Marvel Voices: Pride (2022) #1: ‘Permanent Sleepover’
Make way for Escapade! Shela Sexton makes her debut as Marvel’s new trans mutant superhero, and she’s not alone. She’ll also bring along her best friend and fellow trans mutant Morgan Red, as well as their genetically engineered flying turtle Hibbert. Together, they’ll embark on a high-flying, yet intensely personal mission that will take them from floating party barges all the way to the mutant nation of Krakoa – and the Marvel Universe may never be the same.
The intriguing premise of Charlie Jane’s story, the wit, charm and charisma of Shela Sexton, the intricacies and interconnectedness of it to Krakoa, mutanthood and real-life trans struggle; the passionate, dynamic, superheroic art of Ro Stein and Ted Brandt; Tamra Bonvillain’s always out of the page and out of this world’s colors; Clayton Cowles’ expressive lettering… it all adds for making ‘Permanent Sleepover’ an emotional trainwreck, an intriguing set-up and the best character introduction the X-Men mythos has had in a while. There’s stakes, in-universe references and dialogues, its own emotional microcosms that make you you feel these characters as your new best friends, with the potential for becoming iconic and lasting while being somewhat relatable and small. Literally all that is here adds, and entertaining matches interesting when fictional turns too real.
As the modern and visually zestful way this story is told in shows at every chance, with action overbalancing its emotional beats, it also wears its influences on the sleeve. As visual storytelling, ‘Permanent Sleepover’ takes the best of a Claremontian storyline with Destiny’s implications onto Shela plotting the conflict of a hero who is exploring her own self in the midst of confusion, with all the falls and crashes and fights adding to the symbolism of her growth.
Then the throwback scenes with Peanuts-influenced art are not only the most adorable, but a deeply needed humanization of trans childhood that I couldn’t avoid but burst into tears with, and that is much needed in a time where trans children are being demonized and ripped out of their agency. The story dialogues with this reality, making a poignant use of the mutant metaphor in the inclusion of parents accepting of a child’s mutanthood but not of their transness, which perfectly exemplifies both the ways in which metaphors fail to convey real-life bigotry and the ways in which anti-trans bigotry is its own kind to grapple with and sadly persistent within many supposedly progressive circles and marginalized communities.
Then, it goes further to dialogue with X-Men canon in the inclusion of a poster depicting an everlasting event for mutant and queer communities (Northstar’s wedding), characters that recall the same game of metaphor and reality the story conveys (Emma Frost being the mentor of Shela couldn’t call more to the trans Emma Frost headcanon that has been running around since Grant Morrison put that idea in the realm of possibilities) and references to the way other great X-stories have been told (with a lot of parallelism between this story pointing Shela towards Krakoa and the first time Kate Pryde was introduced and recruited into the X-Men), in a delightful mix of fictional and reality meshing.
Most importantly, ‘Permanent Sleepover’ has a complex message to deliver, one of self-acceptance and working through life’s setbacks, to reach out from demonization and othering to found community. The inclusion of a trans support group, the bond of the main characters, the meshing of life so many of us know so deeply into an universe we have grown so fond of, is just perfectly crafted. This is a perfect introduction that I can’t wait to see developed more.
Note: While this review is going out in the world, trans people are under legislative attack in the United States and the UK like never before. We’re facing what amounts to a legislative genocide bent on removing our visible presence from society, and forcing trans children to endure what amounts to state sanctioned abuse. Please, write your state congress and governors and tell them that trans people need support and compassion, and ask that they vote against these bigoted piecees of legislation. You can also take action to help trans people by donating to or promoting the following advocacy groups and campaigns:
My Sistah’s House: Advocacy group in Memphis, TN which provides housing and home ownership to homeless Black Trans Women in order to help them get established and back on their feet.
Trans Lifeline: Grassroots hotline and microgrants 501(c)(3) non-profit organization offering direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis – for the trans community, by the trans community.
Free Ashley Now: Ashley Diamond is currently incarcerated for a parole violation, and was imprisoned originally for a non-violent offense. Currently being housed in a men’s facility, Ashley is working with the SPLC and Center for Constitutional Rights in suing the state of Georgia for civil rights violations related to the abuse she’s endured while incarcerated and the states denial of gender affirming medical care.
TGI Justice Project: Fighting for justice for trans, gender variant & intersex people in California prisons, jails, detention centers and beyond.
G.L.I.T.S. centers black trans leadership and creates holistic solutions to the health and housing crises faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals experiencing systemic discrimination at intersecting oppressions impacted by racism and criminalization, through a lens of harm reduction, human rights principles, social justice and community empowerment, imbued with a commitment to empowerment and pride in finding solutions in our own community.
‘Permanent Sleepover’ is a sweet story putting found family, superhero shenanigans, mutant politics and trans lived experiences in the center in one of the moments where it's most needed.
MARVEL VOICES: PRIDE #1: Escapade Is The Trans Mutant We Need in "Permanent Sleepover"
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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