Well, this one was interesting. As usual, I walked straight into a story having no idea what to expect. I picked this up because Monica Rambeau is my Captain Marvel. You see, when I was reading the Avengers in the early to mid-’80s, she was on the team. So I was interested in seeing how she has been reimaged over the years, and I saw she was a part of the Marvel Divas miniseries.
It also helped that Felicia Hardy, whose Black Cat I also strongly associate with the same era via the Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man series, was also on the cover. I was familiar with Patsy Walker’s Hellcat from The Defenders (still would like to check out that 2008 miniseries), so that was cool, too. Angelica Jones, Firestar, is the least recognizable of the bunch for me.
For whatever reason, I never watched Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on Saturday mornings. It’s strange because it aired when I was really getting into comics, and even then I was exclusively a Marvel kid. But when it came time to plop myself down in front of the TV for some mindless wonder on Saturday mornings, I was strictly a Super Friends fan. So I have no real exposure to Firestar, a character created specifically for the Spider-Man cartoon because the legal rights to their first choice, Human Torch, were tied up.
Marvel Divas isn’t a romp, and it’s not a comic book version of Sex and the City mixed with My Life on the D-List – although that’s how the first 20 pages of the first issue play it. We’re introduced to the four “Marvel Divas” and their relatively fabulous single lifestyle, even if they aren’t A-list superheroes. We get updated on what all the girls have been up to, with the exception of Angelica. Beyond references to her former fiancé Vance Astrovik, Justice, there isn’t much background or current goings on revealed for Firestar in the first issue. Until the last three pages of the first issue.
And in those final pages of issue #1, the book turns on you. That’s where we find out Angelica’s found a lump in her breast.
The remaining three issues have “b” plots for Monica and Felicia. Monica, who spent time cleaning up a post-Katrina New Orleans with Black Panther, Luke Cage, Blade, and Brother Voodoo, now has to deal with her complicated relationship with the newly renamed Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Voodoo, and Felicia is struggling to finance an upstart detective agency and deal with her relationship with Thomas Fireheart, the Puma. But the main story is Angelica’s fight with cancer and Patsy’s attempts to help her friend deal with it.
It seems Patsy is a writer. She’s written a tell-all autobiography called Like a Cat Outta Hell, and the first issue opens with her book launch party held on the roof of the Baxter Building, the home of the Fantastic Four. And once her friend is diagnosed with cancer, Patsy begins writing about the experience for Redbook.
But Patsy’s ex-husband Daimon Hellstrom keeps popping up. Determined to help her friend, Patsy agrees to spend “one night” in Daimon’s realm in exchange for Angelica being 100% cured. Of course, he’s Son of Satan, so what Patsy doesn’t know is that one night in Hell lasts forever. The final issue is the remaining three girls’ battle to bring Patsy back from Hell. Ultimately, all Daimon really wanted was a higher page count in Patsy’s autobiography. In the end, to return from Hell, Patsy makes a new deal with Daimon: Angelica goes back to “playing the odds” (i.e., she’s no longer cured of her breast cancer by supernatural means), and when the paperback edition of Like a Cat Outta Hell is published Patsy will include two new chapters devoted to telling the world she is still in love with Daimon.
So at first glance, Daimon is the only one who really gets what he wants in the story. Really bizarre way to end this thing. Oh, and Felicia is able to open her detective agency with the help of underworld money, and Angelica is cured through modern medicine.
What isn’t clear is that after it’s established that Patsy is writing a piece for Redbook on the cancer ordeal, parts of the subsequent issues are framed as her on her laptop chronicling events. If that were the case, wouldn’t Daimon be pissed that she revealed that the two chapters that will appear in the paperback book aren’t genuine? I donno. It just seemed a little sloppy.
The cancer plot enables some cool cameos: Night Nurse, Doctor Strange, Hank Pym. Early on we get to see “A-listers” like Emma Frost (White Queen), Ororo Munroe (Storm), Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk), and Sue Storm (Invisible Woman) crash the book party. Late in the series, we’re clued in that Danny Rand (Iron Fist) conducts a Saturday morning “Zen yoga class” for all the hot super heroines in New York City. That means we get Sue and Jennifer again, along with Tigra, the Inhumans’ Crystal, and others.
I enjoyed Croatian artist Tonci Zonjic’s work in this collection. It’s simple, but expressive. The covers, especially Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic’s for issue #4, are beautiful. Also included in the collected edition is Patrick Zircher’s 1970s Variant for issue #1, and Zonjic’s issue #3 page layouts and character sketchbook. That last item was the most fascinating to me. There are two pages of sketches for each of the four girls, and it was interesting to see the thought put into the character development. Everything from the heights of the girls to how their wardrobes should reflect their personalities to the smallest of details (Felicia Hardy has “Nicole Kidman eyebrows, green eyes”).
I’m still not sure how much I like Marvel Divas. The story felt a little too “easy” at times, especially at the end, but I understand that it’s a limited series and things have to be wrapped up neatly. Regardless, I’m still planning to read Patsy Walker: Hellcat at some point down the road.