Quick pamphlet comments

I’m very pleased that Image and Tokyopop are reprinting Brandon Graham’s King City in pamphlet form. In spite of good reviews, I missed it in digest form. While I don’t have a basis for comparison, I suspect it’s better served in its new, full-sized format than it might have been in tankoubon size. There are lots of little thing to look at, and the bigger page size seems friendlier to that.

Here’s an example of a layout that I really liked from the second issue.


At this point, I know very little about the characters above, but that panel makes me really interested in both of them. Graham’s pages generally have interesting layouts, and there’s a nice sense of motion and bustle to a lot of them, but he also has a nice handle on little gradations of facial expression and body language. He really sells moments like these.

As you would expect from the title, there’s also a nice sense of place. King City, the setting, evokes that kind of sleazy modernism that a lot of creators attempt but don’t necessarily achieve. I think that’s because Graham is judicious about the way he reveals things. He hasn’t front-loaded the city’s entire culture, choosing instead to put it out there a bit at a time, making me curious about what things mean and what they’ll amount to later. That’s probably another reason why it’s a good fit with pamphlet publication. An individual issue constitutes a satisfying chunk, a nice monthly visit to a weird place and the intriguing characters that live there.

My purchase of two other comics – Marvel Divas and Models, Inc. – is driven by a combination of nostalgia and a reflexive desire to promote diversity. When I dropped Marvel comics entirely, there were no titles like this, lighthearted and driven by women characters. So my activist streak kicked in and I decided to give them at least one more sale.


I prefer Divas (written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, drawn and inked by Tonci Zonjic, and colored by Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic). It’s about four c-list super-heroines who hang out and support each other through their various woes. Pretty much every one of those woes has been portrayed in a more straightforward manner in episodes of Sex and the City, right down to cancer, but Aguirre-Sacasa finds nice spandex twists on the subject matter. And while I’ll never be convinced of the wisdom of mixing real-world illness in a setting where characters can banish it with a wave of their hand (or can’t, depending on the demands of the plot), there’s a surprising amount of nuance in the scenes where young heroine Firestar copes with her illness with the help of her more seasoned cast-mates. It’s not a great comic, and it doesn’t track with its own marketing even a little, but it’s got some solid, character-driven writing that doesn’t condescend to the characters. Aguirre-Sacasa creates a plausible, endearing support system among the four women, which is nice to see.

Models, Inc. (written by Paul Tobin, drawn and inked by Vicenc Villagrasa, colored by Val Staples, and lettered by Dave Sharpe) is what is what might be known in the rag trade as “a hot mess.” It unfolds during Fashion Week, with one of Marvel’s model characters (Millie) accused of murder. It’s up to her friends (other Marvel model characters) to clear her of the crime. I like lighthearted mysteries as much as or more than the next person, but this one is hobbled by the fact that almost none of the characters make any specific impression. There are at least two models two many, and they seem to have been selected entirely for visual variety rather than anything specific they bring to the story. The closest thing to a breakout character would be bisexual Chili Storm, who at least gets to be a bit of a spitfire and isn’t limited to spouting exposition or being blandly supportive, though she also carries water from those wells.


Another difficult is that the look of the book isn’t especially fashionable. I can’t say that I follow fashion beyond trying to catch episodes of Project Runway, but I get a distinctly dowdy and dated vibe from the cast’s wardrobe. I suspect Villagrasa is going for a detached, posing style in his compositions – as if the models are always at least a little aware that there’s a camera pointed at them – and it’s not a bad idea, but the execution doesn’t really work. (And yes, I know that the panels above show them actually posing, but what the hell are they wearing?) It doesn’t go far enough, so it ends up looking sort of weird.

I did love the Tim Gunn back-up story in the first issue (written by Marc Sumerak, drawn by Jorge Molina). Runway mentor Gunn saves the day with style, which is what I was hoping for from the lead story. Alas, Models, Inc. is more a meeting of a catwalk Girl Scout troop.

