Invisible Woman #2
Joe Caramagna (letterer), Adam Hughes (cover artist), Mattia de Iulis (artist), Mark Waid (writer)
August 7th, 2019
I like to think of myself as a fairly friendly audience, relatively speaking, especially when it comes to serial narrative. Serial narrative requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, since if the writing is good; you should have no idea what’s going to happen next. And when you trust a storyteller, you tend to cut them a little bit of slack and “wait-and-see.” Or maybe that’s just me. The point is, when I reviewed Invisible Woman #1, I was fairly generous in my critique about elements that could not really be analyzed from the first issue alone.
Unfortunately, Invisible Woman #2 has really disappointed me—not necessarily due to the pacing (although it definitely continued the trend of taking twenty pages to do what could have been covered in ten), but because of the characterization, which makes me question, again, the intended audience for this comic. We’re only two issues in, and unfortunately the Adam Hughes prophesy looks like it’s going to come true. Which, just to reiterate, is extremely disappointing. Sue Storm gets her first solo miniseries, ever, and it has an all-male creative team, a cover artist known for oversexualized covers, and a story line that goes out of its way to keep Sue from interacting with her family and other women (I noted in my previous review that until Natasha shows up on the very last page, Sue doesn’t have any interactions with any women whatsoever).
That trend continues in Invisible Woman #2, which devotes even more unnecessary pages to Sue’s relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Aidan (who I really, really wish had been a woman). And, unlike the previous issue, it actually passes the Bechdel-Wallace test. But what’s upsetting is that Sue and Natasha, for no reason that I can see, have an antagonistic relationship. Natasha, apparently, does not respect Sue’s skills as a spy and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and Sue seems to think that Natasha is an egotist. It makes absolutely no sense. But I guess I should have known that would be the case, thanks to the pseudo-bondage cover that features Sue “tied up” in a spider’s web made of barbed wire and featuring Natasha with an extremely large phallus—I mean, gun between her spread legs.
I will admit that I haven’t read every issue featuring Sue and Natasha ever. I don’t actually know if they’ve ever interacted before. But history and past interactions aside, it’s an extremely odd choice to have Sue be antagonistic with the first woman she’s been allowed to interact with in a series supposedly intended to give Sue a life outside of the Fantastic Four. Sue, apparently, isn’t allowed to be friends with other women. It’s a narrative choice that reaffirms that women are not the intended audience for this series about one of the most powerful women in the Marvel universe. I’m not sure that’s ironic or just infuriating. It also strikes me as short-sighted since Marvel keeps teasing at rebooting the Fantastic Four (again), this time with ties to the MCU. Because nothing sells comics about women than series where they don’t interact with other women except antagonistically, and completely removed from all of their important canon relationships.
I hate writing negative reviews, so I’ll add that I do like the art by Mattia de Iulis. The colors continue to be soft, lingering in interesting ways, and the framing choices for the panels keep the objectification to a minimum, which is such a contrast to the Hughes covers—and a good one. This is only his second book for Marvel, but I would love to see him on a series like Zdarsky’s Daredevil, because Matt deserves to be lovingly and softly rendered.
Issue #3 comes out September 11th, and already the cover art has me cringing, because nothing says Sue Storm more than a Marilyn Monroe homage.
Right now I can’t think of a single thing that would make me recommend this series to someone else. It hasn’t brought me any insight into Sue’s character, but I guess that’s not important, since Marvel thinks that the main audience for a Sue Storm miniseries is male. It reminds me of how the CW was convinced that the main audience for Supernatural was white men, ages 18-24. It only took them fourteen years to figure out that wasn’t the case. Hopefully it’ll take Marvel less.