Marvel Divas hasn’t been half the train wreck the covers and solicitation copy suggested it might be. In fact, it’s actually been a rather enjoyable, quirky, slice-of-life piece of superheroine drama that involves super-powered females discussing things other than the men around them. Well, at least some of the time.
However. As much as I want to encourage this sort of sideways look at superheroics, and particularly a positive portrayal of women in them, there’s no escaping the fact that this issue is a bit heavy handed. Firestar’s cancer has always felt like a slightly too self-consciously issue-focussed element of the series, and the daringly accurate portrayal of her experiences with chemotherapy mean that the series is in danger of becoming an informational pamphlet for cancer treatment rather than an interesting story. Let’s look at the flip side: if this book were about Rick Jones undergoing treatment for testicular cancer, would male readers feel spoken down to? Because in my view, the answer is a definite yes.
The focus on Angelica means that the other plots slide into the background – and it’s a little disappointing that the other three characters all end up dealing with their on-again, off-again boyfriends. Apparently, there aren’t any other plots that could be used to define them. Felicia continues her potential backslide into villainy, and it’ll be interesting to see whether this series feeds into her recent Amazing Spider-Man appearances (and, while we’re on the subject – Amazing Spider-Man #607, the latest in a long line of Jeff Campbell covers that make me feel embarrassed to read a comic in public).
Of the entire endeavour, it’s Tonci Zonjic’s artwork that remains the series’ most prominent selling point. Strikingly minimal and yet expressive, it has an indie flavour seen all too infrequently in Marvel’s books. Whatever becomes of the characters following this series, it’s clear that Zonjic’s profile will have been permanently and deservedly raised by the series – let’s just hope that talent isn’t squandered.