Female superheroes

When Tim went to our local comic shop a few weeks ago, he brought home issue 1 of several new (or recently started) series, no less than five of them new Marvel series with female leads. Which is a pretty big step to redressing the gender imbalance that has tended to exist in superhero universes. I’ve only read this selection of first issues (plus last year’s new series Captain Marvel and Ms Marvel) but they’re all kickass heroines who promise plenty for the future.

Bearing in my mind that these are single issues, so I’ve only had 20 or so pages of each story, here are my thoughts on these new series.

****Spoiler warning****
Tim has pointed that, because these characters are not new, my reviews do contain spoilers for previous series featuring these ladies, so if you’re a little behind in the Marvel universes, you have been warned!

angela-asgards-assassin-1Angela Asgard’s Assassin issue 1
Written by Kieron Gillen and Marguerite Bennett, art by Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans

The only one of these new series to have a woman writer and also the least humorous of the bunch. The writing is poetic, almost mock heroic, as is the art. Angela is the secret sister of Thor and Loki, raised by the enemies of Asgard in Heven and now determined to spurn both peoples and survive on her own. The character was co-created by Neil Gaiman, which makes a lot of sense. I really like that despite her minimal clothing, the way she is drawn doesn’t feel like fan service in any way. She has super fighting skills but difficulty understanding how to emotionally navigate the world. This comic is clearly the beginning of a big epic adventure, meaning I feel that I’ve really not understood properly what is going on or who anyone actually is. I’m intrigued but certainly prefer the more humorous style of the other Marvel comics I’ve read.

Published February 2015 by Marvel.

 

unbeatable-squirrel-girl-1The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl issue 1
Words by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson

At the far end of the seriousness scale from Angela, this is the story of Doreen Green, a human with the proportional strength and abilities of a squirrel (yes, really), including a big bushy tail. She’s just starting college and so needs to hide her super identity (and tail) from new friends while still fighting any villains who come near. Her best friend is an actual squirrel called Tippy-Toe and she has a theme song that she’s hoping will catch on. There are quips-a-plenty, humorous footnotes and handy trading cards to provide background to any villains mentioned. It’s funny, it’s different but I must admit that I found the dialogue kinda clunky. I also didn’t learn much about Squirrel Girl as a person, rather than as a set of abilities. Pretty sure I won’t continue reading this one.

Published March 2015 by Marvel.

 

Spider-Woman-1Spider-Woman issue 1
Written by Dennis Hopeless, art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Frank D’Armata

This was a plunge into the middle of the Spider-Verse, a recent (so recent the final issues are still wrapping things up) Marvel “event” that crossed – and created – several Spider-Man titles. I had read none of that, but Tim has and gave me a summary so I wouldn’t feel utterly lost here. The title page also gives a little summary but I confess I was glad I had Tim around to answer questions or this could have been bewildering. Jessica Drew is Spider-Woman, one of many arachno-powered superheroes in the multiverse on the run from the Inheritors, a villainous family tracking down and killing Spider-Totems to feed on their life force. As this comic opens, she is trying to keep fellow spidey Silk safe from harm. Silk is impetuous, inexperienced and wise-cracking, which makes protecting her a tough gig. Spider-Woman, on the other hand, is mature, frustrated and trying to remain practical. It’s a nice set-up and I like the big sister style relationship. However, there was a lot of backstory to figure out. My main gripe, though, is that Spider-Woman is the one character in all these five series who is drawn in the most backwardly sexist manner. She’s all ridiculous poses, giant pointy breasts and naked belly. It’s a shame because other than that, this series has promise.

Published January 2015 by Marvel.

 

silk-1Silk issue 1
Written by Robbie Thompson, art by Stacey Lee

My favourite of this bunch, possibly because despite having a backstory in the Spider-Verse, this is a new beginning that’s easy to follow. As a teenager, Cindy Moon was bitten by the same spider that bit Peter Parker and gained the same powers. A mysterious protector locked her away in a bunker for 10 years and then she had to go on the run for a while, but now she’s back in New York, trying to make a life, fight crime and get the hang of powers she’s barely had a chance to use. She’s funny, but not in the clever quips style of Peter Parker (who pops up here) and her stylish superhero name and outfit are at odds with her clumsiness. I really like the art style and the long-term quests that are established for her. Looking forward to more of this one.

Published April 2015 by Marvel. (Yes, that’s what it says. Not sure how that works.)

 

Spider-Gwen-1Spider-Gwen issue 1
Written by Jason Latour, art by Robbi Rodriguez

Another product of the Spider-Verse (although the events covered here are post Spider-Verse), this had the same feeling as Spider-Woman of being dropped into the middle of a complex story, but with the benefit of a more fun central character (with a great costume) and a lighter-hearted tone. Gwen Stacy is another universe’s Spider-Woman, a vigilante whose secret identity is known only by her father, who just happens to be the head of the police, and a mysterious villain called Kingpin. She’s young, only recently out of high school, and had hoped to make it as a drummer for the Mary Janes until fighting monsters made her late for their big breakthrough gig. Now she’s scraping by, hoping to persuade the public and the police that she isn’t the bad guy. Once I got over the confusion of being in a different universe but with so many familiar names around, this was a lot of fun and another series I’m interested in reading more of.

Published April 2015 by Marvel.

 

None of these grabbed me quite as thoroughly as Ms Marvel (which I was planning to blog about but somehow haven’t yet) but they’re all strong beginnings of strong characters (well okay, none of them is the beginning of a character, they’re just putting these characters front and centre for the first time). I’m really glad the gender imbalance is starting to be redressed among lead characters and just hope that Marvel follows up with more women writers.

Are you a follower of superhero comics? What do you think of the new crop from Marvel?

3 thoughts on “Female superheroes

  1. talkie_tim March 18, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    This got me thinking. Although I thought the old costume was cringingly cheesecakey, at least it was her own costume. It wasn’t just the Steve Ditko Spidey-suit with a bow tied on. Still, Spider-Woman’s costume got a much needed redesign in the latest issue!

    http://marvel.wikia.com/Spider-Woman_Vol_5_5

    Here’s Geekdad on the recent trends in female superhero costumery: http://geekdad.com/2015/03/vocal-minority-comics/

  2. Ellie March 21, 2015 at 9:53 am

    Marvels’ films have put me off them a bit (they all seem to be the same story) but it’s good to see more female leads.

  3. Kate Gardner March 22, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    talkie_tim Thanks for the link. And also for buying the comics for me to scrutinise!

    Ellie I’ve been quite enjoying the films but wish these female leads would transfer over.

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