There aren’t enough women in comics…not as characters, not as creators.

While some may counter this argument by suggesting that the industry is merely playing to its core audience, there are certainly several advantages to the diversification of its characters and the writers that place words in their mouths. Female creators are going to bring different sensibilities and motivations to their work which will undoubtedly translate into the building of the better story. The more voices the better ladies and gentlemen…and some of these voices aren’t always sporting an XY chromosome.

And this is good for all of us.

Conversely, the proliferation of well-developed female characters can only benefit the pursuits of both male and female creators. Superheroes are the epitome of male power fantasy, with iconic characters sporting perfect physiques and noble motivations, violently transferring their ideals to equally ambitious villains by way of gloved fist. Wrapping a female in spandex turns this male-sponsored concept on its head by simple default.

And this is good for all of us.

Before we continue, I must admit…I read a lot of damn comics on a monthly basis. And every month, it never fails, some company releases yet another tasty morsel to my neighborhood shop in the never-ending battle to leave the poor consumer dead broke. It’s this possibility that prevents many a reader from spending their hard-earned dough on the unfamiliar, yet somehow mesmerizing, first issue of any new series. There just isn’t enough money to go around, and people love familiarity. However, my stubborn refusal to dissolve all debts with Mastercard and Visa allow me the financial flexibility to give the occasional new series a spin.

I’ve recently come by the first issues of three respective series’ that accomplished the task of striking my interest. Upon closer examination, I discovered something slightly more peculiar than it should be…they all have something in common, a thread that connects them ever so slightly. All three books feature female protagonists, thrust into this male-dominated environment and forced to swim against the current, and one of them, hell…one of them was even done by female creators.

Women kick ass, and I’m going to tell you where they’ve only begun the festivities so you aren’t left behind.

The first culprit, because I decided to perform this task in alphabetical order, is Athena Inc. from the bad boys at Image Comics. This bulky introductory issue, for only $5.95, provides the latest creation from Brian Haberlin (co-creater of Witchblade) and Russ Manning Award-winning artist Jay Anacleto.

The premise follows the world’s greatest secret agent. Boring you say? I’ve seen it before you say? Well, when was the last time James Bond, through the activation of a genetic trigger, could mutate into a completely different person sporting completely different hair, fingerprints and shoe size? Their government creators call them Manhunters, and they are literally unstoppable, because once the change hits…the Manhunters cannot even recall their true nature.

This installment, appropriately titled The Beginning, relates the story of Marvin Winkler, who harbors a very strong suspicion that he will be murdered in the next forty-four minutes. You see, Marvin is a data cruncher for an agency of spooks called The Company, and he’s stumbled upon a secret that wasn’t meant to be discovered. Through his monologue we learn of the Manhunters, and through the explosive round fired into his apartment by special operative Anna (later Brenda), we learn that they’re quite efficient. But, the real question is…who hunts the Manhunter?

I’m a sucker for a change in format, so Haberlin literally has me from the first page. There is nary a grid or dialogue balloon to be found, instead replaced by stretches of exposition, framed by a computer’s open window, and highlighted by the occasional static image which are a sight to behold. The monologue is relatively crisp, furthering the bright premise, but the visuals by Anacleto take center stage. Some would call this young painter the next Alex Ross, and there may even exist a facet of his work that’s superior to the legendary Mr. Ross. The architecture and weaponry is detailed and precise, with the characters rendered at photorealistic qualities, making excellent use of shadow.

Athena Inc. incorporates all relevant aspects of production to deliver a highly entertaining first look into the world of the Manhunter. Though carrying a hefty price tag, matching the equally hefty page count, this offering from Image Comics is definitely worth a serious look.

Next up on the recommendation trail comes from Com.X, that brand new company from London we’ve all been hearing so much about, in the form of the Bazooka Jules Bumper Edition, which collects the first two issues of the sell-out series in one attractive outlet for six bucks. Newcomer Neil Googe serves as creator/writer, artist, and letterer.

Bazooka Jules follows average high-school student Jules, residing in Calibre Bay, who inadvertently finds herself attached to a mechanical symbiote capable of turning her into a powerhouse with big guns (in more ways than one). It’s classic, it’s been done, but Googe does it with a flash and penance reminiscent of fun and destructive Japanese animation. We’ve got your cool robots, your ominous government organization, and your heroine with overactive anatomy. It’s fast, it’s fun, and definitely worth the few bucks.

Googe’s art style is definitely influenced by anime and his storytelling skills are clear, with special attention paid to the technology and weaponry littering several of the panels. Jules’ supporting cast is easily identifiable and whether it’s teenagers, scientists, government spooks, or aliens, Googe doesn’t miss a beat. Something else of interest is the sketchbook/Com.X preview supplied in the rear of the book, which gives sneak peeks into upcoming company releases including Cla$$war and Josh Middleton’s Koromebe, which is truly beautiful fantasy fare.

Bazooka Jules Bumper Edition. Worth six bucks. Com.X. Possibly the next big thing. Ask your retailer to hook you up.

Last but definitely not least comes from Oni Press, Gail Simone (of Comic Book Resources fame) and Lea Hernandez as they team to bring us the Killer Princesses. Female comic characters done by female comic creators. And it’s impressive people. Most impressive.

Faith, Hope, and Charity are operatives of the Sorority, and apparently, the Sorority kicks the asses that need kicking. We’re introduced to the girls as they’re dismantling the headquarters of wanna-be despot Terrence Kane, dropping as many bodies as possible along the way. When not saving the world from power-mad geniuses, the girls live a life of normality under the guidance of a motherly patron.

What makes this title good you ask? It’s funny. Laugh-out loud funny. And it’s filled with profanity. It’s Barry Ween with a chromosomal twist along the X axis. The female leads swear, flirt, and blast their way through the tale, inspiring a brand of hilarity that no self-respecting reader should leave on the stands. Consider it $2.95 well spent.

One other thing to note, and I love it when this happens, because it means the expansion of my reading library, but through the excellent Killer Princesses creators Gail Simone and Lea Hernandez just sold me on their previous and upcoming work. To be honest, I was on the fence regarding Simone’s upcoming run on Marvel’s Deadpool and this strange little book called Night Nurse from the MAX imprint, but Gail just took my money from me in the kindest way possible…by delivering quality work. Ms. Hernandez will also be reaching into the pockets when I cobble together some extra dough to purchase her Cathedral Child and Clockwork Angels graphic novels.

So there you have it. Females beatin’ that ass properly for the new year. Consult your local retailer for conclusive proof, and though these are definitely not the only instances of the fairer sex bringin’ the house down, they are ones that for me, will equal future sales.

Catch any character with a twig and berries being upstaged by their female supports in titles like Powers (Deena Pilgrim), Ultimate Spider-Man (Mary Jane, Aunt May Parker, Gwen Stacy), Ultimate X-Men (Jean Grey), Superman (Lois Lane), 100 Bullets (Dizzy Cordova), Alias (Jessica Jones), Sojourn (Arwyn), Red Star (Maya), Crux (Capricia),
the Bat-titles (Cassandra Cain, Oracle), Queen & Country (Tara Chase), and Swamp Thing (Tefe Holland). Among others.

Brandon Thomas

Special thanks go out to Nate Lee, who helped me construct the above list of female heavyweights, whether he realized it or not, and readers that take the time from their busy schedules to drop an e-mail of commentary and well-wishes. It’s much appreciated and is always welcome. Thanks again.

Next time: Complaining trapped within a series of paragraphs that have little to do with one another. From Star Wars to DC Comics and back again, it’s Free Verse as I experiment with a format that stands the possibility of failing hopelessly. Stop by and see how I do…

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