Gail Simone is one of my absolute favorite contemporary comics writers and Domino is peak Gail Simone.
This brand new solo series starring the former X-Force character, Domino is laden with tough ladies, genuinely funny humor, messy people with issues making believably bad choices, and Runaways references (the band, not the superhero team).
Our protagonist, Neena Thurman aka Domino is a hard living super powered mercenary with a heart of gold and concealing some highly compartmentalized past trauma. After nailing just that sort of character writing the beloved cult favorite Secret Six series for DC Comics, having Simone return to Marvel to write Domino’s first solo series was a perfect fit.
The pre-New 52 incarnation of Secret Six was some of the best cape comics of this century. Simone has stretched her wings in a number of different directions since including creator owned work like the psychological horror of The Clean Room and licensed work like her Tomb Raider series that was more heart-pounding than it had any right to be. But good as it was, none of that scratched my itch for Secret Six. Domino feels more like a return to form from Simone than anything I’ve read for a long time and it’s exactly what I was hoping for.
Gail does an amazing job introducing the characters’ powers in the first issue. Domino’s teammates here are pretty minor characters but Simone is the expert at making us care about random D-listers and this continues that storied legacy.
Simone even introduces some complex issues like mutants with pretty privilege or mutants with passing privilege. Domino is an interesting character in terms of privilege: her probability altering “good luck powers” are a security blanket. You can’t kill her, but she sure as hell can feel pain in the process of surviving.
She’s beautiful. But she’s a mutant, subject to discrimination and bigotry. She can’t blend in with the crowd — her skin is white as a sheet and one of her eyes has a black dot that was, unknown to me previously, forcibly tattooed onto her face. The story starts to delve into the social implications of her particular combinations of identities and appearance.
The art by David Baldeón is rubbery and well suited to humorous scenes, especially his expressive faces. Unfortunately it follows the standard pitfall of cookie cutter depictions of women’s bodies and proportions. The good news is Domino’s outfits are refreshingly in character. Her combat gear is reasonably practical, her street clothes are attractive and echo her black and white color scheme.
And maybe I can imagine Renegade going into a fight against bad guys pants-less and wearing a leather halter bustier. Maybe. But it still feels like the art is doing that to serve some basic bro desires rather than serving the good of the story.
Clayton Cowles‘ letters always offer perfect emphasis and clarity. Jesus Aburtov’s colors are crisp and focus on Domino’s color themes. Maybe someday the gods of comics will see to set us free from the plague of Greg Land tacky, traced covers of cloned women currently plaguing many of my favorite creators, undermining their feminist content. But today is not that day.
Also there’s a cute dog. Cute dogs have become a hallmark of Marvel’s solo comics about grown ass ladies (we miss you Mockingbird!)
I’m totally cool with a trend that cute.