Dynamite Tries to breathe life into this pulp heroine, but does Miss Fury strike more of a Minor Key?
Miss Fury: The Minor Key (Dynamite Entertainment)
Most people born this side of the Nixon administration (which demographically speaking is probably all of you reading this) likely won’t be familiar with Miss Fury. The character, originally known as Black Fury, has a long and circuitous publication history but is notable as the first female superhero created and drawn by a woman. In recent years she has teamed with several other public domain heroes of the pulp era (The Shadow, The Green Hornet, Zorro, etc.) in the reasonably well-received Masks series, yet her solo series is the most ambitious effort to return the character to prominence since the 50s.
I know this small history lesson doesn’t do a lot to tell you who the character is, but to be fair, it’s more background than writer Corinna Bechko offers readers. Given that this is a trade, you’d imagine that there may be some kind of recap page – or considering the character’s roots as a pulp hero, maybe an expositional narration – but nope. Readers are thrust right into the action of some nameless goons breaking into an office building only to get thoroughly trounced by our hero.
This ambiguity sadly continues throughout the book. After two read-throughs, I’m still unsure whether or not Miss Fury has any actual powers. At a few points in the book, Miss Fury convenes with some kind of panther spirit and her combat is at times accompanied by some confusing swirls of grey mist, but other than the ability to fall off a roof and onto the hood of a car without any apparent injury, she never does anything particularly remarkable. Elsewhere, there’s the macguffin of some industrial rotor plans stolen by a weird Eyes Wide Shut cult bent on summoning demons to destroy the world – of course why they would need the rotor for a ship that’s already ready to sail is never adequately explained. This is to say nothing of the unexplained questions surrounding the strange albino Brazillian business man that knows magic, the jungle guerilla fighter that managed to secure an AK-47 5 years before they were made, what the falling out between Edi and her parents was, etc.
But I digress.
By the second page of the book we are in our first fight, and it should be said that the action sequences in the book are both its strongest feature and another example of lackadaisacal plotting. Jonathan Lau’s art is at its best when our heroine is diving into action like the Dark Knight circa Batman: Year One. It’s a shame, then, that his attempts at translating the frenetic fights he sees in his head often get lost in their own ambitions and create scenes of questionable physics. The problem is compounded by a mysterious grey swirl seemingly meant to denote motion/mystical powers (or some combination of the two) that really just confuses the action. Take for example the sequence that sees Miss Fury reverse DDT a crook onto his back, only for him to somehow end up on his chest in the next panel. It’s a small, fairly insignificant error that should have been caught by the penciler – but it’s far from the only example.
It’s not just the fights that suffer from pacing issues, as scenes start and stop with little flow or reason. Take for example Miss Fury’s pursuit of a War Bond-hawking cultist that ends abruptly because a curtain falls. It doesn’t fall on Miss Fury, nor in her path. It just falls, the cultist runs, Miss Fury runs after her and then the scene is over, completely unresolved. Elsewhere entire scenes meant to move along the plot run less than a page, which contributes to the overall feeling that we’re missing parts of the story.
Despite these gripes, there are things to like about the book. The covers by Tula Latay in particular are a high point, and the fights, while still superhero smackdowns, do portray our heroine as a more humanistic character. Alas, the ambiguity in the storytelling – both textually and visually – leaves the book a bit of an impenetrable mess.