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Girls Against Boys

June signals the terminal point of spring, a season symbolized by high pollen counts and the uncontrollable libidos of adolescent boys. True to the times, then, this June also signals the debut of several new titles centered around women whose one unusual unifying factor is that they were all created, written, and illustrated by men.

Judging by the cover of Crimson #1, spring is definitely in the air over at Image Comics. On the cover towers a 6-foot-tall, dreadlocked black woman wearing nothing except a zip-on G-string and what appears to be small strips of electrical tape in the form of an "X" over each of her nipples. It should be noted that both of her breasts are larger than her head. Drawing incredibly exaggerated human features is a staple of comic books, and apparently a rule for the mind-numbing Image crew, who've also produced such tit-and-ass classics as Youngblood and Wetworks. However, the amazon that graces the cover of this title bears mention because she only appears in four pages of the book.

The rest of the time the reader is left to wade through a boring vampire story that clumsily copies elements of Interview with the Vampire, Vampire Hunter D, and The Lost Boys. The main character is a young male loner--estranged from his family, natch--who is wounded in an attack by a gang of vampires in New York's Central Park. (Our cover model is the vampires' leader, and she speaks in a ridiculous Rastafarian dialect.) He's subsequently taken under the wing of another vampire who tries to convince him he must drink blood in order to survive--a deed he finds appalling. Sound familiar? The only truly strange thing about Crimson is that its creators have emblazoned the word "Cliffhanger!" across the cover--as if any reader can't figure out where this story is going.

Warlock 5 #1, an engaging new series from Barry Blair and Colin Chan at the faithful independent Sirius Comics, has a more genuinely female-driven tale, although this book too has its share of pixie look-alikes clad in thongs. Here, however, there's a story to go along with all the mammary abnormality. Our hero Heather, your standard club-hopping Greenwich Village artsy type (who bears a strange resemblance to Chrissy from Three's Company), cancels an evening on the town after she's drawn to a mysterious amulet in an alley. This pendant, it seems, is the key to unleashing an enigmatic demon-creature into our dimension. Yet every time the creature sends one of his minions through a portal, they instantly dissolve. Never one to be deterred, this wannabe Beelzebub decides to trick a human in our dimension into opening the gate--and Heather seems to make the perfect pawn. At episode's end, some Shaolin monks appear discussing the demon prince's plan, and their intervention should keep this series interesting down the road.

No review of female-oriented comics would be complete without one kick-ass title, and The Ravens #1 has plenty of Girl Power to spare. It's part of DC Comics' new Girlfrenzy series, a list of revolving titles that includes Lois Lane and Batgirl. This title (created by Chuck Dixon, Nelson Decastro, and Drew Geraci) is brain candy for the Archie comics set, and it follows an all-female mercenary group headed by the enigmatic Cheshire. Her Spice Girl array of assassins includes Vicious, whose trademark weapon is throwing knives, Termina, whose very touch means death, and Pistolera, who (that's right) walks around with two pistols clad in full cowgirl regalia.

This issue follows the bloodthirsty females on a Delta Force-style covert operation to recover a neutron bomb, and Schwarzenegger himself would be proud of the enormous body count the ladies tally by the end of the story. The plot has all of the mandatory double-crosses and hushed inner monologues; The Ravens may hold the distinction of being the first comic since The Tick to manage a cliché on every page. Yet The Tick was meant to be ridiculous, whereas the author of The Ravens seemingly expects the story to be taken as serious action fare.

While the comics medium is, as ever, dominated by male voices, the industry's inability to tell a female story becomes increasingly embarrassing for the kind of comics fan whose complexion has long cleared. Are women smarter and more intuitive as storytellers, you ask? Well, these books wouldn't contradict that theory, but more than anything, women can be trusted to invest some interest in the shape of the character from the neck up. Let's see if the boys can figure this out by summer.

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