The Summer of Strong Women: Unwind with These 5 Must-Read Comics

Posted by Lauren Hall-Stigerts on July 31, 2014 in Editorial -- Share:

Summer’s in full swing. Whether you are on a three-month vacation or a three-day getaway, you’re going to need some entertaining reading. Now is the perfect time to get absorbed in a new comic book.

kids reading comics

More likely to read a fiction novel than a graphic novel? You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the narratives that are popping out of the comic books. Edgy, beautiful, mature, and graceful, the modern comic books are a reflection of ourselves in the extraordinary.

With the recent announcements of a revitalized Batgirl and a reincarnated Thor as a woman, we’re seeing great female representation in one of our favorite entertainment mediums. I love reading about strong women who take charge and test their limits because they inspire me to test mine.

Lose yourself in these fantastic stories this summer.

 

Saga

Think “Romeo & Juliet in space.” Then add wings on the back of one and horns on the other. Stick a horned/winged baby in their arms. And visualize the hodge-podge family flying around the Universe in a tree trunk as they escape exes, bounty hunters with supernatural powers, and royalty with televisions for heads.

Saga comic cover

Don’t let the wacky premise fool you: SAGA is a gem of a space opera that will keep you riveted from wherever in the galaxy you might be traveling.

Author Brian K. Vaughan has been the writing force behind a host of successful television series and graphic novels. He’s known for sharp wit, suspenseful plots, colorful characters, and multithreaded stories that don’t pander to his audience. You only need to look at his work on the popular television series Lost to understand the punch that Vaughan’s pen packs. Expect more of the same stellar writing in SAGA.

Iconic in the series is artist Fiona Staples’ fantastical renderings. She leaves no shortage of expression and creativity in her work – every character is embodied uniquely without straying from Staples’ style. She can render happiness and heartache with the smallest changes to facial expression and body language, thanks in part to her technique of self-posing photos for realistic reference.

Run–don’t walk–to your nearest comic shop for SAGA. (But be warned: this graphic novel is very graphic.)

Runaways 

Speaking of Brian K. Vaughan storytelling goodness…

Runaways comic

Kids vs. parents is taken to the extreme when six teenagers discover their parents are dangerous villains. (Literally.) Annual gatherings through their childhood made the colorful cast ask just what club their parents have joined. Curious, the kids spy on their parents and decide to escape, trying to decide what the right course of action is–and where their priorities lie.

Despite the comic taking adolescence to the extreme, Vaughan paints a realistic picture. The cast of RUNAWAYS are relatable through their reactions to the extraordinary. For example, upon discovering her superpowers, one of the teens asks her friends to “not tell anyone she’s a freak.” Or how about another struggling with the fact that while her parents have the capacity to love and care for her so deeply, they also have the capacity to destroy everything around them.

Like Joss Whedon, Vaughan does not shy away from creating strong female icons in his narratives. His young superheroines struggle with many of the same struggles facing real teen girls–all while battling the forces of evil. The diversity in the cast makes inroads into territory most mainstream comics won’t tread: transgenderism, underrepresented races, and more.

 

Rachel Rising

A woman wakes up alive (?) in a shallow grave without explanation of why or how. Digging her way out, she stumbles through the cold and eerie Northeastern forest in search of answers.

Rachel Rising comic

WAITWAIT! Before you go running off because you’re either a) tired of stories about the undead or b) dislike stories about the undead – hear me out. Artist and writer Terry Moore will draw you in with his unconventional storytelling.

Moore made a splash into the comic book world in the 1990s with his critically-acclaimed series STRANGERS IN PARADISE. Audiences the world over fell in love with the occasionally dysfunctional but always authentic characters; Moore has a knack for imbuing them with a spirit rarely seen in comics.

Transfer that sentiment to a story about a living-dead girl and her quest to stop evil from wrapping its gnarly claws (and sometimes slithery tail) around the world. Add in a dash of Moore’s excellent atmospheric instincts between panels such as unsettling snowfall and silent panels – and you get a recipe for a helluva story.

Yotsuba&! 

Japanese comics (manga) are a refreshing break from the western panels. Their artists build breaths into the graphic novels, places where you can stop and “admire” the surroundings or absorb the unspoken.

Yotsubato comic

This attention to atmosphere combined with nostalgia is what gives YOTSUBA&! a following as enthusiastic as Yotsuba herself.

Yotsuba is a six-year-old girl discovering the world from her new Japanese town. No one has a clue about her origins and Yotsuba doesn’t have a clue about life–but that doesn’t stop her from exploring and taking the neighborhood with her!

Artist and writer Kyohiko Azuma puts our little green-haired compadre in situations that will make you laugh from your gut (something that does not usually happen to me when I read) and feel her emotions. She’s a strong-woman-in-the-making with her fierce independence and bold ideas.

 

Ms. Marvel

Since her inception in the 1960s Ms. Marvel has seen four different embodiments of the role: a United States Air Force officer, a stunt performer, a psychiatrist, and now a teenage Muslim student. Her latest incarnation symbolizes a growing interest of inclusion in the comic-book world as the first American superhero from the Muslim community.

Ms. Marvel comic

MS. MARVEL’s most recent writers wanted to explore not religious evangelism but a minority group living in America from an authentic perspective. Our heroine Kamala Khan grapples with her newfound shapeshifting powers while trying to live with her family whom lives by the book.

No matter where we have come from or what our history states, this is a narrative we can all relate to.

Which comics are you reading this summer?

Written by

Lauren is a lifelong gaming fan. She expresses her love of strong female pop-culture characters by costuming at conventions. Internet marketing consulting, playing the clarinet and sax, practicing martial arts, and geeking out over tea keeps her busy the rest of the time. Find more of her shenanigans on Twitter @hallstigerts and Google+!

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