Grab Bag Reviewer: James Moore
I'm not sure what the intended message of the first page of Voodoo #1 was supposed to be, but with the titular character crawling on her hands and knees, lingerie-clad, blank-eyed, breasts thrust in the readers face and surrounded by money, the message it sent to me was "Are you a teenage boy without access to porn? No. Then run away"
To its credit Voodoo does have a basic level of craftsmanship. Writer Ron Marz is an experienced enough writer that the comics makes sense and more or less flows. What characterization there is consistent, if problematic.
Sami Basri's smooth, supple line are generally pleasing. His layouts read well and there is a lot of great panel to panel motion. When characters are allowed to act they do so clearly. It's pretty work and I could imagine even enjoying it on a different comic. Given the editorial note that has leaked requesting Voodoo kneeling and not standing in one panel, and given that in last week's Red Hood and the Outlaws there was very nearly a a see-through bikini on alien hero-turned-walking-sex-doll Starfire, its entirely possible Basri can be excused for some of the books more questionable material as just completing a job as requested.
And there is plenty of questionable of material here. I should probably pause here, and say that I have no problem with sexual content in comics. When it's done well, in Casanova or in Brandon Graham's work for example, it's an interesting and probably underutilized element. Voodoo however, presents a view of sexuality steeped in the adolescent male gaze.
A full eighty-percent of this book takes place in a strip club. The book leads off with a long exotic dance sequence where Voodoo stays silent and removes her cloths while a male secret agent leers at her. A backstage scene ostensibly to establish the strippers as "real people ", mostly just serves as an excuse to show a lot of scantily-clad women while trotting every single mom/struggling student stripper cliche available. Topping it off is a baffling private lap dance/interrogation sequence, where after being accused of being a telepathic, shape-shifting alien spy Voodoo continues to grind on the agent accusing her for several more pages in what I can only assume is too show how committed she is to stripping. This culminates in a truly hilarious page in which which Voodoo changes into a reptilian monster but maintains her enormous breasts, long flowing hair (to conveniently cover her nipples of course), and lacy, diaphanous panties. It reads like someone fed a Victoria's Secret cataolgue into a computer programmed to generate X-Files rip-offs.
The other major female character in the book, another agent named Jessica, is superficially played as tough and capable, but also spends much of the issue being jealous of her comrade's lasciviousness and fretting about their relationship. She also manages to keep her shirt open enough so you can see cleavage.
Where it really fails as what an empty character Voodoo is presented as. She is a blank slate for others to project their wants and desires on while she remains passive and aloof. More an object than a person, we're told she's a spy, but until she turns murderous at the suggestion that she will be dissected she says and does nothing actively. This is never presented a bad thing or used as commentary, it is primarily to titillate to the best a PG-13 comic about a stripper can titillate. We're presented with a lead with no personality in a variety of pandering situations and expected to care about coming back for more
It might seem that focusing so much on gender politics I'm ignoring other aspects of the book. Unfortunately there's very little else to talk about. The other characters are mostly stock figures and there's only a hint of a broader mystery. Contrast Voodoo to last week's Grifter, which in many ways this book mirrors, which while not an in-depth character study managed to give a solid intro to the lead's personality and life, as well as some nice action sequences. The excuse seems to be "exotic dancer," but this issue could have been easily condensed into much fewer pages and perhaps time spent on more substantial matters. Would DC have published sixteen pages of Grifter stripping and giving lap-dances? Or if it was a necessary angle to develop, then it could have been handled better (there's equal argument for doing something both genuinely sensual and beautiful or embarrassing a sort of grindhouse sleaze aesthetic). This is tacky and obvious, and nothing to suggest future potential.