It’s the second year of Marvel’s Voices: Pride, so we’re doubling up on the reviewing with a team-up featuring The Beat’s all-trans power couple Avery Kaplan (she/her) and Rebecca Oliver Kaplan (she/he). This review has SPOILERS, so scroll on down to the Rapid Rundown for a quick review of X-Men #12 and New Mutants #26.
What did you think of this week’s fresh Marvel Comics issues? Let The Beat know, here in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat.
Marvel’s Voices: Pride (2022) #1
Lettered by: Ariana Maher w/ Clayton Cowles
Cover by: Nick Robles
“All My Exes in the Nexus”
Written by: Alyssa Wong
Pencils, Inks, & Colors by: Stephen Byrne
AVERY: First of all, great title. I laughed out loud a few times at this one. Wong is great at writing Loki, no matter which Variant (although there will always be a special place in my heart for her depiction of Alligator Loki). Byrne’s page layouts are out of this world, especially when America’s on-the-fritz powers have her punching between gutters (and running into Spider-Ham).
“Ancient & Modern”
Story by: Andrew Wheeler
Pencils & Inks by: Brittney L. Williams
Colors by: José Villarrubia
REBECCA OLIVER: First, I want to note that it appears Marvel Comics upped its game for the second annual Pride issue in terms of how many trans and nonbinary creators worked on the anthology (according to Wheeler’s Twitter bio, the writer uses he/they pronouns). I am not as familiar with Marvel Boy, created by Grant Morrison and based on David Bowie, and Hercules, whose starring role in 2021’s Guardians of the Galaxy Annual by Al Ewing, Flaviano, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Cory Petit was a delight, as other queer heroes. But, I believe the two bisexual men first kissed in GotG #6 by Ewing, Marcio Takara, Federico Blee, and Petit.
As everyone knows, I enjoy a good golem reference. In Jewish folklore, a golem is a creature molded from a lifeless substance and given life by a Rabbi’s ritual incantations to protect the Jewish community from harm. However, in many golem stories, the creature eventually runs amok and becomes a danger to the community. In “Ancient & Modern,” the stone golems have already run amok…but maybe that’s not such a bad thing? The lovebirds seem to enjoy the time together.
AVERY: As soon as I read this, I knew you were going to be stoked about the “golem” line. I’m not that familiar with either of these characters (or their respective status quos) but they had some nice lover’s banter as they battled. I do have to wonder, though… Why not occasionally use that psychedelic saliva when they’re kissing? Fifth base!
Story by: Grace Freud
Pencils by: Scott B. Henderson
Inks by: Lee Townsend
Colors by: Brittany Peer
AVERY: I’ve been waiting for Grace to write a Marvel story since she put the “No More Jerrys” joke in the Rick & Morty: Jerryboree one-shot. We’re introduced to the “Super Trans” support group for trans kids with powers, which is headed up by D-Man. After some awesome action panels, we end on a fantastically groan-worthy gag from Spider-Man that leans heavily on the fourth wall (consider my high Jerryboree standards met). Plus, it was cool to see a trans woman super hero who can take on the guise of D-Man without having her gender identity compromised. Plus any appearance by Lady Octopus is a good appearance!
REBECCA OLIVER: “No More Jerrys!” Love that one-shot (and also, I loved Grace’s virtual signing when the R & M issue came out and want to formally request another one). I am also over the rainbow about Ariana’s decision to use the trans pride flag colors (blue, pink, and white) to fill-in the letters and draw the reader’s attention toward the introduction of the “Super Trans” support group.
Written by: Angélique Roché
REBECCA OLIVER: I get the sense that some younger Marvel Comics readers do not get how it was next to impossible to tell queer stories under the guidelines set by the Comics Code Authority, which expressly disallowed any suggestion of homosexuality. However, that did not stop Marvel’s creators from secretly including LGBTQ+ coded characters in its comic books. Although the CCA’s formal ban ended in 1989, queer rep did not immediately come to comics. Because those were the mainstream comics world that anyone over 30 grew up reading, many of the queer coded characters are an important to a certain generation of reader (no matter how imperfect the rep might seem today). So, I think it’s great that Marvel’s Voices editorial team decided to include an essay about the CCA penned by Roché (who is also an attorney).
