In honor of Women’s History Month—I know I’m late—I want to dedicate this post to the reader that loves comics and loves reading comics with leading female characters. Initially, I wanted to write about female authors making an impact on the industry. However, how easy would that have been to name a few authors who may or may not inspire me as a reader and/or writer. This post focuses solely on notable female characters that enhance an already good and impactful story…those that I read. (I don’t read everything or anything. I’m sure there are plenty of stories out there that I will never get to.)
1) Kamala Khan – Ms. Marvel (2014), Marvel
Kamala Khan is a young Pakistani-American and Muslim teenager living in Jersey City, New Jersey. Kamala made a cameo in Captain Marvel #14 (2013). She is hardly noticeable, appearing in one panel as an innocent bystander. She recently debuted in her very own solo feature: Ms. Marvel #1 (2014) written by G. Willow Wilson.
Kamala was a hit from the start! She accidentally became an Inhuman after being engulfed in a cloud of ‘Terrigen Mist’, a toxic gas that has the power to kill or change humans into mutants. Kamala survived the initial process and gained the power of elasticity.
More inspirational is the way Kamala manages her personal life with her “responsibilities” as a crime-fighter and eventually a member of the New Avengers team. Her family and friends are deeply (and sometimes unknowingly) involved in her development into maturity, a uniquely telling factor in her likability as a shero. She is not a loner and as much as she tries to run away from those important to her, she reflects and returns to all the essential aspects of life and love.
No need for the “look at me I’m a girl with powers!” rhetoric, she’s a superhero! Much respect, Ms. Marvel, you have a fan in me… and my 3-year old son! Read this comic, you will not be disappointed!
2) Shå – The Spire (2015), BOOM! Studios
The Spire is a mountain twisting high up from toxic wastelands in Simon Spurrier’s fantasy world. Shå is the “Commander of the Watch”. Despite her rank and dedication to the city she falls victim to incessant racism being the only one of her species left in the city. She’s a brilliant detective and leader. Her story is interesting because her love life and her adversaries are linked. She is constantly running from a number of things in her life, but sooner or later she will have to confront them.
If you are a sci-fi geek or just love new world fantasy, the Spurrier and Stokely combo on this short series is worth a look and an open wallet. I can read these books over and over and each time find a new detail.
3) Astrid Mueller – Clean Room (2015), Vertigo
Everyone wants to know: who is Astrid Mueller?! One thing is certain about this master of manipulation, she’s scary…very scary. Gail Simone really let loose with this horror. Astrid, a woman who once as a girl was the target of a very hateful crime, grew into a mysterious leader of a self-help cult. Her empire rests soundly with the Clean Room, where she traps her victims and makes them experience their life’s worst moments and fears.
Astrid may be a psychology guru or a psychic or just plain crazy. But, there are things to admire about her character. She knows exactly what she wants and who she needs and who she needs to be rid of.
As a reader I have no idea what Astrid wants, but I am deeply involved in this compelling story! Read it! This gruesome tale will likely be on television in the future.
4) Michonne – The Walking Dead (2003), Image
You all know her! The famous African-American sword-lady that is a favorite to what is probably the most exciting horror series in comics and on television. Aside from Rick Grimes, the now rugged ex-cop, Michonne is the next essential piece – and probably the coolest character – in Robert Kirkman’s zombie thriller and AMC’s masterpiece.
I have to say, the quality of writing on Michonne’s initial development goes positively to AMC’s The Walking Dead writers, and not to Robert Kirkman. When Michonne came on the scene in issue #19 of the comics, she was conflicted and horny and everything that is wrong with [white] men writing about [black] women. (Still, kudos to Kirkman for creating a Michonne. It was a great move.) I’m glad AMC is showing her in good light.
One thing is true, if Michonne gets killed off in a bogus way in either the comic or TV show series, TWD will have lost a fan. She is too smart and too good at killing zombies and eliminating her adversaries for me to believe that she is not capable of seeing it to the end.
5) Alana and Hazel – Saga (2013), Image
Alana is Hazel’s mother, and Hazel is narrating the story of her mother and father in this epic space fantasy from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. The story begins with the married couple, a pregnant Alana and Marko – who are from two opposing extraterrestrial races – evading multiple authorities that shun the union. What pursuing organizations are not aware of is, well, Hazel. Alana and Marko are hoping to keep Hazel a secret, but it’s proving difficult.
