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March 18th, 2007

Read the first trade paperbacks of two comic series this week, one that has been canceled and one that has avoided the dreaded pit of cancellation twice and which I will suggest everyone start reading so it can boost itself up into a "no idea of canceling again" zone.

NEXTWAVE Vol. 1: "If you like anything, you will love NEXTWAVE." You know what? Truer words have never been placed onto the back of a book. This is the kind of series where all I needed to do was look at the shiny, shiny cover and I knew I was going to adore everything about the comic in a way that would remind my heart of true & pure love. The art is gorgeous and character designs fun, funky, and refreshing. The writing is heartlessly heartful and full of parody that WORKS. Instead of having a 'too-cool' tone, Dirk Anger and the glimpses of Cable, the Avengers, and the Celestials sneak into the story like ninjas of the night, stealing all habits to take the referenced characters too seriously, and then those same ninjas make sweet sweet love to your nubile senses of humor.

There's not one character or moment in this book that didn't hit its intended bullseye. (In that way, for me, this is the Firefly of comic books--and also because I didn't about either until after they got axed. IT'S NOT MY FAULT WHY GOD WHY.) I spent an entire day reading this book, on and off, because I kept staring at the art and screaming to myself over the funnies. Also, I want to have a lesbian love affair with Elsa.

So. *sniff* I don't know whether to go buy the back issues or wait for TPB #2 to come out. *sniffsniff*

Manhunter Vol. 1: I, uh, officially broke my DC hymen and I fear there's no going back.

Kate Spencer (Manhunter) is the female comic character I have dreamed about, made into reality. The reality of comics, that is. The author of this series puts it best in his intro when he says: "This book contains a female protagonist. Who smokes. Who is divorced. Who has slightly better maternal skills than Mrs. Bates. Who resides not in Gotham or Metropolis, but Los Angeles. Who isn't afraid to kill in the name of justice. And most shocking of all for a super-heroine, she doesn't wear a metal bra, stripper heels, or a T-back thong while fighting crime."

(FYI, that doesn't mean she isn't an incredibly and believably attractive crime-fighter and woman. /shallow)

All of that impresses me but the facet of her character that really sucked me in most of all is the realistic relationship she has with her son. After all, this is a woman who juggles a legal profession in the day and then decides to take on the nightly practice of hunting down dangerous, superhuman criminals that the system couldn't deal with adequately. In my experience with comic books, I was expecting this series to throw out the "but somehow she's a great mother!" to garner instant sympathy but pigeonhole her femininity at the expense of characterization. Instead, she is shown as failing in keeping up with her custody schedule as well as being at a loss on the exact how of shaping up her role as a mother, even though she knows that she's falling behind in that area. (You know all those movies about dads trying to keep up with the standards their ex-wives expect in child-rearing? Finally, the chick gets the chance to be the parent who needs work.)

Moments like Kate trying and failing to maintain a meaningful conversation with her young son, jumping roofs and barely making it even with the help of claw-like gauntlets, or ruling out dignity in favor of a cigarette by lighting one with a gas stove when she can't find a lighter are what make me connect sharply with her character. I'm just so damn happy to have found a superhero comic with a female main character that doesn't annoy me in any aspect. That, and the supporting character who so far are very appealing (pretty and gay co-council! ex-tech-guy to the baddies who is neat and also constantly pwned by strong women!) and plot that keeps me interested and appearances by regular DC heroes that don't bug me. And, perhaps most important of all, consistent and quality art throughout the series--a rare thing for little-comics-that-could.

There's two trade paperbacks out for these series and I plan to pick up the next one and catch up on back issues so I can buy the current issues and do my little part to make sure this more than worthy series continues. Yes, I find this a noble cause. Shush, you. Fall in line behind me instead! Later on in the series, there is Kate-Wonder Woman subtext of the Amazonian justice variety. And an appealing, canon, romantic relationship between two adult men, thus trumping Marvel where only teenagers can be gay apparently. Now doesn't that sound like something worth reading?

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