AVERY: I especially enjoyed the “case studies” Roché utilized to make her points in this essay. Demonstrating how queer-coded characters can be brought into continuity as more direct representation with specfiic examples is a great way to add perspective and help bring up history that certain readers may not have been aware of, and I thought the placement of this essay was perfect (as one of the those case studies explains how the characters in the next story were originally introduced as queer-coded, not overtly queer).
Story by: Danny Lore
Pencils & Inks by: Lucas Werneck
Colors by: Michael Wiggam
REBECCA OLIVER: Placing Roche’s essay explaining the history of Venomm and Taku’s relationship before “Perfectly Scene” was an excellent editorial decision. I did not know that bit of Marvel history, and learning about the couple’s background enhanced my reading experience.
AVERY: Having just finished the Black Panther Penguin Classics collection, which includes the issues of Jungle Action that contain the “Panther’s Rage” storyline in which Venomm and Taku met, this story couldn’t have come at a better time! In the essay “Panther’s Chronicles,” Don McGregor stated that when he was working on the “Panther’s Rage” storyline, “[w]riting about race, or sexual preferences other than heterosexuality were virtually nil.” McGregor went on to write that while he intended for Taku and Venomm to be gay, he “could not bring the characters out of the closet at the time. It is not enough for a writer to want to do something in this medium. You have to find a way that it can become a paper reality, held in hands, seen by eyes, read and experienced.” It’s deeply satisfying to see how “Perfectly Scene” takes the story that couldn’t be told in Jungle Action in the 1970s and includes it here. Fiction and metafiction are some of the most powerful tools our community has, and this comic wields it well.
REBECCA OLIVER: I generally like Werneck’s art, especially on the X-books, but I think it’s inconsistent in this issue. What I did love is how Werneck captures the rainforest’s unique quality of light courtesy of the sunlight struggling to get through the Wakandan jungle’s emergent layer, which the artist uses expertly to light his characters. However, although I’m aware that body proportions can be incredibly challenging (especially when a character’s in motion), the characters’ funky arm proportions distract me from the rest of the page.
“Stay Outta My Mind Turf, Jack”
Story by: Christopher Cantwell
Pencils & Inks by: Kei Zama
Colors by: Rico Renzi
AVERY: This one was a banger. I enjoyed the structure and the way it throws you into the action without explanation (at first), the weird revelation of what’s actually going on, and of course, the “power-to-the-people” conclusion in which the gangs who have been set against each other by The Man join forces to take down their actual adversary. Plus: that splash page of biker Moondragon shaving her head in a graffiti-laden mirror? Very yes.
REBECCA OLIVER: I am not sure if Cantwell meant for the story’s title to come across as a PSA to the bigots in the trans women aren’t women crowd, but it does: “Stay outta my mind, TERF.” And hey, maybe he did. There is also a tag in the bathroom that reads, “Punch out the patriarchy.” Oh, and the absolute best reference in the ENTIRE anthology is in this, Planet X.
AVERY: And of course… shout-out for The Warriors reference. The Lizzies represent!
REBECCA OLIVER: This story is also an allegorical representation of the early fight for LGBTQ+ rights, like Stonewall and the Christopher Street Liberation Day. With this year’s Pride hot topic being that Pride is more than a party, “Stay Outta My Mind Turf, Jack” is an excellent tribute to the gay liberation movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“Over the Rainbow”
Story by: Ira Madison III
Pencils & Inks by: Lorenzo Susi
Colors by: Rachelle Rosenberg
REBECCA OLIVER: I’ve been running into Rúna a lot lately. And, she always seems to be on a date with a pretty woman (good for her). For Pride Month, Rúna has something bigger planned than another date: Asgard’s first Pride parade. However, when Loki butts in, he Valkyrie’s idea is at risk of becoming Asgard’s version of corporate Pride.
AVERY: This one was a lot of fun, especially the cut-away gag to Thor’s millennia-length party phase. And of course, just as transpired in the political sphere in 2016’s Vote Loki, Loki is the perfect stand-in for those who would co-opt Pride for their own personal agenda (even if that agenda only extends to “get to second base”).
