Models, Inc. #1 (of 4)
Written by Paul Tobin and Marc Sumerak
Art by Vicenc Villagrasa and Jorge Molina
Published by Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Brian Andersen
Praise the heavens for Tim Gunn. Not only is the dapper guru of fashion one of the key reasons Project Runway is a must watch TV show each week but his droll and witty appearance in the Models, Inc. back-up feature saves the comic from being a throw-away bore. And the last thing anyone wants to be in fashion is boring! It pains me to no end to write such a negative thing about Models, Inc., as I was sooo wanting to love this book; I was actually, and shockingly, super looking forward to it.
Before I gripe and whine about why I didn’t love the lead story in this book bear with me while I gripe and whine about the comic market. First, let me just say that it’s beyond obvious that this is a comic aimed squarely at girls and women (and the gay men - like me - who also tend to love this kind of stuff). To that end, I have to applaud Marvel for unabashedly creating a comic that boldly targets these female comic readers, the ones that people complain are never being represented in today’s comic market. The world needs more comics for girls. What the world doesn’t need, however, are boring, poorly created comics for girls. Comics like Models, Inc., for example.
I fear that when (and if) a product like this fails to catch on with the desired female readers the inevitable finger pointing blame will go right back to the lack of an actual female readership to support or warrant a comic for girls, the “fact” that girls just don’t buy comics, and not to the fact that the final comic was actually substandard. When so much rides on a book to become a hit with your “undiscovered” readership you best be delivering the awesomeness darn comic you can. Unfortunately, this book falls short.
And real quick, before I get on with my review, I also have to celebrate the fact that Marvel is resurrecting their nearly forgotten line of romance/adventure/fashion comics with Millie the Model. I first became aware of Millie back in the 80’s when Marvel published their line of kid’s comics under their Star Comics banner. I loved me some Star Comics, the line included many original creations (most of which are also being reimaged for today), and my favorite book was “Meet Misty” – the 6 issue mini-series created, written and drawn by comic book living legend Trina Robbins. “Misty” featured an older, modern day version of Millie, and I came to quickly love the character with all my little adolescent heart. I hoped to see more of her in the pages of Misty. Sadly, that never happened, as the mini-series never spring-boarded into an ongoing. But here, at last, after appearing in a smattering of modern comics, mostly, if not all, written by Paul Tobin, Millie takes center stage. It’s just too bad the stage she is given is made with such shoddy craftsmanship.
Ok, so at last, now onto the review! What’s wrong with Models, Inc.? Welp, it’s just not very interesting to start. I don’t expect non-stop action with a comic like this, but I do hope for some great dialogue and some excellent interpersonal drama. Give me some great female friendship exploration! Give me amazing clothes and hair! Give me smart, well-crafted dialogue! I, for one, love comics with lots of ‘Talking Heads’, where nothing much happens but there’s line after line of snappy banter and engrossing dialogue (a la one Brian Michael Bendis). But here the ‘Talking Heads’ stuff just comes off forced, stale, and very non-human-y. All the funny one-liners are so set-up and canned that I want to groan out loud as I read them. Like when Millie says, “Right now the only thing I could model for is sloth.” *Groan* And when Millie goes over the days events and utters this hysterical line; “What’s next? The return of plaid?” *Groan* All the dialogue is so cheesy and so gag-set-up-y that it’s hard to just sit down and enjoy the story. More realness and less cheese would have made all the diff here.
And as for the story itself? Well, it basically reintroduces all the characters from Millie’s classic series, adding Pasty Walker of Hellcat fame as a 20-ish pixie-ish version of Pasty Walker, provides a brief action-y interlude, then hightails it over to the superhero cameo by Johnny Storm, and ends with the possible murder of the hot style photographer with the five o’clock shadow. Oh, plus one of the girls now is a raging lesbo and the script makes every effort to mention that fact, without actually saying the word lesbian, like, every other page. We get it. The chick is into other chicks. This is 2009, not 1949, we don’t need it talked about every time the character is on the page. (And I’m a proud gay man; I can’t believe I felt this way, but I don’t feel the need to verbally march in my own gay parade every time I open my mouth. So why should she?) I’m glad we’ve got a bona fide lady-lover in the models midst, and I like that none of the girls make a stink about it, but I want to know the woman behind the lesbian. Woman first, lesbian second.
I’m also not much into the art. It’s just stiff, uninspired art. This being a fashion comic you’d think they’d get someone who loves to draw clothes, someone who takes the time with little, but important, clothing details, someone who can take the time to whip up some amazing hair - changing it much as possible - and someone who can really deliver characters who aren’t moved around the page like frozen chess pieces. All in all Models, Inc. has one-dimensional art and a lackluster script; the lead story fails to be anything other than another weak attempt at reaching the female audience.
But thank goodness for Tim Gunn! The only reason to pick up this comic is for the stellar back-up piece by Marc Sumerak and Jorge Molina. Now this is how you tell a fun, engaging, totally excellent story. From start to finish I was smiling while I read Tim Gunn’s Marvel adventure. Not only does Sumerak manage to nail that very special and unique Gunn speech, he does it in a way that is so organic and real it’s as though Gunn fed Sumerak each line for the comic himself. The whole story is a homerun, from setting the story in the Janet Van Dyne memorial wing at the New York Fashion Museum, to having Gunn explore and comment on the superhero fashions on display, to having the museum be attacked by the yellow terrorist sect from A.I.M, to giving Gunn a moment to wear the Iron Man armor in a hilarious battle with said A.I.M “evil beekeepers”, the whole story sings. There’s just so many excellent one-liners here that it’s impossible to list them all, or single out one. I loved and enjoyed the entire story. And for me, this is how a comic should be written. Whether it’s aimed at girls, boys, nerds, fatties, skinnies, baldies, aliens, whatever, a good comic is a good comic. A good story is a good story no matter who it’s written for. So thank goodness for Tim Gunn and for Marc Sumerak for saving this book and, ugh I have to say it, making it work!