It's Pride Month and that means that seemingly everyone in the entertainment space is celebrating the LGBTQ+ community — including comics. As they did last year, Marvel is celebrating the queer community with a new anthology, Marvel's Voices: Pride (2022), featuring stories that celebrate the various LGBTQ+ characters and creators that make up the Marvel Universe. However, while the book does have some genuinely interesting things to offer as well as some fun stories, this year's edition suffers from the same issues that last year's did in that the bulk of the issue feels more like rainbow-tinted marketing than a genuine, substantive celebration of queer representation.
One big—and largely positive—shift this year from last year is that Pride (2022) seems to focus less on coming out and more on living out and proud. That's a big step forward and it also allows the issue's stories to dig into queer coding of characters and how that translates to actual, on-page queerness. There's also quite a bit of fun in the stories, particularly "All My Exes In The Nexus" which features Loki, America Chavez, Wiccan and Hulking and is such a fun Young Avengers vibe that it's impossible not to enjoy. But that also exposes a weakness not only with the anthology, but the Marvel Universe on the whole.
"All My Exes In The Nexus" features nearly all of the "visible" or "high profile" queer characters in the Marvel Universe while the rest of the stories in the issue feel largely made up of very minor characters, brand new characters, or those who don't really have headline status at this point. It's this aspect that makes the overall anthology feel a lot more like lip service than real representation. On top of that, while there is a variety of representation in these other stories—including two stories that feature transgender representation—they feel inauthentic. In particular, "LGBT-D" feels like it makes jokes at the expense of the queer community—there is a literal "flaming" gag—and while "Permanent Sleepover" is a well-crafted story that gives readers two new characters whose stories are to be continued in New Mutants, you can't help but get the feeling like this might be their only time to truly shine. (Also, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt's art is absolutely fantastic in this story and it's worth reading for that alone).
The non-comic entries in this anthology are also hit or miss. Alex Phillips' introduction is a little on the dry side, but Angelique Roche's "Comics De-Coded" is a fantastic read for anyone interested in the history of queer coding in comics. The included Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe entries are also fantastic and make for very interesting reads. Still, even for those strengths, the anthology still feels like it is lacking in terms of actual character content, something that one can only hope Marvel will improve upon next year.
Overall, I'm not one to compare DC to Marvel. Different universes, different stories, different values. But reading Marvel's Voices: Pride (2022) after DC Pride 2022, it's difficult not to. Whereas DC has embraced its queer characters year-round, Marvel still seems to want to give representation just in this token moment and issue, which is really unfortunate when the various characters on its pages offer up opportunities to make the Marvel Universe truly representative of everyone. Instead of a rich and inclusive landscape, we just get this one issue that serves less to celebrate and more to remind readers how little representation there really is in the pages of Marvel's comics.
Published by Marvel Comics
On June 22, 2022
Written by Alyssa Wong, Grace Freud, Andrew Wheeler, Christopher Cantwell, Danny Lore, Ira Madison III, and Charlie Jane Anders
Art by Stephen Byrne, Scott B. Henderson, Lee Townsend, Brittney L. Williams, Kei Zama, Lucas Werneck, Lorenzo Susi, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt
Colors by Brittany Peer, Jose Villarrubia, Rico Renzi, Michael Wiggam, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Tamra Bonvillain
Letters by Ariana Maher with Clayton Cowles
Cover by Nick Robles0comments