This Is Why I So Rarely Bother

I wouldn't consider myself a major comics fan, but I've been known to pick up a book or two. Empowered, Transformers, Morning Glories, Power Girl. A few others, here and there. Mostly, though, I don't get drawn into that world too deeply, because the big two so rarely put out the sorts of stories I want to read. Things look good at first, but once you actually get into it everything sort of falls apart spectacularly.

Big Hero 6 is a pretty good example of that.

Shocking, I know, but bare with me.

On the surface, it all looks solid. A kid. A robot. A girl in high-tech armour. A giant monster.  A dude with swords. What more could you ask for out of a Japanese superhero team? And the action starts off pretty well, too. The kid, Hiro, is attacked at school by a trio of supervillains. When the rest of the team arrives to rescue him and defeat the villains, it turns out they were unwitting human pawns, possessed by some mysterious force. Worse, they were just a diversion, a cover for the real criminals, men in suits and ties who slipped into a nearby bank while everyone was distracted and walked out with a mysterious and powerful artifact, one piece from a set of six. With several other pieces already missing, and a past connection between the artifacts and BH6's mysterious commander Furi, the team is dispatched to America to guard the the lab where the last of the artifacts is being studied. What is the danger these artifacts represent? Who sent those three supervillains? Why is the team called Big Hero 6 when it's only made up of five people? All these questions, and more... are never really answer.

BH6 starts off strong, with a good fight scene, some nice teamwork, establishing moments for each of the characters and their abilities, and a solid mystery hook. And then it just absolutely collapses under the weight of its own terrible plotting and a frankly baffling refusal to resolve anything. The miniseries is kind of a perfect snapshot of why I'm so frustrated by mainstream superhero comic books these days. The one thing I will say for it is that it's not hair-pullingly decompressed. In fact, this five-issue miniseries actually finishes (though not resolves, mark) its main plot early enough that it needs to bring in a secondary plot in order to fill out the space. Not that it actually has any connection to the miniseries' overall plot, other than a tenuous geographical one. But that's about it. The supervillains' origin is revealed, but that only raises more questions, on the part of both the characters and the reader. It's flat-out stated that the person orchestrating them (who never even gets a name, nevermind a real motivation or character) must be working for someone else, but who, or to what ends, is never even suggested. The artifacts are maguffins from start to finish. With absolutely no establishment Furi's false eye suddenly gains a villain-defeating ability. And the racial stereotypes, and the sexism...

Honestly, superhero comics are sort of uncomfortable to read these days if you're even the tiniest bit sensitive to things like realistic depictions of non-Americans or fair-minded depictions of women. And BH6 manages to hit just about everything. One of the team's members is Wasabi no Ginger, a sushi chef who can use Qi energy and knows martial arts and constantly wears a headband and a chef's overshirt. He also looks like he's about thirty-five, which isn't a stereotype, but makes his going undercover as a high school student particularly idiotic. And the two young women, GoGo Tomago and Honey Lemon, are just... just...

Look. They're attractive young women with power and confidence, so it's not unthinkable that they would dress in a daring manner. But there's daring, and then there's just having clothes defy physics in order to more completely and totally hyper-sexualize a teenage girl. At one point GoGo is wearing a North American school gym uniform whose shirt, in defiance of all the memories frustrated teenage boys have of those years, the behaviour of fabric under tension and the possibilities of cutting-edge bra technology, manages to cling to both of her breasts. Simultaneously. Separately. That is, up the outside of one breast, down to her ribcage in between, and then back up the inside of the other. Linkara coined the term 'boob-sock' for this sort of thing while reviewing a Catwoman elseworlds, and there's really no better way to put it. These are boob-socks with a neckline and sleeves; actual shirts do not work this way!

One of these women can only be seen by people 18 and older with a valid credit card, and the 
other by any schoolkid with some pocket change.  Care to guess which is which?

And as for Honey Lemon?  Her tendency to go into battle wearing street clothes could almost, almost make sense, given her lack of powered armour and reliance on her deus ex machina-generating magic purse (yes, a woman with a magic purse). Except that towards the end Hiro, a total noncombatant, is given a lightly-armoured combat suit, that in no way restricts his movement and provides at least some small protection, right out of the blue. Making it clearly wasn't laborious, since a second, minor character gets a similar outfit (but she's a girl, so of course hers is pink) at the same time. So why hasn't Honey been wearing any kind of protection at all, why has she been fighting in a pair of incredibly low-cut skintight pants and a bra masquerading as a shirt, given that she's no more invulnerable than any other human on the planet?

Big Hero 6 was a pretty thorough disappointment. Despite a strong start, it just collapses into all of the worst excesses of modern comic books; non-Americans reduced to national stereotypes, attractive young women drawn in the skimpiest, most skin-tight, physics-defying clothing imaginable, a refusal to tie up loose ends and adequately resolve plot threads within a storyline, heroes who will fight each other at the drop of a hat, and superpowered individuals nonsensically sticking it to The Man by breaking the law and interfering with the police when it's completely unnecessary. I'm glad this was just a miniseries, because at least with a finite run there's a hard limit to the amount of fail you can work into it.

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