I’m gonna be real with you, Girl Gang. 2015 was awful and I’m glad to see it end. However! There were so many good comics this year that I need to talk about first.
(Also, sorry this is so long. I meant to keep it short and sweet and then I started writing about these great titles and I couldn’t stop.)
5. Black Canary
When DC announced this title, I was psyched. Black Canary is one of my all-time favorite superheroes, and it was about damn time she got her own title again. I was even more excited when I heard who was put on the book. Writer Brendan Fletcher has been doing amazing things on Batgirl, where we last saw Black Canary, and Annie Wu’s issues of Hawkeye were my favorite in the entire run. It’s always dangerous to pick up a first issue with really high hopes, but I have to say: I have not been disappointed.
The story is Dinah doing something new: singing in a band, which she names Black Canary. Of course, Dinah is never safe from her past, and it becomes clear that whoever put the band together had an alterior motive to selling out venues. I’ve really loved all of the new characters in this title, especially Dinah’s bandmates.
The true star of this title is the artwork. Wu manipulates panel shapes and sizes to create dynamic movement, especially when the band is performing. You can feel the energy and intensity of the music without hearing a single note. The style is almost reminiscent of old punk flyers and zines, messy but intentional. The colors are gorgeous, perfectly contrasting muted pastel tones with intense neon hues. Really, Black Canary is worth picking up just to see this incredible art for yourself.
4. Rat Queens
The end of 2014 was not a good time for Rat Queens. In November 2014, their former artist Roc Upchurch was arrested on domestic violence charges, and it was announced he would not be on the comic anymore. I was very excited when they announced that he would be replaced with artist Tess Fowler. Fowler has been an important voice on abuse in the comic book industry.
Although some fans were worried about what an artist change would do to Rat Queens, their worries were proven unnecessary when the Rat Queens Braga Special was released January 2015. Fowler’s presence on the team obviously improved an already excellent title. I love how she draws the Queens. There is no “same face” here: each one of them is drawn distinctly and beautifully. It’s so clear that Fowler understands and loves these characters.
With every new arc, Rat Queens continues to be one of the most interesting and unique comics out there. It has a little of everything: girl power, magic, gore, sex, and disgusting monsters. I’ll definitely be keeping Rat Queens title on my pull list until it comes to an end.
3. Ms. Marvel
“Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.” Kamala said this line in Ms. Marvel #5, and it has stayed with me ever since. I recently reread the entire Ms. Marvel series as it ‘ended’ after Secret Wars this summer (it didn’t really end, but Marvel restarted all of their comics at #1 in September of this year after that in-universe event). I was so struck by how special Kamala is. She stays with you. By the number of times I’ve seen this series on other bloggers’ “Best of 2015” lists, it is clear that I’m not the only one who has been influenced by Kamala.
The story of “teenager gets powers and has to deal with them” is anything but new. Writer G. Willow Wilson took that premise and created something completely unique and special. As a Muslim-American teenager, the representation Kamala brings to comics makes this story new. Kamala is special because of that and more. She is a very realistic portrayal of a young girl who suddenly finds herself alongside the heroes she always idolized. 2015 brought the long-awaited meeting between Kamala and Carol Danvers, and I cried and cried when I read it for the first time. Watching her as she grows to fill her newly-assigned “hero” status has been an absolute joy.
Kamala inspires me deep down inside in every issue. Her passion, honesty, and positivity are something I aspire to every day. Although she is fictional, she feels so real, and I want to live a life that makes Kamala proud. I want to good to be the thing that I do.
2. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
I was flying alone when I read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 for the first time. On the second page, Squirrel Girl kicks some robbers’ butts, and as she throws one of them over her head, he yells, “I am currently reevaluating the choices that led me to a criminal liiiiiiife!” This line took me by surprise and I unexpectedly and suddenly cackled very loudly, making my neighbor jump in his seat. I was slightly embarrassed, but thought it was a one-time thing now that I had a feel for the tone of the book.
Nope. I laughed out loud at just about every single page after that. I was absolutely delighted. This is the comic we all needed this year. The world is terrible and bad things happen constantly, but Doreen is a beam of light once a month with her reckless optimism and a great sense of humor. She is the hero who tries to befriend villains (see above strip) before butt-kicking, but also never holds back if a bad guy really deserves it. Doreen is a great friend, and she accepts every person she meets for who they are.
My favorite part of Squirrel Girl might be the tiny captions at the bottom of each page. They never fail to make me laugh. The above strip captures everything I love about this series in three panels: friendship, humor, and hilarious captions.
1. Bitch Planet
Bitch Planet reminds me strongly of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I first read in my Intro to Women’s Studies course during my first semester at college. I remember reading Atwood’s words and having one of my first “Aha!” moments of understanding in my feminist education. Reading Bitch Planet for the first time was another significant “Aha!” moment in my life. It was a much-needed reminder that those moments of discovery never stop happening, even after graduating with a Women’s Studies degree. Bitch Planet is a hauntingly realistic portrayal of a misogynistic dystopia that thrives at the cost of its women.
This series has become more than just a comic book to me and many other women. The non-compliant symbol has turned into a tattoo phenomenon, with hundreds of women worldwide choosing to permanently label themselves as going against societal expectations. Being a Bitch Planet reader feels like being part of something huge and important and bigger than yourself. When I read it, I feel connected to every other woman reading the comic having her own “Aha!” moment.
More than anything, Bitch Planet is an upsetting and glorious reminder of the discovery, the pain, and most of all the community that comes with identifying as woman. It reminds us that being non-compliant is not only okay, but something to strive for.
So there you have it, Girl Gang. Writing this has been a nice reminder that these worlds exist for me when I need a break from my own. I hope you have a great New Years, no matter what you’re doing. Stay safe, and we will see you in 2016! Happy New Year!