book reviews, comics, literature

Women Can, and Should, Be Superheroes, Too!

A brief follow up to my post from last summer where I talked about, among other things, the poor representation of women in comic books.  I’m here to report that there are some encouraging signs (though, as ever, there are still problems like Spider-woman’s butt and the poor treatment of Batwoman from editors and writers).  I just finished reading three of Marvel’s recent series featuring female characters, and they were all pretty great (plus two were actually written by women!).

Captain Marvel (written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by David Lopez) and She-Hulk (written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Javier Pulido, primarily) are well rounded and capable heroes.  Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, is an Avenger, but she leaves Earth to patrol the galaxy.  I didn’t used to care much for cosmic heroes and stories because I thought it was too unrealistic (as if any superhero was “realistic”).  Now I’m simply looking for a good story well told, regardless of setting.  Carol is brave, if not a bit rash, but even when she bites off more than she can chew, she manages against the odds, just as any superhero does.  She doesn’t need to be rescued.  Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, is a lawyer, despite her green skin, and a good one at that.  This new series takes her work as a lawyer seriously (which makes sense as the writer Soule is a practicing lawyer himself), foregrounding it more than the superhero action, though it has that, too.  Both series are refreshing in their portrayals of real women in superhero stories.  And the art in both books, though drawn by men in each instance, refrains from the cheesecake that so often mars comic books.

But the most exciting series of the bunch is Ms. Marvel (written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona).  It stars Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim teenage girl, who takes on the name of her hero Carol Danvers.  In many ways, Kamala is the new Spider-Man, a teenager who suddenly finds herself with superpowers, but still has to deal with the confusing world of being a teenager.  The story takes her seriously on every level, with her family, her friends, and her religion.  And, oh yeah, with her new powers and her new life as a superhero.  The art by Alphona gets teenagers right, which is no surprise after his previous work on Runaways.  It’s simultaneously a surprise and no wonder that the book is a success.  A book this complete should be a hit, but so often a book starring a character not the typical stereotype hero though written well is a critical darling before getting an early cancellation.  Fortunately, Kamala seems to be the exception.  I hope this is beginning of more and better representations of women for the comics industry.  This is a good start.