic books I find it helpful to bear in mind that it’s the character talking, not necessarily the writer.
    (That being said, I suspect it was sloppy research on the part of A-S and he should have taken the extra fifteen minutes to Google “breast cancer staging” and get it right.)

    Ionizing radiation can cause cell death initially and then cancer later. The cell death strikes rapidly growing and multiplying cells — such as those in the reproductive organs — first, leading to sterility. Angelica’s powers could have a similar effect on her — sterility first, cancer later.

    I have several patients who refer to all radiology tests including CTs and MRIs as “x-rays” — and for all we know, Angelica could be talking about a set of chest x-rays the doctor wanted before surgery.

    Doctor Strange’s inability to cure cancer sadly ties in with his across the board impotence in comics recently, but it is not without precedent: he could not cure Wong of his cancer either. I don’t find it surprising that Angelica would want a second opinion about the diagnosis from someone who has a specialized skill set like Dr Strange. Family physicians diagnose people with things all the time that they don’t have the ability to treat (a torn ACL, for instance).

    I think you’re overstating it a bit with your “insane” comment. I agree that people shouldn’t turn to comic books for medical advice, but in my experience people pick up information from things they read and watch without remembering precisely where they got it, and I’m sure somewhere at least a few people have — inadvertently — taken medical advice from a Marvel super-hero comic.

  15. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for weighing in — it’s good to hear from a real doctor. I agree that people get information for all kinds of sources, but I still think taking actual advice — in terms of what one should do with one’s body and condition — from a superhero comic is insane. After all, the Marvel universe is one where no one ever dies; what kind of model does *that* set? :)

    But even if I want to consider that, here the advice is “get a second opinion from a trusted source, and get support from your friends.” Which on the whole, isn’t a bad idea.




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