Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Chris Warner
Artists: Patrick Oliffe, Tom Nguyen, Gabe Eltaeb
Released: 1st July 2015
So it’s been…what? 19 years since we last caught the distinct scent of leather-infused boob sweat, burning tyre rubber and gasoline that Barb Wire gave off. And that was in the form of the so-very-90s Pamela Anderson vehicle that was – to put it delicately – completely and utterly trashed at both the box office, and by critics worldwide. The subsequent, almost inevitable death of the comic followed shortly thereafter.
Though Barb was – and, incidentally, is, but we’ll get to that – a kick-ass female lead in a medium where this is still something of a rare commodity, she’s very much a product of her time, when ‘kick-ass female lead’ meant something rather different to what it does now. Back then, when ladies led, they did so by appealing to the slavering fanBOY, rather than expanding the audience to anyone else at all.
Side note: surely that garment can’t have been comfortable… there’s no support, for starters (I am reliably informed this is vital in a combat-ready outfit), and then there’s the aforementioned leathery boob-sweat problem. Chafing is an understatement. Though it at least explains Ms Anderson’s non-performance in the film…
Anyway! The point I’m labouring towards is that the cover of the book is very misleading. Seeing as we’re currently in the midst of a feminist revolution in the comics medium, there was literally never a better time to reboot, and if we are to judge the book by its cover – I know, I know – then one would assume that a few backward steps have been taken in that regard. Quite why it was approved, given that the inside is so radically different from what the cover implies, is something of a mystery.
Whilst it’s not the most energetic re-introduction to a character ever, there’s quite a lot of merit to Barb’s reintroduction to comics. Gone is the upthrust cleavage, retained is the hard-ass attitude, and incoming is practical body armour that a bounty hunter might, y’know, actually wear, size of their bust be damned. There’s a welcome dose of satire here as well, with reality TV being the this particular hatchet’s target. It’s nicely written and played, despite having seen this a few dozen times previously. Whether or not it being played through the filter of Barb Wire will pay off remains to be seen.
The art’s solid, and rarely exploitative – despite the script’s insistence of having men behave like utter dick-monkeys towards the attractive lady doing ‘man’s work’, our protagonist is drawn like a human, instead of something made from putty and adolescent masturbatory fantasies. There’s a gorgeous amount of detailing in the pencil-and-inks, both foreground and back-, that’s given a breezy quality by some excellent colourwork that’s a shade lighter than you might expect, and all the better for it.
Overall, whilst it’s difficult to absolutely insist that you go out and dive aboard Ms Wire’s return to comicdom – the issue is all set up, and even then, it’s rather slight – this is as progressive a reintroduction as one could reasonably hope for. If her actual adventures kick in next issue, Crash and co. might well be on to something. Until then, one to keep an ear out for.
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The Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24