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‘Marvel’s Voices: Pride 2022 #1’ (review)

Written by Charlie Jane Anders, Andrew Wheeler,
Christopher Cantwell, Danny Lore

Art by Lorenzo Susi, Stephen Byrne,
Scott Henderson, Brittney L. Williams

Published by Marvel Comics

 

“Visibility does not equal liberation, but it’s a start” are the first words you read when you open Marvel’s latest showcase of LGBTQ+ characters and creators.

Those words are the title of a foreword by Alex Phillips, an executive at JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. She then delivers a brief history of how queer characters were erased from comics, and their representation had to exist only in subtext of Marvel’s (and others’) superhero books.

Northstar, Marvel’s first out gay superhero, came out in a 1992 issue of Alpha Flight, and I took 20 years before he got to marry.

Like similar Pride editions from the Big Two, a lot of the stories contained therein land squarely on visibility. Would you like some lovey-dovey stories of queer superheroes in love? You’re gonna get ’em, by the bushel.

The thrill is in the visibility, I know. That doesn’t stop stories such as “Ancient & Modern” by Andrew Wheeler and Brittney L. Williams from being a bit dull, though still bubbly and fun. Hercules and Marvel Boy are the picture of “opposites attract”: the heroic demigod of ancient Greek myth next to the galaxy-hopping spaceman; the harebrained, emotional adventurer and the analytical brainiac. (The muscle bear and the twink, too, given how Williams draws the duo.) Somehow they have time to avert a galaxy-threatening disaster while discussing the nature of their relationship. Because of course they do!

Those stories serve their purpose, though stories such as “LGBT-D” fit my taste of knowing humor and insights that bend a familiar story into new directions. Writer Grace Freud and artist Scott B. Henderson deliver a rich, action-packed short that catches us up with gay hero Demolition Man while introducing a new group of superpowered transgender and non-binary teens.

The teens sound authentically like kids, Spider-Man gets some fun quips, and the new characters are fun. Plus there are Easter eggs of queerness such as naming the LGBTQ+ center after gay comic artist Matt Baker, and basing one of the teens off trans pop star Sophie. Let’s see the teens again, please!

It’s also funny to have two Loki stories showcasing the god of lies as a chaotic pansexual in Alyssa Wong and Stephen Byrne’s “All My Exes in the Nexus,” and again as a myopic edgelord throwing the worst Pride Month party in cold-ass Jotenheim in “Over the Rainbow,” with art by Lorenzo Susi and written by Keep It! podcast celebration Ira Madison III. Both stories can be taken as playing on prejudice against bi/pan people, or downright supporting those prejudices.

I also enjoy the stories that just operate like full-length Marvel comic books; they’re the toughest level to hit. “Stay Outta My Mind Turf, Jack” by Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Cantwell and Kei Zama, could have been an entire limited series or story arc. A nefarious mind palace? Biker gang movie? All with a lesbian love story between Moondragon and Phyla-Vell? Yes, please.

Another story in that top tier in a project such as this is “Permanent Sleepover” by Charlie Jane Anders Art by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, which works as setup for super-thieving teens Shela Sexton and Morgan Red. The juxtaposition of the current action with flashbacks drawn like Peanuts is obvious, but so effective and well done. So well done I plan on checking out the continuation of their story in New Mutants #31.

The issue also contains several backmatter pages of Marvel Encyclopedia entries on queer characters appearing and referenced in Marvel’s Voices: Pride 2022 #1, including some who were introduced long ago but only now get to be out.

Because whether in comics or in real life, queer folks have always been here, even when you don’t see them. Visibility isn’t liberation, as our current events clearly illustrate. But it’s still thrilling to see the little piece of liberation that happens when people long cast aside are finally recognized.

Grade: A

 

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