Gunblast Girls Volume 1: In Your Face, Loser!
Crisse (Writer and Artist), Besson (Colours)
April 18, 2018
Mercenary Zdenka has a job to finish which will leave her wealthy beyond her imagination. But to complete her mission she needs help and not just from the Gunblast Girls, her crew. Zdenka already has the rest of her team assembled; what she really needs is a great pilot. That is where Wasp comes in.
Wasp is Zdenka’s former pilot who has yet to forgive the Gunblast Girls for abandoning her during a heist some time ago. Wasp has been living a new life as a bar entertainer on a dull planet when Zdenka finds her. Despite how boring her new job is, Wasp refuses to rejoin the team on principle. But when a group of obnoxious miners from the bar attack her and Zdenka, Wasp finds herself agreeing to join the Gunblast Girls in an effort to escape them.
Before she knows it, Wasp is onboard the Mama, Zdenka’s ship. Alongside her is the rest of the team: Rodriguez and Gretchen, as well as a surly teenager and her pet dragon. Together, they set course for their final destination, where they will drop off the girl and receive their reward.
But things are about to get complicated. The surly teenager aboard isn’t just any young girl. She has powers, strong enough to send the Mama hurtling across the universe to an unknown planet. Can Zdenka get her crew back to safety? Who exactly is this girl? And why are other corporates after her?
The book’s blurb described the team as “big-hearted bad girls” who “fear no man or god,” which was generic enough to pique my interest. But what I was really excited about was that this adventure/sci-fi comic featured an all-female cast of protagonists, including women of colour, still a rarity in comics.
The cover features the quartet of heroines, plus the teenager, sporting guns against a background of spaceships and alien planets. I tried to ignore the characters’ odd sense of fashion, which can best be described as bondage fetish-wear. My hope was that the cover was merely an attention-seeking gimmick and that within the pages of the book, the heroines would be more aptly represented. I was wrong.
The first page gives an inkling of the horrors to come. The opening scene is set in a strip club, scantily-clad gyrating female bodies and all. Protagonist Zdenka is soon revealed and, well, the cover wasn’t lying. Zdenka’s outfit is as inane as the cover professed, as is Wasp’s. Their fellow Gunblast Girls, Rodriguez and Gretchen, wear fatigues, but their vests have extreme necklines that make one question whether they are vests at all. Not even the teenager is exempt from such sexualised clothing. It is further exacerbated by the fact that the characters keep griping about Wasp’s barmaid dress being “slutty” when their everyday-wear is actually even less practical. Suspension of disbelief can only go so far!
The fetish clothing serves to exaggerate the female characters’ hypersexualised and wildly unrealistic bodies. Massive gravity-defying chests, tiny waists and wide hips, not to mention the upskirt shots and spine-breaking pin-up poses … The art here is so 1980s that I had to double-check the date of publication. No mistake, this was released in 2017 in Dutch and German and translated to English in 2018.
There are several uses of racist slurs. Wasp is clearly of South-East Asian origin, and she is, at various times, described as “exotic,” “slant-eyed,” and a “geisha girl.” What. The. Actual. Hell? Really, in 2018?
Had writer Crisse chosen to assign these words to the villains, I could still have tried to give it a pass, but even the Gunblast Girls describe Wasp as such. There can be absolutely no excuse for this kind of overt racist language in a 2018 comic book. To make matters worse, alongside the racism and questionable art, there is a helpful dose of fatphobia.
The problems do not end there. The female characters do not speak like women! Wasp makes slight remarks about Gretchen’s voluptuous chest by joking about the seat belt not being able to reach over her “airbags.” At one point, when Zdenka is particularly grumpy, Rodriguez makes a “she must be on her period” joke. These are the kind of statements men would make—just read the #EverydaySexism hashtag on Twitter for evidence—which women have been opposing for years. It is such an obvious tell that the book was written and drawn by a man for a teenage male readership.
Writer and artist Crisse has over 70 comics to his name and a penchant for drawing hyper-sexualised female characters. But, this comic is so mind-bogglingly male gaze-y, it is a mystery how it was allowed to be published in its final state in this era of “woke-ness.”
Sadly, even the plot cannot redeem this book. According to the blurb, readers are meant to follow the protagonists “through multiple layers of the space-time continuum.” That is not what happens, though. The characters only once go to an unknown planet but, for the majority of the narrative, they appear to remain within our solar system. There is very little that actually happens, and the characters’ actions are spurred on more by their mistakes rather than an actual goal. The book even includes an unnecessary detour to a casino planet (sound familiar?), which leads to the Gunblast Girls being found by the villains. It feels like unnecessary padding (pardon the pun) to fill out the pages of a book with little to no plot.
Gunblast Girls ends on a kind of cliffhanger, but whether readers, especially female readers, will feel inclined to continue with the series is debatable. This book is overtly targeted towards male readers and has such an outmoded aesthetic that it feels like it was created three decades ago. There is very little to recommend this story, so we will not bother to do so. Avoid this one for your own sanity.