How did everyone make out on Free Comic Book Day? I was only able to visit one comics store this year, but I did discover some new titles to keep an eye on. Particularly Hilda, from Nobrow Press, and I Hate Fairyland, from Image Comics. The former is about “a headstrong little girl’s adventures through a Nordic mythscape,” according to NPR’s guide to this year’s FCBD. Norse mythscape? Trolls and changelings? A cartooney little girl who sort of reminds me of Mabel from Gravity Falls? Deal me in!
The latter I first learned about from sj on Insatiable Booksluts (note: super salty language), who was hooked by the presence of: faeries and
unicorns, zombies, creative swearing, and lots of blood. Now, I’m not usually a fan of super gory-gross violence in my media. And I’m still on the fence about whether I want to further immerse myself in the Holy Sugar That’s Violent world of I Hate Fairyland after reading Volume 1 and the FCBD one-shot. It’s just…it’s done in such a goofy, humorous way, and that contrast between the cutesy as fluff setting and the horror movie blood-letting is really funny. But also disturbing as hell hugs.
I mean, this girl. She’s got style, amirite? Look at that meta humor.
And you know I love creative swearing/exclamations. In Fairyland, every time Gertrude tries to swear, it comes out as cutesy words like “huggin’ puffin'” and “muffin fluffin’.” It’s funny!
You know what’s not so funny, though? Watching a human woman get smashed in the face with a stool, and kicked in the boob, and also the kneecap… That’s just the first few panels in the FCBD episode, I Hate Image, in which Gertrude travels to the land of Image Comics characters. I mean, I like trying out new genres and stuff, but…I have my limits, you know?
On a more kid-friendly note, I also enjoyed leafing through Drawn & Quarterly’s Colorful Monsters, which features the sweet creature stylings of Moomin, Elise Gravel, Anouk Ricard, and Shigeru Mizuki. There are kind (but also slightly ruthless) hippos and opportunistic weasel/kangaroos, grumpy tomatoes, vampire hedgehogs (well, what do you think he looks like?), lovebird worms, and a Dr. Seuss-like seal-headed creature with a super long neck, among other fun creatures.
Anyhoo, those were my FCBD finds, but now we’re going to look at some of the other comics I’ve been reading these past few weeks.
I’ve never really followed the DC/Marvel universe, other than watching the Spiderman and X-Men movies and reading a really neat and gritty Rogue/Logan fanfic, but when I found out about two of the newest superheroes — America Chavez, the
first lesbian Latina super, and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, the first Muslim-American super — my interest was piqued. Kamala and America are heroes for the 21st century. Kamala writes Avengers fanfic and deals with concern trolls at her high school. America connects with her fans on social media. But they’re also just classic kick-ass young women who don’t let the social norms of previous generations limit them.
Now, with Ms. Marvel, I felt pretty secure without any prior knowledge of the Avengers or Captain Marvel (though, I at least roughly know who Carol Danvers is from reading that X-Men fanfic I mentioned earlier). Kamala is a totally new character, and I can follow her story pretty easily without a lot of context. America was a little harder to settle into without knowing anything about her prior roles in The Ultimates and Young Avengers, or how this new comic matches or diverges from the style of earlier Marvel comics. I have no idea what the Utopian Parallel is, or whether the out-of-the-blue and over-in-a-flashness of America’s breakup with Lisa is just the style of this genre. But more about America in a bit.
As a character, I love that, in terms of her identity as Muslim, Kamala is portrayed as an individual rather than a stereotype — her experience is not the Muslim-American experience, but a Muslim-American experience. Her parents and brother are more traditional, while Kamala wants to go to parties, hang out with boys, and work on her superhero fangirling. Her best friend Nakia chooses to wear a head scarf in school; Kamala doesn’t. And she isn’t a 2D rebel either. Kamala does challenge some of the traditional tenets of her family, culture and religion, but she also wants to defend her family when her peers make negative assumptions about them.
She’s also fiercely loyal to her hometown, Jersey City, and will do anything to protect it from the evil stylings of some guy called The Inventor (who’s totally not a bird!). The overall story has me hooked, but I did have to put on my suspension-of-disbelief goggles for some parts — like how, even though her parents are against her hanging out with boys, they apparently totally don’t mind that her second-best friend is a guy. Or how, even though they’re aware she’s still sneaking out at all hours after they grounded her for one such incident, they barely do a thing to stop her.
Or how, ok, they do make her talk to the local sheikh (a religious leader), but when she vaguely explains she’s been “helping people,” he doesn’t insist she tell him more about this secret “helping” she’s doing late at night, which she doesn’t want her parents to know about. Nope, he’s totally not concerned that she might be doing something dangerous because “helping people” sounds totally legit.
Oh well, she gets to meet Wolverine and the Inhumans, and finds out some neat stuff about her origins, and I want to find out where this Inventor arc is going.
So, as I mentioned earlier, it would’ve been neat to read America having already met her before, and being able to compare her style in these new comics with that of her previous iterations. On the other hand, the new comics do at least offer a little info on her backstory and the characters she interacts with, and this new story is intriguing enough that I’m sure I’ll be going back to Books, Comics & Things each month.
The basic storyline is that America is tired of the superhero business and wants to try out college for a while. So, of course, she goes to a university for superheroes and mutants, and of course she gets sucked into a battle against cyborgs on her second day.
Oh, and punches Hitler on her first day.
I’m pretty sure you can’t have a superhero comic without
someone punching Hitler at some point.
As a character, America is cocky, sarcastic, and shoot-first-ask-questions-later, but with a hidden soft side. Pretty classic, I know. Still, her sassy comments are funny, and how awesome is it to have a butt-kicking lesbian Latina representing the U.S. and punching racism and bigotry in the face?? I totally want to find out more about her origins, too…like, she mentions she doesn’t have any ancestors, so was she born from midichlorians or something? Or does she just mean she was adopted, so she doesn’t know her ancestors?
I loved the other characters too, like:
- X’Andria — leader of a sorority for “Fifth Element soldier babes”
- Prodigy — genius who used to be a mutant and Young Avenger, who’s working on a time machine called the Wayback
- Professor Douglas — teacher of Intergalactic Revolutionaries and You
- Lunella — 9-year-old Inhuman and smartest person in the world, who leads lectures with her T-Rex sidekick.
- Imani — tween from the Utopian Parallel who adorably (and then disturbingly) hero-worships America
Issue #3 comes out tomorrow, in which America’s going to team up with the X-Men. You coming, mi gente?
Strong Female Protagonist
So, this is like a cross between X-Men and The Incredibles that started as a webcomic, and now has a book that gathers together issues 1-4. Alison Green is a 20-year-old college student in New York City (of course), just trying to fit back into regular society after her stint as Mega-Girl. But ever since she took off her domino mask on live TV, she can’t catch a break. Her philosophy prof thinks she can’t possibly understand the human condition. Random teenagers on the street try to dent trash can lids on her head. She literally can’t get a tattoo. And then there’s the still-somewhere-out-there villain known as Menace.
It’s a story about the not so glamorous side of vigilante justice, the damage caused by those downtown battles, and the public fear that surrounds people who are different.
Like Kate Beaton in her Hark! A Vagrant! collections, the creators of Strong Female Protagonist add funny commentary at the bottom of each page of the book. Besides the awesome story and its social commentary, of course, those page-bottom comments are my favorite part. I’m seriously hoping they come out with a Book Two so I can read more of them.
So, that’s what I’ve been reading lately. How about you? Any comics you think deserve ALL THE LOVE? Leave ’em in the comments!