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Avengelyne - Issue #1 Review: Is This Bad Girl Any Good?

Avengelyne #1 is a revival of a
character that might be familiar to anyone who’s familiar with one of
the sadder parts of the early 90s comics speculator craze. The Bad
Girl glut.

Spurred by the success of characters
like Chaos Comics’ Lady Death, trend-following comics companies
flooded the stands with comics starring “bad girls.” What did it
take to be a bad girl? Basketball-sized breasts, a nasty attitude and
as little clothing as possible were key. Lady Death shared the stands
with other ludicrously endowed and scantily clad ladies like Barb Wire, Tarot, Ghost,
Witchblade, Purgatori and, my favorite just for pun in the name,
Warrior Nun Areala. 

Avengelyne

The new Avengelyne is blond, so this cover is a bit confusing.


Some of
these books actually had a sense of humor about themselves or some
serious intent and managed to be good, like William Tucci’s Shi and the
short-lived Broadway Comics’ short-lived Fatale. For the most part,
though, the bad girl comics are the kind of hypersexualized,
stereotypical male fantasy comics that you probably are going to
conveniently fail to mention when you’re defending the medium as
serious artform that’s inclusive to all genders and doesn’t just
cater to horny and socially awkward teenage boys.

The original Avengelyne was one of Rob
Liefeld’s stabs at the market. It started in 1995 and the character
was physically based on a real person with experience playing a bad girl, Vampirella model Cathy Christian. I make a habit of buying
collections and comics in lots so I have several issues of the
original Avengelyne series and may possibly have read some of them.
If I did they made so little impression I don’t remember them, so I’m
effectively a new reader for the purposes of this review.

The new Avengelyne is written by
Liefeld and Mark Poulton with art and colors from Owen Gieni. It’s
one comic where it’s better to start from the back, because there’s a
two-page, semi-helpful recap of the previous Avengelyne’s career
there. Broad strokes, she’s some kind of war angel who was banished
to earth and a human body. She had a husband who turned out to be a
demon and a kid who turned into a demon and tried to kill her as soon
as he was born. Hate when that happens.

The new comic gets the demonic angle
covered early, starting with a lurid murder of a stripper or porn
star. She’s strapped to a table and killed by what looks like a moral
majority type who quotes scripture has a hangup about sex. When she tells the knife wielding killer she’ll do “anything” if he lets her go, he says that’s what
got her in trouble in the first place, then “Shunk!” This guy sees a
demon when he looks in the mirror so he’s either demon-possessed or a
demon in disguise.

We then cut to a strip show with a
performance by Heaven Starr, a bond porn star who looks nothing like
the old brunette Avengelyne. Actually, she looks a lot like Ke$ha.
Heaven sees a heavenly light right after taking her top off and and
becomes amnesiac. She’s kicked out of the strip show and wanders the
streets and beats up some apparently demonic bums, then goes to
Heaven’s apartment and meets her supporting cast. There’s an abusive
drug dealing boyfriend, and a lesbian sidekick who suggests a nice
bath. The bath does the trick and helps Heaven remember that she is
Avengelyne even if she’s in a new body and that her mission is to kick devil ass. There’s a final
reveal where someone who’s very familiar to Avengelyne shows up, but
I won’t spoil it. Mostly because I’m not sure I understood it, this
person or entity doesn’t introduce itself.

The story in this first issue is a bit
pedestrian, there’s not really any satisfying action (one fight with
a bum doesn’t count) so it’s a lot of slow setup. At least it’s told
with relatively minimal exposition, the dialogue has a few clunkers
like when the lesbian sidekick explains to her best friend who she
is, but it isn’t that bad.

The characterization is weak, though.
We don’t really get to know Heaven or Avengelyne that well except
that the real Avengelyne is a bit imperious and aggressive and that
both women like slutty clothes. It’s kind of a grim story, too,
taking itself rather seriously and without a lot of humor.

It’s a bit hard to tell at this point
if this book is a more positive depiction of women than the old bad
girl books. You’ve got porn stars strapped to tables and knifed,
kicked out in winter street naked and molested by bums and
boyfriends, plus cheesecake on just about every page. But Avengelyne
is also a strong woman, literally and figuratively, and refuses to
put up with the abuse Heaven would have suffered.

If the story is a weakness, the art by Gieni is a major strongpoint. It’s lurid and detailed with some obvious manga
influences in his stylized, expressive figures. He makes great use of
color as well, like a stripping scene that’s awash in purplish pink.
It’s not a brown and gray book. His cheesecake poses also have manga
influences, he gives us skinnier girls with big eyes. The boobs are
actually reasonable for a bad girl book.

There’s some cursing and some gore in
this book, it’s definitely a mature reader’s title. It doesn’t go all
out with the nudity, though, for the most part naughty bits are
obscured.

From a new reader’s perspective, I’d
have to give the book a pass just on the mediocre story. But flip
through it and check out the art, it might strike your fancy enough
to consider giving the book a try.

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