Fearless Defenders Comic, Issue 1

February 27th, 2013

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:

Ow. I dare any man to stand on their toes, with weight on their back leg, and spine curved and call it good defensive posture. I’m sorry, but fuck this. My wife rightfully points out that they are not in heels, which is true, and yet I notice that their feet are posed as if they were.
Exhibit 2, Avare Senki by Nakamura Ching

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…..

Art – 6 It’s executed well, but poses like that need to stop already
Story – 7
Characters – 7 We don’t get much beyond a line or two
Yuri – 9
Service – 9
FA – (1 to 10, 1 being lowest, just like the rest of the scores) 7
Overall – 7

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.”

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18 Responses

  1. Looks to me like more of the same kind of stuff that drove me away from the superheroes back in the ’90s when I discovered indie comics. I call that very specific audience this comic aims at (and the comic shops that sell mostly this kind of stuff) the “superhero fanboy ghetto”; even before the Marvel Implosion of ’96, I longed for there to be some way to save the comics medium from the Marvel-DC duopoly and their “spawn” Image (and swore to Belldandy I’d “destroy the superhero universe” in my own work).

    Manga, of course, turned out to be the savior of comics in America. I’ve certainly never look back.

    As for the lesbian angle: looks like everything that disappointed me when Marvel editorial turned Northstar gay just so Marvel could be Relevant…

  2. A well thought out, in depth review, I find it really quite credible.

    Might you please take the time to look in on the up and coming Yuri comedy Spinnerette if you have not done so yet?

    I find it toughing and heart warming.

    I find the fact that every aspect of the comic is immature and campy EXCEPT the romance a true breath of fresh air.

    Interestingly, written by a hetero married couple, its tender and sensitive to a lot of lifestyles yet focuses on a well developed Yuri couple with one of them being the heroine Heather Brown, AKA “Spinnerette” [http://spinnerette.wikia.com/wiki/Spinnerette] as it both explores her comign into superheroism as well as into her sexuality as she is approached and slowly romanced by Marilyn Seong a disabled Korean-American with a life threatening disease known as ALS known as Mecha Maid [http://spinnerette.wikia.com/wiki/Mecha_Maid ] while continuing to be an air headed graduate student of genetics and fighting super villains along with other heroic characters who pass in and out of the story plot in a somewhat unpredictable manner.

    I would truly love to get a review from you on the story!

    Please note, 2 chapters/episodes of the story can only be obtained in print at this time so there may be holes in the story for those who do not buy them.

    Sincerely, and with grattitude,
    Delicious Vodka DeBlair

  3. @Delicious Vodka DeBlair – I can’t make any promises. I’m not much of a webcomics reader. I’ll take a look, but if you don’t see a review from me, there’s probably a reason why.

  4. All I can say is that its one seriously mature romance juxtapositioned around some pretty zany comedy in a way I have never before seen in ANY genre!

    Now when I say “mature” keep in mind there’s no sex or even nudity so much as there’s the budding of a healthy relationship coming into its own between two superheroines who meet because of a culmination of circumstances, not merely being in the same ‘profession’.

    Its amazingly well thought out and written and it will touch on topics I’d almost bet you personally have NEVER BEFORE seen discussed in a Yuri.

    I’m also reading a gender bender, not sure if it really qualifies as a Yuri, because its main protagonists were changed by outside forces, one 2 years younger and another into a female, but there is a distinct romance…just that one of them “was” once a boy in another time line and wishes to return to that physical status…

    But that one “Misfile” is not one I am recommending, and again I do not know if Misfile is even a Yuri the way Spinnerette is…

    I have to say by the way, from my take on “Psycho Pass” its not remotely a Yuri, just a slaughter fest with a cute female protagonist. I was thinking about posting a review, but upon watching it, I could not even finish the show.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ugh. For all that they have several female-led titles, one of which stars an actual honest-to-goodness lesbian, DC is awfully misogynistic right now.

    That said, I’d recommend giving Demon Knights a try. It features Arthurian legend, great female characters, and more than a few queers (a trans superhero! About bloody time).

  6. Anonymous says:

    The thing that bugged me about Spinnerette (aside from the ridiculous amount of fanservice – and no, I don’t think being a kinda sorta parody excuses it) was the way Heather had had serious crushes on men and never experienced attraction to other women, yet the moment she falls for Mecha Maid she declares her pure and utter lesbianism. Someone should really inform the kid about bisexuality.

  7. Jim C. Hines, Eschergirls Tumblr (linked in the review) and the Hawkeye Initiative http://thehawkeyeinitiative.com/ all agree.

    And yet, the terrible art continues to be standard. I’m not a comics consumer anymore. I’m not even sure comics consumers can be heard – when a campaign started to include Stephanie Brown (Batgirl) in new titles, DC responded by removing her from every title ever and never allowing anyone to mention her again. Seriously.

    We’re up against a level of such extreme childishness and ingrained privilege that I can actually envision both Marvel and DC responding to a mail campaign to stop T&A art by having female characters raped and killed off rather than just stop sticking their asses in our faces. The comic equivalent of stabbing the kickball with a needle and screaming, “Fine, its yours,here!”

  8. Anonymous says:

    “I’m not a comics consumer anymore.”

    Nitpick: manga are comics too! :D

    “We’re up against a level of such extreme childishness and ingrained privilege that I can actually envision both Marvel and DC responding to a mail campaign to stop T&A art by having female characters raped and killed off rather than just stop sticking their asses in our faces.”


    I’m with you, leaving Marvel and DC behind and looking for comics elsewhere instead of asking Marvel and DC to make comics I want to read.

  9. @Anonymous – Manga are sequential art, but they have nothing – not format, not storytelling or art – in common with American superhero comics. If you expect me to say “American superhero comics” everytime I say “comics,” in the context of a discussion of American superhero comics then you will be disappointed, because I dislike typing. ^_^

  10. Anonymous says:

    “If you expect me to say “American superhero comics” everytime I say “comics,” in the context of a discussion of American superhero comics then you will be disappointed, because I dislike typing. ^_^” Aw, ‘s OK, I was just nitpicking. :) I like comics and don’t wanna leave the term to Marvel and DC. ;)

  11. Egio says:

    Kinda sucks that Valkrie is “seeing” Flash Thompson right now. I admit, that panel layout that you posted up had me doing a double take.I have not picked up Fearless Defenders as I was sort of following Valkrie in her appearances in the past few issues of Marvel’s Venom.

    Not that I have anything against Flash. If anyone has had character development throughout decades, HE would be it. But pairing him up with a demi-god instead of a civilian like his former girlfriend, Betty Brant.
    I would LOVE it if Valkrie would have had a fling with Felicia though LOL. Especially since a few years back Felicia Hardy pretty much outed her self as at least bisexual.

    Ack! Sorry for rambling. My post is somewhat offtopic as I’m responding more to the artwork that you posted up. A sometimes follow Will Sliney’s work so this piece of artwork led me to your site via google images. Though in the past I’ve occasionally stopped by here and lurked as I’m also admirer of the manga artform.

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