One of the most astonishing and exciting things about the comics coming out this year is how different they are from one another. This is feasibly the most incredible variety the market has had available since before the Code. As publishers step up and try new things, they also find ways to address an increasingly vocal and diverse audience, and 2015 has some of the most exciting female-fronted titles I’ve seen since I started reading comics. Here are just a few that come out this week:
Help Us! Great Warrior #2
Published by Boom! Studios
Written and drawn by Madeleine Flores
Edited by Trillian Gunn
This tiny potato-shaped hero defies expectations at every turn. Originally a webcomic, then picked up by Boom!, this series is barely beginning but it’s off to an extremely solid start. The first issue introduced the readers to the sassmaster herself, our titular Great Warrior, as the guardian of a small village who was willing to help but had her own priorities as well– for instance, naps. In this issue, Hadiyah, who had originally tried to summon the warrior to close the portal to the Demonside, has to get insistent because Great Warrior is finding herself fairly distracted and is trying to do what she thinks is best for her adorable village. With a giant bow on her head and manga-style tears in her eyes, she’s cute and sympathetic, but she has undeniable strength and agency as well.
Madeleine Flores has done excellent work on the art, despite the fact that the entire village is populated by lumps with arms and legs, and the ability for such minimal characters to express such extreme dynamic feelings is impressive. The human characters are drawn diversely, the demons are drawn as impressions of evil with more feeling than detail, and the bright cheerful colors keep the story from getting to dark (literally). The lettering of the onomatopoeia has been executed in a way that is fresh and evocative.
Ms. Marvel #13
Published by Marvel Comics
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Takeshi Miyagawa
Letters by Ian Herring
Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel has been an extreme success for Marvel, not only marking their first Muslim superhero, but telling a compelling story of a teenage girl who is both insecure and intensely confident at times, a dichotomy that reflects life for many of the young women who read and relate to this book. Kamala is just as likely to do the right thing regardless of her personal feelings, like save a classmate who has bullied her from drowning, as she is to struggle with morality, in the case of wanting to sneak out to a school dance despite her parents’ disapproval. Her storyline has featured a lot of really important character-defining moments as she struggles with her identity, and the girl we meet in the first issue is very different from the one who appears in this latest issue. As she’s begun to master her powers, to feel confident in her role as a superhero, to realize the value she and her peers have, she has grown into a better version of herself. Many comics featuring female leads choose to make their protagonist’s identity about her love life, or make her love life completely nonexistent to allow her to be strong and pure, but in this issue Kamala considers romance seriously for the first time and it is an opportunity for her to be vulnerable but also not a defining part of who she is.
Kamala’s portrayal as herself has not changed drastically in appearance since the first issue, but it’s vitally important to note the changes in her guise as Ms. Marvel, as she begins by wanting to be the “politically incorrect Ms. Marvel with the impossible boots” (not a verbatim quote) and is transformed into a blonde-haired blue-eyed white superhero. Over time, as she gains confidence in herself and finds herself less influenced by other people’s expectations of who they think she should be, her Ms. Marvel persona evolves until it becomes reflective of who she wants to be. Her character design is spectacular; her body type is realistic for her age, her face is unique and expressive and in no way generic, her nose is a little large, her clothes are a little punk (but not so punk her parents would object), her friends are all completely different from one another, even the kids who bully her are given unique characteristics and agency.
Copperhead, Volume 1
Published by Image Comics
Written by Jay Faerber
Art by Scott Godlewski
Colors by Ron Riley
Letters by Thomas Mauer
Copperhead is being touted as Brian K. Vaughan’s favorite new series, and in addition to being a good writer, the man has excellent taste. The story follows Clara Bronson, the new Sheriff in Copperhead, as she and her young son Zeke move and become acclimated to their new home. In many ways it’s a traditional Western, except Copperhead is not on Earth, and its population is largely not human. The world that Faerber and Godlewski have built implies that there was a war in the recent past in which the humans colonized this new planet, leaving many of the non-human characters resentful of Clara’s new position of authority– her deputy, Budroxifinicus, even says upon meeting her, “You people talk about how we’re supposed to be fully assimilated, but I can’t help noticing my people are never in charge.” It’s very much traditional colonial discourse in literature, wonderfully executed, even at the same time as the character representing the imperial force is exceptionally relatable and sympathetic.
The aliens are drawn in ways that make it extremely clear that they are neither human nor do they want to be; they are not simply blue-faced or bald, they’re very obviously completely different species and they have completely unique ways they value appearance. What makes this book exceptional, though, are the way the characters communicate nonverbally. They are demonstrably expressive and it makes it so much easier to become absorbed into the book completely as a reader. In fact, one could feasibly use panels of Clara’s face as reaction images and never type another word.