“Female Furies” #1

By | February 7th, 2019
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Jack Kirby’s “New Gods” have had a mythic standing in the superhero genre for decades, and for good reason. Kirby’s work has given us the likes of Darkseid, Orion, and the characters of our titular comic, the Female Furies. With Cecil Castellucci, Adriana Melo, Hi-Fi and Carlos M. Mangual on the creative team, the deadliest of Apokolips will be brought forth and modernized for the 21st century. But will they survive the process?

Cover by Mitch Gerads

Written by Cecil Castellucci
Illustrated by Adriana Melo
Colored by Hi-Fi
Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual

All their lives the Female Furies have been raised to be the meanest, most cunning and most ruthless fighting force on all of Apokolips. So why are Granny Goodness’ girls left behind every time the men go to war? With the might of New Genesis hanging over the planet, and the Forever People making mincemeat out of Darkseid’s army, Granny thinks it’s about time that changed.

And so, Big Barda, Aurelie, Mad Harriet, Lashina, Bernadeth and Stompa set out to beat the boys at their own game. Little do they know the game is rigged—and one accidental murder could spell disaster for them all!

FEMALE FURIES is an exciting new miniseries starring some of Jack Kirby’s coolest Fourth World characters by the writer of SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL and the artist of PLASTIC MAN!

In the pages of “Female Furies” #1, Cecil Castellucci dares to do what few before she have ever attempted: humanize Granny Goodness. Honestly, it couldn’t have happened sooner. We see her from the start in a flashback sequence, fighting as Darkseid’s elite warrior to overthrow his own mother, Heggra. The two brawl it out in a room-shaking fight, in which Heggra is characterized as the typical, maniacal version of Granny, implying that this is what happens to those who rule in Apokolips. Granny’s eventual victory is stolen from her by Desaad, who claims Heggra’s death as his work in front of Darkseid. This is where we start to see the seeds of Granny’s hatred grow, where we find out that the ruling council of Apokolips is nothing more than a typical boy’s club. Castellucci uses this to justify Granny’s drive for unbridled passion and cruelty. Back in the present day, we see Granny pushing the Furies harder than anyone else because they have to endure everything to survive in the male-dominated Apokolips. We start to empathize with Granny because of this, elevating her beyond cackling supervillain status to being a layered and troubled figurehead.

Castellucci cleverly takes advantage of the evil-nature of Apokolips, using it to reflect the worst, misogynistic elements of our own society. The metaphor lands perfectly too, because why wouldn’t a decaying planet/hell analog wholly dedicated to evil also be plagued with sexism? Castellucci doesn’t even shy away from the oft-regally depicted Darkseid, showing him as capable of stooping low enough to blackmail sexual favors out of Granny, punctuated by the terrifyingly creepy line “BATTLE MAKES ME HUNGRY FOR WHAT FOOD CANNOT FILL.”. Later on, we even get the captain of the Furies, Aurelie, taking part in some “special training” from Willik, one of Darkseid’s higher-ups. It’s a highly uncomfortable scene that is part-physical training and part-painfully obvious groping, which Castellucci makes sure is clear for us to see. It’s a fantastic way to depict genuine evil, but also gives a good reason for the Furies to shine even brighter. Aurelie, the Fury taking part in Willik’s training, defies his advances to the very end, even at risk of demotion. She even gets to star in the plot twist (SPOILER!) as she cuts the throat of Rublon, the son of Steppenwolf, who tries to advance on her too. It would have been great to see more of the other Furies here too, but Castellucci successfully dedicates most of the real estate to Granny and Aurelie, showing them as powerful, independent and interesting protagonists.

Art is done by Adriana Melo for this series, who has a very deft eye for big, high-drama superhero action. In a book that pulls no punches like this one, that’s a good thing. During the flashback sequences, Melo renders Granny Goodness as constantly either angry or seething, of which the story and her treatment give her every right to be. What Melo handles deftly is subtle detailing in facial work. In one specific panel of the first Granny flashback, we see a shot of her choking Heggra from above, in which Melo shows her aggression but also lines of distress and anguish in her face, possibly for the nature of the act she’s committing, the strain of it, the man she’s doing it for, or a combination of all three. Melo also makes sure we get the polar opposite in the men of this issue. I was unsure how this would work when the first scene showed Desaad seemingly helps Granny in a moment of genuine camaraderie. However, when the scenes shift to the present day, we get a group of men that shift between self-righteousness, disappointment, or leering grins. Melo gave me chills especially when the men tried to teach the Furies how to smile, each one of them sporting a terrifying ear-to-ear set of pearly whites.

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The action side is a little more hit and miss for me. On one hand, the characters all sport the powerful, athletic builds that make them feel iconic. It’s great that the Furies aren’t all drawn as supermodels, for instance. They all have superhuman bodies, no doubt, yet there are little quirks to each: Stompa is bigger and stronger looking than the rest, Bernadeth is a little more wiry and creepy, and Big Barda, the most iconic Fury, is tall, muscular and powerful. However, the posing of the sequential action at times can feel a little static. When we first see the Furies in action, we get shots that are perfectly posed depictions of their fights and look like they were staged. The shot of the Furies unwinding after training also makes them look a little uncomfortable leaning against the sides of the room. I will give credit to one of the neatest action shots of Aurelie in the Furies’ demonstrations, as Melo choreographs her movements over a double page spread gracefully, with the reader being able to clearly follow each movement. As Willik states, “SHE FIGHTS LIKE A PERSON WOULD DANCE.”.

Veteran Hi-Fi handles the coloring here, providing a shiny, bright palette to match the vibrant neon lights of a Jack Kirby world. It’s fun that the shading is taken away during the flashback scenes, giving the page a much more pre-90’s feel to it. One of the scenes that use this raw coloring best is ironically one of the most upsetting: when Granny wakes up in Darkseid’s bed, she and the room are silhouetted whilst the Apokolips sky is a vibrant swathe of red and yellow splatters. The present day coloring is just as solid, using modern shading only to enhance the believability and shiny-ness. Hi-Fi doesn’t try to make things gritty and muted, thankfully. Darkseid’s armor is vibrant and blue and the Furies all stand out with a mix of greens, blues, and golds (especially in their ensemble shot on the first page). I love Hi-Fi’s use of a pop art palette during the “special training” sequence, however. It makes the exciting sections of the splash more exciting, and the risque moments stand out more, not shying back from alerting the readers to Willik’s bad behavior.

With “Female Furies” #1, DC have shown that they aren’t afraid to take beloved characters and adapt them for a more biting, modern tone. Cecil Castelluci provides some much-needed depth to the terrifying Granny Goodness and holds the rest of Apokolips accountable. Melo renders exquisite superhero scenes that although can be a little static at times, feel inspiring, and Hi-Fi brings it to shiny, chromatic Kirby Krackling life.

Final Score: 8.2 – “Female Furies” #1 is a thoroughly modern debut for DC, and the Fourth World has never felt so excitingly female.

Rowan Grover

Rowan is from Australia. Aside from sweeping spiders in an adrenaline-fueled panic from his car and constantly swatting mosquitoes, Rowan likes to read, edit, and write about comics. Talk to him on Twitter at @rowan_grover about anything from weird late 90's/early 2000's X-Men or why Nausicaa is the greatest, full stop.