Writer: Dre Torres, Alex Valdes
Artist: Yasmin Liang
Letterer: Kuen Tang
A review by Amelia Wellman
In New York City, a group of women led by a mysterious, charismatic figure known as The Madame band together to wage a violent war against their male oppressors. These righteous assassins abide by a strict ideological code that forbids them from killing women or being romantically involved with men. When a moral dilemma causes Scarlet Rose, one of the founding members of the group, to go into hiding, her young protégé, an ardent believer in their violent feminist code, takes it upon herself to find Scarlet and uncover the truth behind her mentor’s betrayal.
First things first, if you don’t understand satire, half of the charm of Popova #1 will be lost on you right away. This is a story that walks a very fine line between readers understanding it’s a satire and those that will take it at face value. Think Fight Club in terms of level of seriousness taken throughout the narrative while also trying to make you look deeper (which subscribers to Tyler Durden dogma don’t do, so you see where the concern lies).
For me, Popova #1 is a very striking and well thought out example of satire. This is a dark, angry, violent look at what people fear about feminism when they don’t understand the concept. This is what women would be like if they were indoctrinated into hating men as easily as men are routinely made to hate women.
Torres and Valdes’ story is off to an intriguing start with a woman who broke away from her indoctrination suddenly thrust back into danger when her mentor who did the indoctrinating finds her again. The narrative can go in any direction from where issue one ended: will Scarlet be killed or escape? Will a different POV take over as the comic’s focus? What exactly is the end goal of the group, because it couldn’t possibly be as chaotic neutral as it’s sold to the women who join. The story has so many possibilities, and though the arc of this first issue is setting up the standard revenge fantasy tropes, the flip in perspective is a unique way to make sure people are paying attention.
The art of Popova #1 is done in full black and white line-art that’s stark and simple but still packed with detail and emotion. It’s hard to strike that balance but Liang makes it look easy. The panels are laid out nicely to keep your eye eagerly moving onto the next, and a detail I simply have to gush over is the texture of Scarlet’s hair. The tight ringlet curls are so beautiful! I’ll also point out that Tang’s lettering is simple and clean, which is appreciated in a comic with a lot of talk.
Check it out. Although I’ll personally need one or two more issues before I make a definitive statement on the series, I highly recommend at least checking out the first issue of Popova #1. It offers a look into what scared little men think feminism is and the dark and violent revenge fantasy trope it plays off becomes a hell of a lot more intriguing because of it.