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One Punch Reviews #49: Birth of Venus

If you’ve only followed superheroes through the big screen movies, you may be surprised to find that their comic counterparts have had pretty brutal storylines. We are long past the “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore!” to “Don’t set foot in a comic shop without your parent’s permission.” Particularly heinous are comics where Sue Dibny (Elongated Man’s wife) gets raped by supervillain Dr. Light and Jeph Loeb’s Ultimatum, which included heartwarming scenes like The Thing crushing Dr. Doom’s head and The Wasp getting eaten by a cannabilistic Blob.

And I haven’t even gotten to the far more gruesome stories written by Garth Ennis and Mark Millar. (In fact, in one of the stories, a supervillain gets revenge on the hero by impregnating his daughter with his gay son’s DNA … and if anyone tried to abort the fetus, the girl’s womb would collapse. Ungh.)

Long story short, it seems that the modern superhero comic market seems to be targeted exclusively toward juggalos. In comparison, Birth of Venus, where the superheroine gets her powers as a side effect to rape, is pretty damn sunny.

The creative team behind Birth of Venus are Andrew Makishima, Matthew Rice, and Rory Walsh. The comic opens with our heroine, Mara Mercury, in costume drifting down from the sky and crashing into an alley. It’s all misdirection. The heroine doesn’t have any superpowers at all. She’s been raped and thrown out of a skyscraper window after the violent assault. In fact, she wasn’t even the real target. She was mistaken for her reporter sister, Madison.

The unpolished illustrations are very harsh and unsettling. It’s full of jagged edges, heavy inks, and unattractive people. You get a sense of griminess, and given the the dire origin story it’s sorta appropriate. When Mara’s attacker sends a shape-shifter to finish the job, Mara soon discovers that she can shoot things out of her hands. It turns out Mara is pregnant with a super-villain’s child, and that, in turn, is giving her superpowers.

It’s a fairly original premise. Birth of Venus doesn’t get offensive for the sake of being offensive (like, say, one of the top contemporary writers including a plotline about a villain rigging a girl with an exploding uterus). It would be easy (and tasteless) to portray the rape as exploitative. The team, instead, manages to convey the horrifying repulsiveness of the act. I can see several potential plotlines for the creative team to explore, such as the motivations as to why Mara wants to keep the baby. However, the subject matter is also quite uncomfortable, and the team definitely has to work double-duty to be careful that the story doesn’t go off the rails.

Still, it’s a rather uncomfortable comic to read. I’m not a huge fan of pairing the inherent absurdity of superheroes with grim reality, preferring the sunniness of Roger Langridge’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger and Paul Cornell’s Action Comics run. While it never crosses the extreme Ennis/Millar threshold, I imagine Birth of Venus is the sort of comic that can find an audience among readers who prefer to see their heroes in the downbeat vein of Watchmen.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on July 14, 2011, in 3 Stars, action webcomic, dramatic webcomic, One Punch Reviews, superheroes, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Paul Cornell’s Action Comics? The one with Lex Luthor’s Lois Lane based sexbot? I mean lighter than large portions of the DCU sure. But hardly at the all-ages level of Langridge’s non-canon Thor run. Which was awesome…

    • It also had Gorilla Grodd charging in to battle wielding a giant battle spoon to eat tasty brains. It’s all in the presentation, I think. Like, the Lois Lane sexbot doesn’t spend pages being degraded, nor does Lex lash out at her and leave her emotionally scarred. Instead, she spends her time beating up their enemies using her Inspector Gadget technologies. It’s more superhero than, say, Law & Order: SVU.

  2. The “world” of this comic is a little overt sometimes. Maybe it’s just my preference that these things unfold gradually and not explicitly, but some of the expositionary dialogue made me cringe.

  3. There was much talk about The Gutters on this site. About how it was bad and inappropriate, and about how it was ridiculous that it was nominated for the Harvey’s. But if imploding wombs and rape are common themes in the genre, I would say the fault lies with superheroes, period. Not with The Gutters as manifestation of superheroes.

    I mean, if superheroes are that fucked up, you can’t really blame a comedy strip about superheroes for also being that fucked up.

    And what the hell kind of superhero name is “Elongated Man”?

    • It’s true that there is quite a bit of fucked-up storyline in the Heroverse. However, these stories are also rather infamous, especially Nemesis (or ‘exploding womb’ comic) which many readers hate for being too offensive (for the sake of being so.)

      That is, however, not the point why The Gutter sucks. The Gutter doesn’t suck because it is fucked-up (and actually I won’t even called The Gutter fucked-up, although it does feature some misogynic humor). The Gutter sucks because it isn’t funny. If it is offensive, but is damn good at being so offensively funny, then it almost becomes alright to me by being ‘This is so wrong, but so good!’. Unfortunately, it just…sucks…and that’s it.

    • I don’t remember anyone saying gutters was inappropriate, just that the jokes are terribly unfunny and the pacing is horrendous, blaming it on the author who is also known for creating the intolerable Least I Could Do and the tiresome Looking For Group.

      If you wanna talk about “inappropriate” comics there’s just about everything K. C. Green has done, but he’s well liked for his humor and style regardless of this, and Gutters is nothing compared with his Gunshow. Hell, I’ve seen better one-shot super hero and comic book jokes on Gunshow that are better than anything in Gutters.

  4. I checked this out and it’s really pretty good. It’s an interesting and original concept and it works.
    Also I love the fact that this is a 9 part story, get it? 😛

  5. Ugh, I’m giving this one a pass.

  1. Pingback: Birth of Venus - Venus Issue #2 Page 10 Blog

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