Any comic book fan who loves sci-fi and is looking for a new protagonist who breaks away from the standard straight, white male role should consider DC’s Voodoo. The heroine is a biracial, bisexual half-human, allegedly sent to Earth to spy on its heroes for an impending invasion. Voodoo (also known by her civilian alias Priscillia Kitaen) isn’t a native of the DC universe. As part of the company-wide reboot, a handful of characters were taken out of taken their respective continuities to become part of the "New 52." As with the other 51 titles involved in DC’s relaunch, key components of Priscilla Kitaen’s origin have been rebooted but unfortunately, the series has a less than auspicious start.
[Editor's note: spoilers for the first issue up ahead!]
In the disappointing first issue, the reader meets the heroine of the story, Voodoo, a very attractive stripper on her hands and knees, surrounded by money on a glowing catwalk, her cleavage dominating the scene.
While she entertains the customers, two agents are watching the show: Evans, a scruffy looking man who is clearly enjoying Voodoo’s considerable assets and Fallon, who doesn’t share Evans’ enthusiasm. After her shift is over, Voodoo is notified that a customer wants a private dance. The secret admirer is revealed to be Evans. While lap dancing, she indulges him by telling him her a bit about her background but then Evans reveals that not only does he know she’s lying, but that the agency he works for has been watching her for weeks and they know she’s a telepathic alien sent as a spy to gather intelligence on Earth’s heroes. He threatens the now alarmed Voodoo to turn herself in or his agency will bring her in by force and rip her open to find her secrets. In a predictable turn of events, Voodoo then transforms into a terrifying green monster and tears him apart.
Considering the lack of creativity that went into the first issue, it’s hardly surprising that many are giving up on the title before picking up the second book. A huge component of the “New 52” was rebooting the majority of DC characters to give them new origins and appeal to a wider audience. Voodoo seemed like the perfect opportunity to attract new readers. The character is the lone African American woman to have her own title and had the potential to be a contributing factor in shaping the revamped DC Universe. Voodoo has shape-shifting powers, telepathy, and is a trained spy. She’s young, beautiful, and calculating. The character has all the potential to break the mold.
Writer Ron Marz and DC’s editorial staff had the opportunity to introduce her to a wider demographic of African-American teenagers in the first page of her debut issue as an intriguing character with a complex and rich story. Instead, we have a front row view of a strip tease. It seems like DC is sending teenage girls a clear message: the only way someone like Voodoo can sell is if she’s half naked and exposed to the male gaze. There are six other titles starring women superheroes, but Voodoo is the only one flinging her top off and serving up sultry, pouty lips.
Why is the only African American woman to have her series introduced as a stripper? Why wasn’t her previous Wildstorm occupation rebooted like so many other details in the shared DC Universe? Is she expendable somehow? If her title fails because of careless plotting, will DC use this as an excuse as to why people of color cannot have their own series?
Despite the problematic characterization, DC’s Voodoo has some redeeming qualities. Sami Basri’s cover and penciling are consistently eye-catching. The facial expressions borders are real enough that we can actually feel Fallon’s anger or Priscilla’s horror. Jessica Kholinne’s neutral coloring also fits perfectly with the tone and pacing of the dark story.
Although I wish there had been better character-building for the lead hero besides the fact she’s a bit shy and yet still able to perform one hell of a lap dance, she’s not down for the count. I’m holding out hope that the series will improve upon its missteps, if given the chance.