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Matt Fraction: Praising the norm

January 23, 2013

Matt Fraction came on my radar a while back with Civil War and whatnot, so when I saw that he’d been writing Iron Man, I thought: Cool, I should read this.  It looks shiny.  It starts with a #1, so maybe I can follow it.  I’m not usually the biggest Iron Man fan, outside of the movies–Extremis being a bit heavy for me, as Warren Ellis often can be–but I liked everything I read on him during Civil War.  Yes, that’s how far behind I am.  Yes, I’m mostly okay with it.  I don’t buy comics, so it’s how I roll.

So I’ve got this character, Iron Man, who I know I CAN like but have never really been drawn into (because it’ll be a cold day in Hell before Orson Scott Card gets my money again), and a writer I have this vague idea that I enjoy, and what do I get:

AN AWESOME BOOK.

Yes, the Invincible Iron Man Omnibus: Volume 1 is FREAKIN’ AWESOME.  It’s got that heavy feeling that Ellis brought to Extremis but with less technobabble and actual character depth and–I’m so happy.  It’s not that it’s RARE that I like a comic series; it’s more that it’s rare that everything comes together and I don’t have to be all “okay, that was great except for X.”

So I go to praise it on Facebook, and what’s the point I want to get across?  The thing I’m most happy about?  Invincible Iron Man is as much about Maria Hill and Pepper Potts as it is about Tony Stark, and MATT FRACTION CAN WRITE WOMEN.  Do you know how sad it is that this fact is making me jump up and down on the inside?  (Not on the outside, because I’m home sick recovering from sinusitis-induced vertigo.)  Fraction puts Maria Hill through a lot over the course of the first omnibus, but he doesn’t tear her down the way other authors would; he doesn’t make her a straight up, cardboard bitch on wheels or give her what I’ve decided to call “The Petra Arkanian Effect,” where you start with a strong female character and then

TEAR HER DOWN

and

TEAR HER DOWN

because she’s a WOMAN and they are WEAK and I hate you, Orson Scott Card.  Hill is fighting through a lot, and she gets it together and gets it done.  Because she’s Maria freakin’ Hill, okay?

Yeah, so you’ve got this book with strong female characters (and some Natasha in there too, woot woot!) and even a crazy one that you just feel sorry for because she’s trapped in her own madness–oh and then there’s another villain-type who’s bat crazy but it’s not because she’s a woman, and another villain-type who’s–well, you don’t quite get enough into her head but I don’t think you’re supposed to.  Lots of women characters.  And there are skimpy girls in skimpy outfits, of course, because it’s Tony Stark, but one of them has one of the best lines in the book, so that made me laugh.

But yeah, I’m sitting here going “Matt Fraction, gotta add him to my mental list!” and I realize that what I’m doing is not so much praising him for his talent, as I should be–because I think he’s great–but putting him on there as “a guy who doesn’t insult women when he writes comics,” which is like, wow.  That’s so sad.  It’s so sad when I say without any sort of malice that if Judd Winick could be given a title that had no women in it, whatsoever, he’d be one of my favorite comic book writers.

I apologize, Mr. Fraction, if it seems like I’m not focused where I should be: on your ability to write good stories with good characters.  But I’d like to think you understand why.  If you don’t, then it’s even more amazing that you’re doing what you’re doing.

Keep up the good work.

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