15 Responses to Quick pamphlet comments

  1. Caroline says:

    Interesting reviews! I was actually turned off the first ‘Marvel Divas’ issue because the manner of introducing the characters was to have them tell stories about the men they were involved with. So, the way I read it, the thing that defined the characters was who they dated. Whereas I thought ‘Models,’ while not a perfect comic book, was at least about the women, and Chili and Patsy at least had distinguishable personalities. Also, ‘Models’ at least has some idea what kind of book it wants to be. With ‘Divas’ the marketing department either never read it or was trying to pull a bait-and-switch, either option of which turns me off. I admit I didn’t read past issue 1 of ‘Divas’ and the surprise cancer, though.

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    I’m a huge Patsy Walker fan. If Marvel started reprinting her old rom-com comics, I’d buy them in a minute.

    You raise interesting points about the books and their conception. As I see it, Divas carries a lot of bad intentions (at least in terms of packaging and marketing) with good results (at least in terms of story and character moments). I can absolutely see the bait-and-switch aspect being distasteful, though. With Models, it seems like the reverse — good intentions in terms of giving marginal characters a story of their own that’s about them, but lackluster results in terms of execution.

    Also, that outfit Patsy’s wearing in the Models scan looks like something they make you wear at a spa that deals with involuntary committals. I’m just saying.

  3. Caroline says:

    I admit that’s a terrible dress! I was a lot more impressed with the first issue than the second but I’m still enjoying it. And I think I could see liking ‘Divas’ if I had any previous attachment to the characters, but I don’t. It just read as ‘four random women doing a takeoff on Sex and the City without the sexiness or the humor and now — oh look! — cancer.’ Though I’d also admit to being more kindly disposed to the book if it didn’t irk me that one of Marvel’s few female-centric superhero books is explicitly about them NOT being superheroes. I’m trying to imagine a similar book about male heroes on their downtime (which I would *totally* read) but I don’t see it happening.

  4. davidpwelsh says:

    Oh, I’ve always, always loved the out-of-costume issues of super-hero comics when they go shopping or play softball or just generally loaf. So the Divas approach hits another nostalgia button for me. And with the exception of Black Cat, I am familiar with these characters, and I’m thrilled that they picked up on the bitter Nextwave version of Monica instead of the goody-goody Roger Stern portrayal that always bored me to tears.

  5. Caroline says:

    Oh, I like those too — I just read the 12 issue Vision & the Scarlet Witch maxiseries which is like 90 percent living in the suburbs and going on vacation — and I’d be happy if there were more comics like that. But the fact that there is only one, and it’s one of the few books published with female leads, is the annoying part. It’s a bit of an irrational grudge at this point. I may give the whole thing a look when it’s in trade and see if I can put that part aside.

  6. davidpwelsh says:

    I liked that mini-series (maxi-series?) a lot! Though I did always wonder why they so rarely wore street clothes when they were just hanging around the house. And the design of Wanda’s maternity swimsuit haunts me to this day.

  7. Caroline says:

    Don’t ask ‘why’ questions about Wanda Maximoff. For your mental health!

  8. davidpwelsh says:

    I must ask why! She’s the nexus being of my fanboy heartbreak.

  9. Caroline says:

    Oh, did Avengers Disassembled drive you away from Marvel? Or do you mean the baby-erasing back in Byrne days?

  10. davidpwelsh says:

    Both, really, though Disassembled was one of the final straws. And it came at the same time as “man-hungry lunatic torches the corpse of the pregnant woman” over at DC.

  11. Caroline says:

    Understandable. All that stuff happened before I got into comics, but I can see the irritation.

    Did you ever try the X-Men First Class title? I thought they did some nice things with Wanda, though she’s not a core character. And Jean, as well. Together with Wolverine First Class (which is at least as much a Kitty Pryde title), I think these are the closest to the lighthearted/female-driven kind of books you’re talking about, even though they’re not marketed with female leads.

  12. davidpwelsh says:

    I’ve seen some of the back-up stories that Colleen Coover did with the characters, and I loved them. And Jeff Parker wrote the lead stories, right? I’ll have to check out some trades.

  13. Caroline says:

    Parker wrote both the leads ( various artists) and the backups (Coover). I can’t recommend the title enough. It started coming out around the time I started buying comics regularly and has a lot to do with my being a Marvel fan.

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