[Patreon-Nov16-Post-Bug][/Patreon-Nov16-Post-Bug]Backlash leaps to his own series after a brief supporting turn in Stormwatch and co-starring with Grifter in The Kindred.
(This clearly comes after WildCats #14 since Marlowe and Savage Dragon are on a first-name basis. It’s also after Wetworks #5, as we’ll see in Backlash #4. A brief scene with Diva seems as though it could fit between Stormwatch #11-12.)
I’m not convinced anyone liked Backlash enough for him to merit his own series, but at this early stage in WildStorm’s life it seems they’re intent on playing out a certain set of plots and Backlash’s Daemonite hunt is one of them.
My main beef with Backlash to this point has been that his fearsome reputation doesn’t line up with what’s on the page. He’s supposed to be tough, but all we see is him getting the tar beat out of him. He’s supposed to be heartless and arrogant, and while he’s got the latter down to a tee he’s more tactical than he is cold-hearted.
This betrays a weak spot in WildStorm’s early scripting. Even when characters aren’t stereotypes, they’re a flat package of clearly labelled traits without much humanity. Backlash is a potentially rich enough character that he can actually portray these seemingly opposed traits, but no one with enough skill to balance it has written him yet – he slipped out of Stormwatch just before Ron Marz could get his hands on him.
Unfortunately, the writing that finally shows Backlash as the dynamic, serious threat he is rife with toxic masculinity that goes beyond any aspect of chauvinism in Backlash himself. In his five issue run, guards whine about their women and try to score with their female compatriots, Diva cries on Backlash’s shoulder, Backlash narrates about guarding his lover Diane even if she doesn’t want that from him (while calling her “kiddo” – super gross), a cop hopes to run into “a drunk starlet,” and Taboo is suddenly sex-crazed for Backlash.
Each taken on their own most of these would slip by me aside from the cop who wants to commit sexual assault, but they’re compounded by a particularly ugly one – Pike threatening Zealot with sexual violence. I think that’s a first so far in WildStorm.
Not only is the Zealot comment disgusting, but it’s the laziest of writing to take the toughest, most-dynamic character in your entire universe and decide the only way to weaken her is to threaten her sexual agency. It rings completely false on the panel, even if Pike is exactly that nasty of a guy.
This marks the first time a WildStorm title has kicked off without Brandon Choi having a hand in the proceedings. While Choi hasn’t exactly been the paragon of writing female characters not named Zealot, he’s been surprisingly even-handed when it comes to women as objects and women in peril. Not these writers – each issue is attributed to the crowd of artist Brett Booth, Jeff Mariotte, and Sean Ruffner. They’re giggling like maniacal pimpled teenage boys every time they can suggest one of their male characters might be able to seduce or assault a woman, and their version of agency for Taboo is her coercing Backlash into having sex.
Is Backlash any good if you can look past its misogyny? It might not be as weak as The Kindred, but it’s still just average tough guy fare, despite a killer first issue. [Read more…] about From The Beginning: WildStorm Universe – Backlash #1-5