Review: Miss Fury #1

Crop of cover for Tarpe Mills & Miss Fury, The Best of the 1940s, edited by Trina Robbins

Miss Fury Vol 2, #1, cover by Tula Lotay, Dynamite 2016Miss Fury Vol. 2, #1

Corinna Bechko (writer), Jonathan Lau (illustrator), Vinicius Andrade (colorer), Simon Bowland (letterer)
April 6, 2016

Disclaimer: This review is based on an advanced review copy from Dynamite and may contain spoilers.

Somehow Dynamite relaunching Miss Fury as a part of their recent relaunch of lady-centric comics slipped past my comics radar. The official announcement about Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, and Vampirella’s relaunch had me intrigued, but learning about Miss Fury really spiked my interest.

I vaguely knew Miss Fury as one of the first superheroines in comics and the first one created by a woman, June Tarpe Mills, who often went by the more gender neutral name Tarpe Mills. Debuting in newspapers in 1941, Mills’ Miss Fury is a New York socialite named Marla Drake who acquires a ceremonial robe that her uncle stole from an “African witch doctor” (some pretty classic racism, right there!). The robe, a panther pelt, grants Drake superior fighting skills and a desire for flagrantly disregarding the gendered expectations of a bored socialite. Miss Fury’s original incarnation is Noir-ish with undertones of BDSM, and as Mills was a fashion illustrator prior to her work on comics, the costuming is to die for.   

Miss Fury paper dolls by June Tarpe Mills, courtesy of the Quality Companion blog
Miss Fury comics often included paperdolls, via The Quality Companion.

With all that in mind, I had to review the first issue written by Corinna Bechko (Aliens/Vampirella, Lara Croft, Planet of the Apes, Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman, Star Wars), and drawn by Jonathan Lau (Battlestar Galactica, John Carter, Jennifer Blood, Red Sonja) with a Tula Lotay cover to boot. While I haven’t read any of Bechko’s prior work, I am pretty jazzed to see a woman writer on Miss Fury. (If you want to learn a little bit more about Bechko, Janelle Asselin interviewed her for Comics Alliance’s column Hire This Woman.)

Now that you know a little bit about Miss Fury and the new team, I can explain to you why you should pick up this first issue.  

The setting is still 1940s New York, but this time around Marla Drake is a senior marine engineer. She’s working on a not-quite secret government project, but someone wants to get their hands on her designs. After some louts break into her office, she turns Miss Fury on them, but is unable to save her designs. The police start investigating, but obviously Drake does not hesitate to take things into her own hands.

As Bechko is a trained zoologist who now works full time as a writer, transforming Drake from a bored socialite to a female engineer in the 1940s is all kinds of awesome. For one, it becomes immediately evident in the dialogue that Bechko has not only done her research into the era, but that she also knows a thing or two about the topic. Additionally, the dialogue is quick and snappy with some fun 1940s colloquialisms thrown in for authenticity. This makes for a fast-paced story with strong characterization from the get-go. All in all, the story is a solid and intriguing debut for the new Miss Fury comic.

There are three other moments throughout this issue that are the icing on the cake. For one, there is a scene where a guy attacks Drake and her companion, Mr. Corey. Corey tries to play the hero, but Drake isn’t having it. After the two take the attacker down, Corey has to pull Drake off the assailant now that he “is no longer a threat.” This scene stands out because it reads less like “yay, girl power” and more like Drake might just have a bit of a temper. I can relate.

Miss Fury Vol 2, #1, words by Corinna Bechko and art by Jonathan Lau, Dynamite 2016Second, the antagonist is a lady! Miss Fury was known for female-on-female violence, but as someone who loves her some lady villains, I was pleased as punch to see this development. And finally, I appreciate that the creators kept Peri-Purr, Miss Fury/Marla Drake’s kitty-cat that Mills modeled and named after her own little fluffbutt.

Lau draws Miss Fury athletic and lithe, which leaves me no longer as concerned for how Miss Fury manages all those athletic feats without upper back problems. She gives a beating and takes a beating. Compared with the fashionable polish and aloof chicness of Mills’ 1940s comic, this version is explosive, but still carries a Noir-ish vibe.

My only complaint is the paneling. There’s a lot of white space between panels, which highlights the action well, but takes the reader out of the story, and in particular, mitigates the Noir vibe. When noticing this, I thought of how the team on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina uses sepia hues, minimal gutters, and fuzzy panel outlines to give the sense of finding something “in a flea market.” While the same elements would not befit this Noir-themed comic, a similar aesthetic goal would. What if picking up Miss Fury felt like finding a treasured example of 1940s Noir comics? I think that would add heft to an already stellar story.

Now, please excuse me, while I go hunt down more of Beckho’s work.

Ginnis Tonik

Ginnis Tonik

Smashing the patriarchy with glitter, pink lipstick, and cowboy boots. You can follow her on Instagram @ginnistonik