Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Fearless Defenders 8, originally released August 14th, 2013.
Shelby: Another day in the life of the Fearless Defenders: tracking monsters, fighting crazy mystics, teaming up with alien parasites. All in a day’s work. It’s not all business as usual, with the whole Annabelle and Valkyrie sharing a body situation. While I’m intrigued by what that means for those two, and the rest of the team, I really found the art lacking; for the first time with this title I was really bothered by the way these awesome women are depicted.
Misty and Annabelle/Valkyrie have teamed up with Elsa Bloodstone to hunt monsters in Chinatown. Except it’s not monsters, it’s Brood, sort of. A mystic by the name of Zheng Bao Yu is creating genetically engineered Brood for…some purpose. It’s probably not good, so the gals start punching, with a weird assist from an actual Brood, who seems offended her people have been experimented upon. The Brood-cubator is smashed, Bao Yu is defeated for now, and despite appearing as a potential Valkyrie candidate to Val’s eyes, the Brood heads off to find those responsible. The issues closes with not one but TWO portents of doom, as Elsa promises we’ll soon be “knee-deep in monsters” while Bao Yu visits Caroline LeFay, who claims “the absolute worst is yet to come.”
The biggest thing in this issue is the Annabelle/Valkyrie situation. It seems that either can take over at a moment’s notice, whenever they feel they are needed. Case in point, Val is about to smash a ninja in the face with her sword, but Annabelle ain’t got time for that.
The tricky thing about this relationship is keeping Annabelle as a key part of the team. I’d hate for her to turn into just a stop-gap measure to prevent Val from Doom Maiden-ing out. So far, I don’t think that’s the case; Misty brought Annabelle along for the ride, not Val, and only asked Val to come out when it looked like punching was imminent. In fact, it seems Annabelle is the one in charge, and Val is just along for the ride, which adds a really intriguing power dynamic to their relationship. Cullen Bunn seems very intent upon keeping both these women as very distinct, individual characters, despite the fact they are occupying the same body. I appreciate that both because I really like seeing regular, nerdy person Annabelle on a superhero team, and because it promises character development for the both of them. It’s just another confirmation Annabelle wasn’t just fridged for Val, or that someone was killed to sell more books.
I’ve fearlessly defended artist Will Sliny’s art in the past; at times it’s been a little cheesecake-y, but I maintained (and still do maintain) that showing heroines as both strong and sexy is important. The two should not be mutually exclusive states, and I think that Sliny has done a decent job of that in the past. In the past. There is some broke-back nonsense going on in the fight scenes this issue.
Bao Yu’s torso is freakishly long, her right leg is so short compared to the left that the one leg must be 6 feet closer to the camera, and the gleeful ecstacy on her face makes me a little uncomfortable. And let’s not forget Misty in the background, who’s somehow showing a side profile of her rack with a three-quarter profile of her legs. My favorite, though, is this panel of Misty and Elsa supposedly distracting Bao Yu. I’ve highlighted my favorite points.
Remember, in the previous panel, Misty said she’d go high and Elsa said she’d go low; they must be having trouble with that since they both apparently broke their ankles during the fight. Elsa doesn’t even have her head in the game, she’s gazing off into the distance. And where’s the Brood that’s supposed to be helping them? It’s supposed to be a big deal that this Brood is fighting on their side against the fake Brood, right? So when she’s specifically called out as a member of the team, why wouldn’t you show her doing her part? The whole issue is riddled with weird body stuff; even LeFay is wearing a shirt cut low enough to show her bra. What is the point of that? I can tell you, when my shirt gets pulled down so the cups of my bra are showing, I fix my damn shirt. This screams of unnecessary sexualization; I’m surprised Annabelle didn’t somehow tear her shirt open during the fight. This sort of thing makes me angry in general, but it really makes me angry when I see it in books that I thought were good enough to avoid that.
With that disgruntled tangent, I’ll turn things over to my charming friend Taylor. What do you think, buddy? Am I being too critical of the art this issue, or am I finally just now seeing the problems that have been there all along? What are your thoughts on the nature of Annabelle and Val’s relationship going forward?
Taylor: Shelby, I wouldn’t say you’re being being too critical of the art in this issue. Upon my first reading I didn’t notice what you pointed out in your write-up so one might say they aren’t so bad. However, now that they have been pointed out to me and now that I’ve given the issue a second reading, I find these artistic miscues to be both distracting and inexcusable. Given how much a comic book depends on its art to help convey its story we should at least be treated to art that at least makes sense. While I initially overlooked the things you pointed out Shelby, there was one I noticed which still has me confused. As Val is going around kicking ninja-ass some sneaky baddy weasels in behind and hits her with…something:
What is that stuff coming out of the bamboo pole? Hot mac and cheese? Granted, that would sting but when fighting a warrior woman you might want to use something a little more potent. Further, in the next panel Val is unfazed by this mysterious substance which makes its appearance all the more mystifying. While harping on this lack of execution may seem like a needless exercise consider that this panel with Val has absolutely no bearing on the story presented in this issue. Since she isn’t hurt by this yellow stuff, Val quickly dispatches her attacker and I can’t help but wonder what the point of this little little is. Perhaps it was an attempt to instill in the reader a sense of suspense, making it seem as if Val is about to be beat. However, we never really feel like she’s in danger so this panel of golden pain just a distraction from the story and nothing more.
So I guess what I’m saying is this: I agree with you Shelby, the art in this issue isn’t great. I’m not even going to get into the issue of Elsa Bloodstone’s costume design with its pointlessly revealing cleavage or how two of our three heroines roll with midriff exposed because who the hell needs armor when going into life-threatening situations. I don’t want to get into that because we’ve already addressed these issues in other write-ups and because I would like to focus on something I actually thought was done well in this issue.
The issue of Annabelle and Valkyrie sharing a body is interesting and the fact that the two characters are diametric personalities makes for an interesting situation. Annabelle obviously isn’t all about the killing the way Val is and the ability they have to switch at any time certainly could have its consequences in the future. What happens when Annabelle stops Val from committing an act of violence only to realize that it would have been the right action for the situation? It’s tempting to say that peace, embodied almost literally by Annabelle, is always the better path, but when you’re fighting enemies such as the Brood its best to consider all of your options, even those that are violent. And while these thoughts are intriguing, I’m more curious about what happens to the latent personality while the other is in control of the body.
When our heroines enter the sewer in pursuit of monsters all of them decide it would best if Annabelle handed the keys to the body over to Valkyrie. When she becomes the dominant personality, Val seems a disoriented by her surroundings:
Even though she’s quickly able to make sense of her situation, it seems clear that Val was not in conscious state while Annabelle was in control of their body. Later, however, Annabelle stops Valkyrie in mid-attack on a foe, which would suggest she was a witness to what her body was doing the entire time. So, either Annabelle is more in control of the body than Valkyrie or something doesn’t completely add up with their situation. Also, it seems pretty clear that when they switch personalities their body also undergoes a transformation. Valkyrie has a body built for destruction while Annabelle looks appropriately like someone who spends more time behind a book than at the gym. But in theory this is the same body. I’m not saying any of this doesn’t make sense, I’m just more curious to see how these issues are addressed in future issues.
While I think Fearless Defenders still has its problems, it seems like the creators have taken a step in the right direction with this issue. Notwithstanding this, perhaps you might disagree Shelby since there are some things you obviously didn’t approve of in this issue. It’s a curious development: am I beginning to settle for a product that just isn’t all that great or are you beginning to realize something you like isn’t quite as good as you hoped? I suppose only future issues of Fearless Defenders will answer that question.
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