Gold Digger v2 #5-8 (1994)
Story and art by Fred Perry
After the miniseries and the initial four-issue story arc that opened up the regular series, Fred Perry slows down and gives us roughly a year's worth of short, one- and two-issue stories, each one spotlighting a different aspect of the Gold Digger universe.
In these four issues: Cheetah must deal with a Kryn high priestess who tries to permanently end her relationship with Stripe, by tricking Jetta and Thabian (the werewolves from the miniseries) into killing her; Gina, Penny and Ace are forced into a high-stakes dogfight with Dark Bird and her Night Flight; and Cheetah, Brianna and Genn find themselves doing battle with Crime Syndicate X, New York's meanest super-villains.
One nice thing about these issues that each member of the cast is given their time to shine. Usually, with a large ensemble cast like this, a few characters tend to get all of the cool powers and screen time, while everyone else fades into uselessness. But here Dr. Diggers manages to turn the tide of battle without becoming a magic deus ex machina, Stripe gets a chance to use his stealth to save the day, Ace and Penny get a chance to demonstrate their superior flying skills, and Cheetah and Brianna manage to help their new superhero friends without making said friends look like incompetent idiots.
In fact, the only person who gets the short end of the stick is Gina - because she barely gets any screen time.
A few long-term plot threads start to emerge here. Stripe is so in love with Cheetah that he's constantly on the verge of proposing, but he always chickens out because he feels inferior to her (and not just physically). Gina and Penny's rivalry starts to soften a bit - they still don't like each other, but they're not actively trying to kill each other either. Brianna emerges as more, er, sexually adventurous than her sisters, and develops a sort of weird semi-abusive relationship with Genn. Oh, and Night Flight are relegated to the status of joke villains, a role that they'll never break out of (but which suits them just fine).
On the downside, the art becomes even more cheesecakey, so that by issue #8 Cheetah is wearing a stripperwear outfit so impractical that the only reason she'd be wearing it is to expose her breasts. It's starting to push the boundaries of taste for good girl art, and the only thing that's stopping it from being softcore porn is the lack of on-panel sex.
On the upside, Fred is still having a ball drawing these issues, and seems willing to draw just about anything and everything. We get werewolves, all sorts of magic beasties, all sorts of fancy-looking jets, crab monsters from the deep, and eight or nine distinctive-looking supervillains. Let's take a look at a scene of aerial combat from issue #7...
See what I mean? There are all sorts of neat-looking jets, and they're drawn in a way that makes them seem realistic and detailed without making them feel like a technical drawing. The basic storytelling is fine too, despite the lack of attention to overall page design. Ace's jet follows a consistent arc through the panels - his banking manever in the first two leads directly, and the overall staging of the fight scene has a natural-feeling flow.
One big negative here - the page is just completely cluttered with word balloons, some of which could probably stand to be removed. A lot of the early issues of Gold Digger are text-heavy like this. Fortunately, like a lot of formula Marvel comics, there's a lot of action going on in addition to the dialogue, which help takes the sting out a bit. Even so, about a third of the dialogue could be cut which would give the art some more room to breathe.
Print Run: 2300
Eight issues into the series and already orders are trending up instead of down. Yes, these issues are being released at the height of the market boom, but even so that's still pretty impressive for a lightly-promoted book from a small publisher.