This week, the female-fronted comics on my list are reminding me how exciting it was to be a little girl. In many ways it was hard, but it was fun and I was 90% energy and 10% excitement, and there’s something unsuppressible about that kind of bubbly comics consumer. Now more than ever, comics are being written with little girls in mind, although all of the below titles are also completely engaging and accessible for audiences of nearly any age or gender.
Abigail and the Snowman #4
Published by kaboom!
Written, drawn, and lettered by Roger Langridge
Colors by Fred Stresing
This is it, folks. This is the end, the thrilling conclusion, the tearful good-bye to this series– unless (hopefully) it gets picked up for more issues! Please? The series has been following Abigail, who is a great kid and a total weirdo, sort of a loner (she tries to act like it’s by choice) who just wants a friend who understands her and doesn’t judge. She’s built up a lot of barriers; it sounds like she and her dad move a lot, and she’s the new kid in school so often that now she rejects her classmates preemptively, protecting herself so they can’t reject her first. That’s why the ease of her friendship with Claude the yeti is so special. She and Claude have both come from a very lonely place of wanting someone special but being afraid to let anyone in, and they recognize this in each other, but in a really light and fun way that makes this title clearly accessible for young audiences.
The art is crucial for keeping the tone of this light; it’s emotive and expressive, with slapstick moments and over-the-top body language, keeping it cartoony and playful. Abigail is diminutive but her spiky hair and wide mouth show that she’s not going to let that keep her from being every bit as opinionated, loud, funny, prickly, or enthusiastic as someone fully grown. Claude’s yeti-ness is drawn with more symbolism than detail, maybe because when one is invisible to adults, the idea is more apparent than the specifics.
Gotham Academy #6
Published by DC Comics
Written by Brenden Fletcher & Becky Cloonan
Pencils by Karl Kerschl with guest art from Mingue Helen Chen
Colors by MSASSYK & Serge LaPointe
Letters by Steve Wands
Gotham Academy is continuing to kill it. One of the most interesting and unusual things this book is doing is featuring an incredibly sympathetic and likable character, one who seems to be a “good guy,” who is also allied with and pitted against the sides that canonically seem to make no sense. Olive is good, but she’s hated Batman since the first issue, and she’s protective of Killer Croc– and of her mother, about whom we know virtually nothing, but who we suspect may not be exactly a “good guy” either. This book could be an extremely well-written, multifaceted, sympathetic origin story of a supervillain or a crime boss, disenfranchised by a Bat-family that doesn’t listen to outsiders and who have lost perspective, confused and betrayed by their own memories, with no one to help, but too proud to ask for help anyway. What makes this unique is the way that Olive doesn’t feel like a supervillain. She’s angry, but she’s not consumed by bitterness. She’s hurt and confused, but those things don’t define her. She has friends who love her, interests outside of school and outside of the Bat-family, she even has an open enough mind to make friends with Pomeline, who has been a bully to her. Olive feels like a regular kid in a world that happens to be characterized by the epic battles of supers, who isn’t quite sure of her place in it yet.
Karl Kerschl’s art continues to blend DC house styles and superhero designs with the tension and beauty of a high school manga drama. The art makes Croc likable, emphasizing his face and allowing his size to be ungainly instead of terrifying. Maps is drawn to be excitable and distractable, as we’ve come to love; her body language is constantly expressing her unique personality, even when she’s not speaking (or even the focus of the panel). This issue features a bonus epilogue scene with guest art from Mingue Helen Chen, and I hesitate to say more about it, because it’s a total game-changer. This scene is impossible to discuss in any depth without getting very clearly into spoiler territory, but it is really wonderfully drawn, extremely vibrant and fresh, and the change in artist allows a tonal shift that’s extremely fitting in this scenario.
Jem and the Holograms #1
Published by IDW Entertainment
Written by Kelly Thompson
Illustrated by Sophie Campbell
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Letters by Robbie Robbins
There must be a struggle with licensed properties, but especially with properties like Jem, because they have a decade or two of loyal nostalgia fans flocking to the shops to pick up this first issue, but many of those fans will be sharing this with their children, and striking a balance between addressing the loyal fanbase and bringing in newcomers unfamiliar with the series is really an impressive tightrope act. So it’s important to first commend the creative team on this title for striking that balance and making this such a fun book.
The tone of this book is extremely in-touch with the current climate in comics today. It’s an emotionally rich book with characters who, although barely introduced, seem to have the depth that will allow this story to continue as more than a story about a cool band; it’s a story about friends, relationships, hardships, self esteem, it has a little bit of everything and it’s all as sweet and touching as it is glam-punk.
The character designs are over-the-top and all-out in a way that only glam-punk was, the impracticality of the costumes irrelevant because they are rock stars and holy dang they look SO COOL. The girls are sisters, but that didn’t stop the franchise creators from writing in racial diversity, and this team has really embraced that with unique body types and identities. The punk-rock and hot-pink-glam vibe are extremely stimulating and visually engaging, and still fresh, not overly referential to the era of the source material while keeping its essence.