Gotham City Sirens: Volume 1

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A while back, I requested a comic that focused on Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn living together and going on adventures. I thought this was a pipe dream, a fangirl fantasy that would never actually come to be. Silly Jess, never underestimate the comics world. As it turns out, I got my wish, with this comic literally following the exploits of Gotham’s favorite femme fatales as they move in together and go on adventures…more or less.

The girls are trying to go straight in the world, but of course are constantly pulled back into the gritty underworld of Gotham.  Whether being framed for crimes they didn’t commit or tying each other up and demanding information, a standard day for these three always consists of some sort of hero and/or criminal behavior.

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There are plenty of “downtime” scenes, but this isn’t a sitcom in comic form.  The girls kick plenty of butt in each and every issue, making for a surprisingly decent set of stories. Then again, they’re written by Paul Dini, who just has a knack for writing these characters as strong, fierce women with the perfect personal failings to make them feel relatable, even when donning outrageous uniforms and engaging in some serious butt-kicking.

Dini’s writing felt spot-on, making each character unique and fun, while also making it clear that you don’t want to get on their bad sides.  While the writing was perfect and fun and expanded on the characters wonderfully, the artwork was sadly lacking.  It wasn’t poorly drawn or colored by any means, but unfortunately the artists fell into the same old trap of writing an woman-centric comic specifically for the male gaze.

What do I mean by that?

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This. This is what I mean. This isn’t an isolated incident, which could be overlooked. Time and time again this comic graces us with images of each character’s butt and boobs, emphasizing them in the most ridiculous panel layouts imaginable.  Why is Poison Ivy shown from the waist down, from behind? This takes the whole “artistic angle” concept and morphs it to fit what the artists believe their viewers want to see. Sure, I’m sure there are plenty of male readers out there who might pick up this comic for the sole purpose of seeing a few scantily clad, overdrawn characters, but quite frankly, that’s what the internet and fan-art is for.  The comics should be about the story and the artwork, and for me these images were far too common.  They took me out of the story, and I found myself rolling my eyes throughout most of this trade, knowing that Ivy, Harley, and Selina would no doubt be posed in the most ludicrous positions possible whenever I turned the page.

In summation: story and artwork good. Overt sexualization of your women characters for the sake of being “sexy”, bad.

Thankfully, Dini’s stories were interesting enough to salvage this comic for me. Yes, the artwork was frustrating beyond belief, but his stories drew upon countless pieces of continuity, helping ground the issues in Gotham’s lore while still being able to exist on their own.

One of my favorite throwback storylines follows up on Selina’s sister Maggie.  This comic summarizes everything that happened to her with Black Mask (helpful, since that particular trade isn’t currently on “the shelf”).  Distraught over what she’s suffered and essentially having broken from reality, Maggie believes her sister is possessed by a cat demon, and that it’s up to her to save her.

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Maggie herself becomes possessed by an “angel” who makes her much more powerful, and tries to take down Selina.  Selina makes it out alive, but her sister is still on the run, determined to save her sibling from the demon possessing her.  I enjoyed the reference to a smaller side character, one who doesn’t pop up outside of a Catwoman comic too often.  Dini manages to tie his stories into the main continuity really well, expanding on storylines that haven’t been followed up on in a while and helping make a more complete picture, even for smaller characters.  It’s a skill not all writers have, but I like that previous relationships and alliances are referenced in the story, adding a sense of history to everything that’s going on.

Overall, the stories here are great, and I’m looking forward to reading the second trade.  That being said, I’m also hoping that the artists change, because I can’t stand looking at these girls’ awkwardly contorted bodies all for the sake of getting their butt and boobs visible in the same panel. NOBODY STANDS LIKE THAT EVER, LEAST OF ALL WHEN THEY’RE STRIKING A DEFENSIVE/OFFENSIVE FIGHTING POSE.  I don’t understand why certain artists can’t grasp this concept. Seriously, I’ve tried to mimic some of the poses I’ve seen in comics before (in the comfort of my totally empty living room. I do have some dignity, after all), and they’re completely ridiculous.  They don’t make sense for anything, other than that maybe it creates an appealing visual for anyone in the vicinity (at least maybe when other people do it. I just fall over).

Am I ranting? Absolutely. This is just a major pet peeve of mine though, and frustrates me that the comics industry is completely alienating HALF of their potential readership.  I’ve vented on this poor trade’s post long enough though, and since I know I could go on for another 2,000 words, I’ll stop now.

My compromise for this? Let them make a Batman: The Animated Series spin-off based on this comic, using the original artwork style. Now THAT I would watch the heck out of, please and thank you.