10 Great Female-Starring Comics: Part One

Marvel made many headlines when it announced that they would be launching an all-female X-Men comic in April, simply titled “X-Men”. Written by Brian Wood and drawn by Olivier Coipel, the roster will feature Storm, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Psylocke, Rachel Grey and Jubilee. The comic, which will be the most major female-centric monthly series that Marvel ever published, will accompany many more women-led comics that have been sprouting up a lot more recently. Fortunately, the insulting misconception of comics being a male-only medium is now starting to pass, and comic publishes are releasing not only more comics that prominently feature women, but great comics with excellently written female characters. The following female centric comics have only started up in the last two years or earlier, and all come highly recommended.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 (2011, Dark Horse)

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Since Buffy’s canonical return in 2007, in comic form, the series has gone through many ups and downs, and while occasionally frustrating to the diehard Buffy fan, it still occasionally hits brilliant streaks that harken back to the quality of the television series. “Season 9″ impressed early with its three-issue arc of Buffy discovering that she is pregnant. It is one of the more delicately and honestly portrayed pregnancies in popular art in recent years, and executive producer Joss Whedon and writer Andrew Chambliss deserve special praise for having Buffy contemplate getting an abortion, a subject that is avoided by most pop culture. While the aftermath of the story is not nearly as satisfying, it still does not dilute the power of those poignant issues.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9” is currently collected in two trades: Volume 1 – Freefall (#1-5), and Volume 2 – On Your Own (#6-10).

Batgirl (2011, DC)

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Barbara Gordon’s return as Batgirl was one of the riskiest moves in The New 52 sorta-reboot, and the concern felt by fans is a testament to how beloved of a character she is. Writer Gail Simone was a smart choice to helm the title and she quickly proved to be the perfect writer for this comic. “Batgirl” is every bit as uplifting as it is harrowing. The tragedy experienced by Barbara at the hands of the Joker in “The Killing Joke” is felt in every issue, and is sometimes even linked to the main story. It is the nightmare that never ends for Barbara, who suffers post-traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt. As Oracle, she is an inspiration to disabled readers, and now she is an inspiration still, this time to assault victims. Barbara Gordon’s adult life has been all about overcoming any and all setbacks, physical and psychological, to become the absolute best she can be. Taking away the wheelchair did not take away the horrors of what Barbara experienced, or everything that she had to overcome. She still has to face her tragedy every day.

Batgirl” is currently collected in one trade: Volume 1 – The Darkest Reflection (#1-6). Volume 2 will be released February 12, 2013.

Batwoman (2011, DC)

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Kate Kane is Batwoman, an intelligent and ass-kicking crime fighter who despite her name works outside of the Bat-family. Kate Kane is a lesbian, and her sexuality and romantic relations are not once exploited or depicted distastefully, and thankfully are never the subject of dreaded male-gaze. Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, the comic eloquently explores both sides of her life, as a crime fighter whose detective skills are noteworthy, and as a woman whose conversations regularly pass the Bechdel test, the latter being  a rare achievements of sorts for a mainstream comic.

Batwoman” is currently collected in two trades: Volume 1 – Hydrology (#0-5) and Volume 2 – To Drown the World (#6-11).

Wonder Woman (2011, DC)

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While originally intended to be a feminist icon, Wonder Woman comics long suffered from not being taken seriously by DC, and writers who had no idea what to do with her. A role model in theory and a damsel in distress in execution regrettably sums up some part of her history. Things started looking up for her a lot in 2000s, and continue to run strong with Brian Azzarello’s run on the New 52 series. Her origin story has been rewritten again, and much of her past retconned, so this comic serves as an accessible introduction to the character. It favors a serialized novel-like structure, so those looking for a slow-burn superhero comic telling a singular story should look here. Its depiction of Wonder Woman is slightly unique, combining her traditional no-nonsense attitude with more modern knowledge. Classical mythology geeks will be impressed by the creative interpretations of the gods, and it is easy to get caught up in the family drama and power struggle they undergo.

Wonder Woman” is currently collected in two trades: Volume 1 – Blood (#1-6) and Volume 2 – Guts (#7-12).

Birds of Prey (2011, DC)

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The all-female “X-Men” is still a few months away, but anyone wanting to read a strong all woman superhero group comic now do not have to wait at all. Birds of Prey has been in the DC universe since the mid ’90s and while it has undergone roster variations, it usually always revolves around Black Canary and Barbara Gordon. The first issues in this series focus on Canary trying to form a new Birds of Prey lineup, but the comic is a lot more exciting than that sounds, starting out as a high-octane action series reminiscent of spy films. Later in the series Barbara joins the team, but for the first time as Batgirl, and after previously being the boss (as Oracle), it adds a completely new spin on the central Canary/Gordon relationship that has been the heart of Birds of Prey since its inception.

Birds of Prey” is currently collected in one trade: Volume 1 – Trouble in Mind (#1-7). Volume 2 will be released April 17, 2013.

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By Trevor Dobbin

Trevor Dobbin lives in the oldest city in North America: St John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. He is taking time off from undergraduate studies and plans to one day earn a degree that will take him zero steps closer to gaining financial security and meaningful employment. In the meantime, his passion for the arts inspires and influences his day-to-day life. Obsessed with all things film, television, comics, music and tea (tea is most definitely an art), he longs to live in a world where all people randomly break out into song and dance; preferably with Muppets involved.

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2 Responses to 10 Great Female-Starring Comics: Part One

  1. Jack Deth February 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Hi, Trevor and company:

    Though Barbara Gordon will always be Batgirl. I really enjoyed Cassandra Cain’s take on her during the ‘Cataclysm’, ‘No Man’s Land’ and post quake Gotham series of comics. Also as a guest star in one of Dark Horse’s ‘Ghost’ stories.

    Having Batgirl’s face completely covered added drama and mystique that other variants missed.

    Also liked Batwoman and Renee Montoya’s “The Question” working together.

    ‘Birds of Prey’ is decent, well executed series of stories. And a nice extension of “Oracle” and her expertise.

    Looking forward to the next five!

    Reply
    • Trevor Dobbin February 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Thanks for the response!

      I too miss Cassandra Cain. Stephanie Brown, too. I’ve always been a fan of those two, and sadly, neither of them thus far has been given much use in the New 52 universe. I believe they’re both involved in Batman, Inc., (the organization; they’re not really used in the comic up to what I’ve read).

      Reply

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