While the story is told from Hazel’s point of view, the first arc is mostly about Alana and Marko. Alana is written as a very sexual being, impatient and adventurous. She is without a lot of caution which is partially the reason for her and Marko’s troubles. Quite and upbeat character who doesn’t dull as the series continues.
Hazel is just a girl trying to make sense of her world. Many thanks to Vaughan for his vision and Staples for the artistic creation in bring Hazel to life. Hazel reminds me—as a parent—of any infant/child/headache, pure and leaves you questioning your own life. As a reader I look forward to her growth and I want to see the reverse effect of her and her parents relationship. Alana and Marko placed Hazel in danger with their ‘love goals’ and as Hazel grows she may place them in danger. It’s all a cycle.
This comic series is beautiful, literarily and artistically. It’s a well-acclaimed book and I look forward to reading it in its entirety. It resonates greatly with mixed-race families, lovers of Romeo and Juliet, Star Wars fans, space opera lovers and cool people in general. Not one to miss!
6) Dana and Martha Cypress – Revival (2012), Image
Tim Seeley is the mastermind behind this rural-noir science fiction that puts an interesting twist on the zombie genre. The story is set in a small rural town in Wisconsin, that bcomes the center of all news following the aftermath of a day when the dead arose back to life. There are many elements to the story and the relationship between two sisters—Dana and Martha (Em) Cypress—helps focus the plot in very nice ways. It is a blood and guts tale, but one that captivates you even when the story is too much and you just want to close your eyes.
Dana Cypress is a big sister, a mother and a police officer. She tries to be a positive role model for a younger sister and a growing son, but she is constantly falling short. She is, however, always attempting to be there for her family. Dana is a great central character.
Martha Cypress is a reviver. She struggles with being “dead”, but also with the fact of her death. (*Spoiler: Martha was murdered, but doesn’t remember who her killer was.) She is a loner, but has an annoying sister – Dana – who is always attempting to be there.
Dana and Martha are the perfect siblings. Their affection passes one another, but they are still sisters. They are down for each other and it’s showing throughout the story.
7) Agent 355 – Y: The Last Man (2002), Vertigo
Agent 355 is a very sexy—if she knew it—dark-skinned government agent that has been tasked with protecting what is essentially the last man on Earth, Yorick Brown. This series also comes from Brian K. Vaughan—writer of Saga (2012)—who is hitting on all cylinders right now. Y: The Last Man is a post-apocalyptic science fiction drama following the aftermath of a day when, all but one man, suddenly die.
Agent 355 is special because of her teasing relationship with Yorick Brown. Yorick is the only man left in the world and so the demands and directives from Agent 355 can be a bit annoying for him. Since the story is mostly told from Yorick’s perspective, Agent 355 comes off as the motherly figure that never lets up. Deep down she deeply cares for Yorick and is probably the only one that can save his life. Yorick’s story falls short without Agent 355.
This book may be on your television set soon. Be sure to read it.
8) All the Women on … – Bitch Planet (2014), Image
Don’t be put off by this title it perfectly sums up a feminist dystopian reality in an off-planet prison. This beautiful and raw creation comes to us from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro.
Bitch Planet has an ‘Orange is the New Black’ kind of fill, but which is much more rugged and to the point of the demands of the prisoners. There is a lot of violence, cursing, sadness and joy in this series. All of the female characters are well-written. While all of the criticism following the release of Bitch Planet has not been positive, I see a lot of promise in this story. It especially has the power to share with young adult readers of fiction aspects of feminism.
9) Juliette – Wool: The Graphic Novel (2013), Cryptozoic
This is Hugh Howey’s best-selling novel, Wool, but in graphic novel or comic format. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray introduced Juliette in book 2 of this fast-paced six-issue post-apocalyptic mystery. Juliette is a mechanical engineer in an unspecified future dystopia where the last humans live in silos extending deep underground.
It is a story about class, equality and power. Juliette is not shown as a daring character until she is caught in the middle of a political conspiracy. She is forced to make hard decisions to save her life and the life of others – those unconscious of what is going on in and outside of the silos. In what started as a series of novels, these comics are a great read!
I do have a few honorable mentions to share: 1) Paper Girls (2015) by Brian K. Vaughan; 2) Captain Marvel (2016) by Michele Fezekas; 3) and Mystery Girl (2015) by Paul Tobin are all fun series with leading female characters.
Thanks for reading!!!