On the Yuricon & ALC Publishing page on Facebook, Shannon Luchies put me on to this title and offered up this picture to entice me:
Little known fact about Erica – she has the entire original run of the Defenders. Yes. really. I was a comics collector for many years before stilted writing and tiresome art put me off and I stopped. When manga took my hand and led me down the rabbit hole I was well-primed for the kind of fanaticism it required.
So, vaguely intrigued by the new series, Fearless Defenders, I called my Local Comic shop to see if they had it. I was told by the owner, a friend, that it was “pretty good.” Right now I’m feeling like most people must feel when they visit their childhood homes and see everything has turned all shoddy and their parents are becoming feeble.
Reading this book inspired me. Not proabably the way the creators intended, however. Fearless Defenders inspired me to create the:
The Friedman Addendum to the Bechdel Test
Does female character have agency?
Does she have society?
Does she have personality?
Is she merely a female-shaped male hero doing male hero things while being female?
I’ll be using this in reviews going forward. Just as a litmus test, Bodacious Space Pirates passes the FA. So does Sailor Moon. The original Ghost in the Shell movie does not. This is not meant to overtake the Bechdel Test, just to add a level of depth to understanding why a series might have a “strong, female character” and still be disappointing for women. Look for a FA score to appear on some reviews (not all, just when I think it’s a relevant issue. Also, you may have noticed that I’m transitioning the LFB rating to a “Service” rating.)
So, let’s get the bad out of the way. The female’s bodies can only be described as AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! I knew American comic art was going all tits and ass (often at the same time) but if their spines curve like that all the time, poor things must be in terrible pain.
Let’s do a quick contrast in battle art. Exhibit 1, , Fearless Defenders, Issue 1:
Which cover looks like it has a “strong female” on it? I’ll be honest, I’m biased, because things like weight distribution in stances actually has meaning to me, and I’m heartily sick of females drawn with exaggerated “sexy” spine curvatures.
Okay, but, you say, what about the script? It was pretty good, wasn’t it? Fearless Defenders reads just like Tantric Stripfighter Trina, only in 20 pages not 200. The fact that the issue is a mere 20 pages is part of the problem, but the writing also made me very aware of the fact that American comics are now written for a very specific audience, one that does not include me. I’ve been defending comics a long time, but if this an example of a good one, I’m done. Like a Hollywood movie, every line was trite and overplayed.
Is there any good news? Yes, yes there is. Despite art and story being woefully mis-matched, this comic does indeed pass the FA. Misty Knight and Annabelle Riggs are friends. And, Annabelle has chosen to be there, and to stay, even when undead Vikings rise up around her. Split between good and bad, Annabelle randomly kisses Val when she appears (see above) because, as the text helpfully explains, she “likes girls,” and as we all know, lesbians walk around randomly kissing any girl they find attractive, regardless of circumstance, like undead Vikings rising from nearby graves.
What is my point in all this? My point is, this series passes the Bechel Test and the Friedman Addendum and has at least one character, maybe two, who is a lesbian…and it’s still a bit disappointing.
That kiss should have been further along in the plot, not right off. It makes no sense where it is. Art, dialogue and that kiss are off of my mark for “pretty good.” If a 15-year old sent me this I’d think it was genius. but for adults creating for an adult audience…. sigh…..
I’m going to follow the story for a bit, see if it gets better, but here’s what I think. You know how anime has a low frame rate, so when you watch it you have to fill in a lot of detail? This comic was drawn at a low frame rate and fans have to do a lot of the work to make it “pretty good.”