I know I’m not the only bookish person who’s wondered about comics, or thought about trying them out. As a kid, I liked comic adaptations of classic novels, and I often read them side-by-side with the original texts. But I never really attempted to immerse myself in comics before 2014 because, frankly, I was intensely intimidated by the fans and history.
Superman’s been around since 1948. Batman’s been bashing around Gotham since the late 1930s. The thought of having to familiarize myself with over 50+ years of comic history was more than enough to put me off reading superhero comics for most of my life.
But over the last two years of writing for a comics-centric online magazine–led by women at that–I found myself curious about what I was missing. I went mostly by recommendations from friends at first, as I learned about the comics industry and the work of lady comics creators. What I found was a rich spectrum of stories and characters that have made my reading life even more interesting. Here’s a few of my favourites, with a bit of a guide for those who are totally new to reading comics and might be feeling awkward or confused. Consider this me holding your hand while you jump into some fantastic stories.
The 2014 Ms. Marvel series is a new take on the title, with past Ms. Marvels including Carol Danvers (now Captain Marvel), Sharon Ventura (now She-Thing), and villain Karla Sofen/Moonstone. Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-Muslim teen living in New Jersey who finds herself transformed into an Inhuman after an encounter with some terrigen mist. The series was renumbered late last year–this means that the issue following issue #20 is another #1–though the story continues in a new arc. Confusing? This does happen with Marvel and DC comics, so finding a friend who reads them regularly is a HUGE help.
I’ve reviewed Volume 1 on the blog before, but my love for this series always bears repeating. Kamala is a true delight of a character, and she’s so easy to relate to. While I haven’t found myself in the middle of terrigen mist, I do know what it’s like to deal with family obligations and wanting to be independent. Kamala’s sense of humour is so refreshing, and her determination is inspiring.
My favourite arc thus far is actually the ongoing one, with Kamala using clones of herself to get things done. If you know me, you know that I like it best when I’m too busy to think, and I can understand Kamala’s frustration with herself. We’ll see how it plays out.
The buzz for this title was quiet at first, before a bit of a jump in late 2015, and all the better for it. Maika’s story takes place in a world of monsters and soldiers, slaves and revolutions, and her secrets seem to drive much of the movement of the story. Everyone wonders about Maika for one reason or another, and as a reader, you can’t help but be entranced as each issue unfolds her history.
I love love love that this comic is written and drawn by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, two Asian women who are doing incredible work in comics today. Liu’s script is intriguing and mysterious enough to keep you turning the page, even as you want to sink into Takeda’s gorgeous artwork. The detail in each issue of Monstress is astounding, and I find myself going back to specific pages to admire both women’s handling of their craft.
While Liu and Takeda were on a break last month, issue #4 comes out next Wednesday, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Maika.
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!
Patsy’s name will likely sound familiar to viewers of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, though the tone of this comic couldn’t be farther from the TV series. In Jessica Jones, Patsy has a history similar to her 1944 comic book self who worked with the Avengers. In the new comic, Patsy Walker is an unemployed millennial who just wants to get her life together, except, you know, she’s also a superhero and former child star. I won’t lie and say that that’s not a story many of my peers can relate to, employed or not, and Patsy’s sense of humour is just as compelling.
I don’t really laugh out loud while reading comics, but I couldn’t help it while reading the first issue of Hellcat. Each issue has only continued to make me laugh, something I enjoy immensely. Patsy is a witty and engaging character, and her cast of friends is delightful to interact with.
Like Monstress, Hellcat has only just started, with three issues available to catch up on. Patsy’s story is an easy in to the world of comics, and there are definitely some recognizable characters that brighten up the pages.
Check back on Thursday for part 2 of my recommendations, and a guide to where you can pick up these comics for yourself!