by Richard Sala
51 pages / $4.99 Buy from ComiXology
Pacific Rim was my favorite film of 2013 because of its heavy use of science fiction tropes. Guillermo del Toro borrows everything from Neon Genesis Evangelion and G Gundam to Power Rangers and Godzilla. He breathes life into these tropes with innovative concepts like drift compatibility and Lovecraftian aliens from beneath the Pacific. Add in del Toro’s choices to eschew motion capture effects and to cast Charlie Day as the charming and tatted Newt and this film earns a huge place in my heart.
Richard Sala’s Violenzia, his latest digital comic book, operates on a similar level. Sala takes the conventions of Golden Age comics like Dick Tracy and The Shadow and updates them for the digital era. He strips away any true exposition or plot in favor of a taught, fifty-page sequence of action as Violenzia—a hooded vigilante with a shock of magenta hair, twin pistols, and a miniskirt—dispatches members of a moon cult, hillbillies dealing Krokodil, and a ghoulish business exec. duel-wielding a sword and legalese all to get revenge on a nefarious mastermind, and the result is breathtaking.
The book never takes the time to explain who Violenzia is or why she wants to kill the crime boss, but it doesn’t matter. Instead, Violenzia evokes the joy of action comics with lush colors and retro pencilings.
This is where I planned to end the review, but after the kerfuffle over Garett Strickland’s “The Zambreno Doll” and the following letter by Leigh Stein (plus, Emma Needleman’s variations on a theme and the scores of Disqus comments) I feel uneasy leaving the review without further commentary.
Pacific Rim is problematic. The majority of the film takes place in Hong Kong, and yet there are only two POC with speaking parts in the whole film, and, on top of that, the film not only fails the Bechdel test, but it created its own test. Likewise, in Violenzia our heroine is mute and scantily clad, and she is one of the most clothed. Richard Sala’s ouvre revolves around cheesecake girls; it’s difficult to argue that the book is anything more than a vehicle for sex and violence.
As a “milennial,” I was raised on a steady diet of Witchblade comics, Tomb Raider, Speedy Gonzales and cartoons with “diverse casts,” so when I approach either Pacific Rim or Violenzia, I don’t initially see the issues with them. In fact, I’m guilty of doggedly defending them from more socially just critics, but this drips with so much white male privelege I’m too ashamed to post my name on this review.
It’s difficult to see one’s priveleges and accept them. It’s even more difficult to be subjugated by these priveleges. I know that, but at the end of the day I really want to still enjoy my comics and my science fiction. Is there a way to have media that is both smart, fun and socially just?