Story by: Charlie Jane Anders
Line art: Ro Stein & Ted Brandt
Colors by: Tamra Bonvillain
Consulting by: Naseem Jamnia
AVERY: First of all, it was very cool to top off (heh) this collection of comics with what amounts to a full-length issue, and as origins go, this one was excellent. Not only does Anders have a good sense of Marvel Comics continuity, she is wise enough to leave “blank spaces” on the map of Escapade’s origin. And while the flashbacks to young Shela & Morgan could have been an expository drag, using Peanuts-style “strips” worked on many levels. For one, it was a fun way to differentiate the flashbacks; for another, it allowed for the depiction of the young trans characters honestly; and third, the consistent three-panel structure of (almost all of) these cut-aways both created an engaging internal rhythm and evoked the newspaper strips to which they pay homage.
REBECCA OLIVER: Including Escapade, in Roché’s CCA essay, she states that there are six new queer characters—yes, SIX queers, along with a genetically altered turtle!—introduced to the Marvel Universe in this year’s Pride issue. Like you refer to, the Peanuts-style flashbacks in “Permanent Sleepover” do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to filling in the back story of Anders’ new young trans characters, detailing the real-world hardships that trans people face, like Shela being disowned by her family, in a way relatable (and disarming?) way to cisgender readers.
AVERY: My feelings on the Krakoa-era X-Men are very close to Shela’s, so I’m curious to see how her appearance in the New Mutants story arc that begins in issue 31 will play out. And just as Somnus joined a team and continued to appear in the Marvel Comics universe after Marvel’s Voices: Pride (2021) #1, I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to see more from Shela in the coming years, because that is one really interesting powerset.
REBECCA OLIVER: It’s great that Marvel already has plans for Escapade to join New Mutants. However, I hope we also get to see more of Morgan Red because their power of transforming any organic material into chocolate is amazing…and more of the genetically altered flying turtle, Hibbert. Also, I would like to point out that it is a huge flex for Marvel Comics to hire The New York Times-bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders to create not one but multiple new queer characters.
As a BIG fan of adorable sidekicks, is Hibbert the next Jeff? And, when do we get a Marvel Infinity Comic about the turtle?
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Entries
Head Writer & Coordinator: Mike O’Sullivan
Coordination Assistance: Carl Farmer & Mike Fichera
Written by: Patrick Duke, Daron Jensen, Luc Kersten, Rob London, Chris McCarver, & Stuart Vandal
Research Assistance: Jeff Christiansen, Anthony Cotilletta, & Jacob Rougemont
Image Refurbishment & Page Design: Carl Farmer
Layout: Stacie Zucker
AVERY: We are huge fans of the Handbooks in our household, so the inclusion of these pages elicited immediate shrieks of delight. Digging in, these pages offered just the story of details that I’m looking for (like a note explaining that it is possible that the Valkyrie of the 2018 Exiles run may be Reality-22681 variant of Rúna). Plus, it was cool to see all of Viv’s lewks in one place.
REBECCA OLIVER: Yes, we both love the Handbooks, and I can’t wait for the ‘89 update to arrive in omnibus form this year. That being said, I can’t believe that Jumbo Carnation didn’t have a Handbook page before this issue! And I must need to read more closely because I did not notice that note explaining that the Valkyrie of the 2018 Exiles run may be Reality-22681 variant of Rúna (as a huge fan of the Exiles stories, swish!).
REBECCA OLIVER: Both Ariana and Clayton’s lettering shined in this anthology. For example, Clayton’s work on the “Young Shela & Morgan” comic strip in “Permanent Sleepover” has uneven dialogue balloon, just like the hand-drawn daily newspaper strip to which it pays homage. Then, at several points throughout the issue, Ariana draws attention to the lettering by using the new Pride flag to color in her design work.
I also really enjoyed all the new characters and cannot wait to read more about them in future Marvel issues. In addition to the new characters mentioned above, Marvel’s Voices: Pride (2022) #1 also introduced a new nonbinary hero, Reed, AKA Aphelion, who can freeze stuff thanks to an empty universe inside them, and trans hero, Nora, AKA Pity Girl, who can control someone’s mind with sad stories (g-d, she sounds like people I’ve met in real life). There is also Rex Ridley, AKA “Good Arson,” who is essentially a trans Firestarter.
