Girls, this is our year. We are superheros, we are villains, we are femme fatales and we are awkward nerds and we are fierce warriors, all in the pages of our favorite comic books. We’re still getting a lot of the same lines from comic shops and publishers about how female-fronted titles don’t sell, and we’re still getting a lot of nerdrage about tokenism and legacy/icon characters, but we’re here and we’re not going away now. Here are some of the titles you should check out this week:
Powerpuff Girls Super Smash Up #2
Published by IDW Entertainment
Written by Derek Charm and Sean E. Williams
Art by Derek Charm & Paulina Ganucheau
Letters by Neil Uyetake
The Powerpuff Girls are some of the original warrior girls, and they have been teaching little girls important lessons about self-confidence, stereotyping, and kicking butt since 1998. This new series from IDW is only on its second issue, which makes the catch-up game fairly easy, and its premise is simple chaos: Dexter (of the Laboratory) has been cataloguing universes, and by universes I actually mean TV shows on the Cartoon Network, and his well-meaning but klutzy sister Dee Dee has accidentally spilled Chemical X on herself, turned into a monster, smashed up the lab, and absconded to who-knows-which universe. In this issue, the girls track Dee Dee to Courage the Cowardly Dog’s universe, where, naturally, Courage is scared of everything and hijinks ensue. It also includes a bonus short at the end that takes place in Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends!
This is a very simple all-ages book, probably more exciting for the younger ages because of the predictability inherent in this format, but enjoyable regardless. The format—switching between universes—allows for a lot of fun with the art and the color palettes, making this both iconic (because of the NUMEROUS nostalgia shows) and visually striking. It’s good clean fun, without a huge re-readability factor but very trade-able—kids still read comics a million times and trade them out, right?
Rat Queens #9
Published by Image Comics
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by Stjepan Sejic
Letters by Ed Brisson
Rat Queens has been making a huge splash in the feminist community since the first issue. It has all of the things we’ve been asking for—sisterhood, multiple body types, multiple personality types, racial diversity, queerness—plus it has some really amazing (and un-ladylike) gross-out humor. These women love each other, first and foremost, and would do anything to support each other. They’re an adventuring team for hire, with a D&D theme giving them all classes that are complementary for maximum collaborative mayhem. In fact, in the campaign of D&D I’ve been playing lately, I based my character almost entirely on Betty. The series has experienced some setbacks, with a recent change in artist for controversial personal reasons and a subsequent delay in production, but it’s finally back.
The new artist has changed the characters slightly, but noticeably, to reflect his own style and strengths. He’s maintained the important parts of the character designs, both individually for each character and overall for the series, so that all the women still have realistic bodies, faces that are unique and expressive, personal styles… but it’s lost some of the bright cartoony feel that was core to some of its former humor, and that cued it as obviously a cute parody. The new tone is still humorous, but in a very different way. For a series that needed a regroup, this issue literally is a chance for all of the characters to regroup and forge into battle.
Angela, Asgard’s Assassin #4
Published by Marvel Comics
Written by Kieron Gillen & Marguerite Bennett
Art by Phil Jiminez, Stephanie Hans, Le Beau Underwood, Romulo Fajardo
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Angela’s character has a long and complicated history, mostly legally in terms of who owns the rights to her creation. Originally written by Neil Gaiman for Spawn, then sidelined for years in a copyright feud, she’s now a Marvel character who grew up in Heven but is actually Odin and Freyja’s long-lost daughter, and has her own titular series. She’s complex and mysterious, and she’s extremely conflicted as she tries to resolve her feelings on being raised by her kidnappers to loathe her biological family, to whom she feels very little connection. Significantly, none of her conflicts are centered around a male romantic interest, which is refreshing. The main conflict, actually, is that she has just kidnapped the newborn baby sister who was supposed to take her political place uniting the houses of Odin and Freyja, and is now evading her brothers Thor and Loki as they try and retrieve the child.
This issue… well, this issue has Angela teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, including her BFF (Best Friend for Fighting) Gamora, on some space shenanigans. The A story and the B story have been made distinct by shifts in the creative teams– the A story is written entirely by Kieron Gillen, while the B story is a collaboration between him and Marguerite Bennett. The A story is visually striking in its majesty, with galactic colors and Asgardian font for all of Thor’s text, and the B story is lighter, engaging, and dynamic. After four issues, it’s still not entirely clear what Angela’s intention is with her sister, which adds intrigue to the already thrilling adventure.
Princess Leia #1
Written by Mark Waid
Pencils by Terry Dodson
Inks by Rachel Dodson
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Joe Caramanga
Princess Leia has been a long anticipated title for women like me, since the moment the new Star Wars was announced. When Leia was first written, she was one of very few strong sci-fi women, and we were so starved for representation we would have accepted a much weaker character— but the fact that she’s endured as a fan favorite for this long speaks to the timelessness of her strength.
This miniseries takes place shortly after A New Hope, which means there isn’t a huge wealth of options for narrative given that it must not violate the status quo that will be established at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. It’s also part of the Marvel relaunch of Star Wars, which has thrown out all of the previously established extended universe as published by Dark Horse, meaning that the title has a lot of work to do and not much time to do it if it wants to engage fans of the former extended universe and hook new fans who may have only seen the movies. All of these are legitimate reasons to have some hesitance in picking up this title, but this first issue does a wonderful job of establishing Leia’s character in the context of the universe through secondary characters, which effectively develops her and them for the purposes of the narrative. This series is going to focus a lot on Leia’s work as a government authority and the way her position of power conflicts with her perception of self as a flawed and real human being, as well as the pressure of being a leader in a time of war.
Pubilshed by Boom! Studios
Written & Lettered by Ed Brisson
Illustrated by Damian Couceiro
Colors by Michael Garland
Cluster is centered around Samara Simmons, the daughter of a politician, who had some wild teen years (who didn’t?) but who got in a drunk driving accident that led to her little sister’s death. Ridden with guilt, she opts out of life in prison, instead volunteering for the prison camp army off-world, because oh yeah, this is a futuristic dystopia. This is Bitch Planet meets Starship Troopers. Samara and her “crew”— certainly not her friends, she’s made it extremely clear that she will not be making friends, which is probably also part of her self-punishment— have been sent to do a repair but their transport craft has been attacked and destroyed. Now they’re stranded in the middle of the desert, but they all have a security measure from the prison designed to instantly kill anyone who doesn’t check into prison limits within 24 hours, so they must make their way back as quickly as possible if they want to survive.
The second issue not only follows them as they try to make their way back, but it introduces layers of political intrigue both on earth and on the prison planet, and it’s clear that everyone in every faction is trying to use Samara. Meanwhile, she’s mostly just trying to survive, if not for herself, than for her crew, because she doesn’t want to be responsible for any more deaths. She’s aware of the ways others are trying to manipulate and use her, because she’s smart, but she just isn’t having it, because she’s strong.