The Middle Ground #99 | Wunga Wunga Wunga Wunga
I admit; if you’d told me that my favorite comic of last week would’ve ended up being The Bionic Woman #1, I’m not sure that I would’ve believed you. That that’s the case, however, feels like the beginnings of a lesson about making this kind of book – and this kind of first issue – work for you in a way that I wouldn’t have expected.
It’s not as if I didn’t think I’d like Bionic Woman; after all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Kevin Smith/Phil Hester/Jonathan Lau Bionic Man series that it spins out of, despite having little nostalgia for the original television series beyond vaguely remembering the slow-motion-running scenes and fond memories of a friend having one of the tie-in dolls when I was, what, three years old or something, and BW started from the advantage – for me, at least – of having Paul Tobin on board as writer. But what completely won me over on the book in a way I hadn’t expected was the fact that it feels like a Paul Tobin comic in a way that I hadn’t expected… Specifically, it feels like Gingerbread Girl, which is something that I couldn’t even vaguely have thought could be the case considering that this is a spin-off tie-in book to a franchise character created more than three decades ago, as opposed to a creator-owned one-off book from last year. What happened?
The devil, as ever, is in the details; unlike, say, Tobin’s Spider-Girl or Marvel Adventures work, there’s a similar digressionary humor at play with the opening of Bionic Woman to the one you find in Gingerbread Girl, a ridiculously fun shift in focus that sees characters introduce Jamie Sommers by telling us “She loves cheesy action movies. Likes to sit alone in theaters watching the films and eating those chocolate candies. The dusty ones. Not the chewy ones,” or “She thinks dogs are better than cats, but that kittens are better than dogs.” Neither of those things are necessary to the plot in any way, but they build Sommers’ character in a way that the on-screen kicking and running and punching doesn’t, and in a way that so few action books seem to care about anymore.
Similarly, meeting Jamie’s friend Nora who, judging from this first issue, is less centrally involved in the core story and more there to remind Jamie of the life she left behind – A supporting character! There’s something that feels old-fashioned and luxurious about Nora, that makes the book stand out as so enjoyable and… I don’t know, confident and not in too much of a rush to impress or shock or whatever the reader. Instead, Bionic Woman seems to want to charm the reader, and I love that about it. There’s a smartness and patience to it that stands out that’s completely refreshing; it’s not a first issue that seems desperate to be liked, but one that’s ready for you to get it and completely ready for you not to. A first issue for grown-ups, I’m tempted to say.
(I’ve ignored the art, in part because it really was Tobin’s script that I adored so much, but Leno Carvalho’s art is worth talking about as well – It reminds me of Pat Oliffe’s work in some ways (The faces, perhaps), but with more dynamism in the layouts and acting. This is a good looking issue, arguably better looking that Jonathan Lau’s stuff in the “main” Bionic Man series.)
All throughout the issue, I kept thinking that this was the series that fans of Gingerbread Girl (One of my favorite books of last year, so I may be somewhat biased) would want to read if someone said “Yeah, so the same writer also does mainstream adventure work,” moreso than anything else of his I’ve seen since, maybe, Models, Inc awhile back. I have no idea whether theres any real crossover between the audiences other than me, but I wanted to put the idea out there, in case there eis and they’d skipped Bionic Woman because… well, because it’s Bionic Woman, let’s be honest. People: This just may have been the book you’ve been looking for for some time. You should really track it down and see what you think.