Most importantly, I think there are finally enough trans heroes for an all trans superhero team: T4T Team Assemble!
AVERY: I’ve mentioned before that the back (and supplementary) matter of these Marvel’s Voices anthologies can be especially worthwhile, and Marvel’s Voices: Pride (2022) #1 really goes out of its way to demonstrate that. Many will consider this issue worth the buy for the Viv Vision Handbook entry alone (although you don’t want to sleep on the one for Jumbo Carnation).
But obviously, the stories are the main attraction, and there isn’t a bad one in this bunch. Plus, the plethora of trans characters (including multiple trans women characters) is a blessing. I loved the way the Super Trans support group from “LGBT-D” was brought back for a supporting appearance in “Permanent Sleepover,” creating a nice callback in the final story (and emphasizing that no matter how you feel about us, we trans people are going nowhere).
Editor Sarah Brunstad has outdone herself on this one – say true and say thankya. I’m looking forward to the continuation of Escapade’s story in New Mutants #31, and I can’t wait for Marvel’s Voices: Pride (2023) #1. Excelsior!
- Immortal X-Men #3
- In the few months since it started, the current era of X-Books has been nothing short of spectacular. Shenanigans on Arakko, Cerebro becoming sentient, and Otherworld coming under the boot of Merlin are just some of the highlights. However, there’s a reason this era is called the Destiny of X, and Kieron Gillen and Lucas Werneck absolutely know it. Over the past 40-odd years, Destiny has been used as little more than a plot device for writers to toss around whenever they want to foreshadow a future plot beat. But what Gillen does here is give Irene a real sense of agency and power over her life. Yes, we get a new Book of Destiny in this issue, and it feels like there are some uncontrollable elements to the future — but Irene has some voice in how the future develops, and can really impact how the world moves forward (except for one heartbreaking part of it). Not only all of that, but the fleshing out of Destiny’s past is phenomenal, and really gets to the heart (cough MYSTIQUE cough) of why she is the way she is. Werneck and Dijjo Lima are a dream pairing here, and really go for gold in this issue. The sequences have a strong sense of gravity and poise to them, without making the images feel static, and the colors are bright without feeling garish. There’s an exceptional image on the second to last page that really hammers home how amazing this book is on all levels, and I am fully on board for wherever this book goes next (Judgment Day can’t come soon enough). —CB
- New Mutants #26
- A weird textured spin on the hero’s quest, writer Vita Ayala along with artists Rod Reis (main story) and Jan Duursema (flashbacks) have our merry band of Mutants trapped behind enemy lines, struggling to get home. In an attempt to rid herself of the responsibility of ruling Limbo, Magik makes a deal with Madelyne Pryor to take over, but the ceremony is interrupted by the demon S’ym. This juiced-up S’ym is able to destroy Magik’s Soulsword, disabling her control over Limbo and her powers, stranding them in this hellscape. In their attempt to escape they encounter an older Magik variant, armed with a damaged Warlock shard, and it’s with her that they make their stand. A solid chapter in the further development of Illyana Rasputin, the lowkey highlight is a great page of dialog between Magik and Madelyne, insightful and poignant in their interaction. —GC3
- X-Men #12
- Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz’ first year of X-Men comes to a fun conclusion, while setting up some clever pieces for the next year’s worth of stories. Much of this issue is spent resolving the many threads this creative team has laid out, giving us an end to Gamesworld and Ben Urich’s investigation, the latter of which has massive ramifications for the entire X-Line moving forward. There’s a callback to “Born Again” here that made me hopeful for even more Urich in year two. After a bit of a lull, it seems that Dr. Stasis and ORCHIS have some scheming coming our way very soon, and I’m very interested in what sinister machinations Stasis has up his sleeves. The direction going forward is a little clouded, as we’re about to enter both the Hellfire Gala and Judgment Day, but hopefully the future holds a lot more exciting X-Men adventures and a lot more incredible artwork from Larraz and Marte Gracia. —CB
Next week: one of our Jessicas is missing in The Variants #1!