Pull List: The Best of Marvel’s New Female Superheroes

Unlike its cinematic counterpart, Marvel Comics has done a decent job at upping diversity in recent years. Of course they’ve had some pretty spectacular fails as well, far too many to recount here but I’m sure you can easily think of half a dozen off the top of your head. There still aren’t nearly enough queer and/or PoC leads but the few we have are (Sam Wilson battling SJWs aside) generally top notch. Production-side diversity isn’t as good as it could be either, but the shift toward telling new kinds of stories with new kinds of characters has definitely broadened the stables. I guess what I’m saying is at least they’re trying.

Now that Civil War II is finally over—finally!—a crop of new series have landed on the shelves, including the pair whose praises I’m about to sing. With Hawkeye and The Unstoppable Wasp, Marvel passes old mantles onto new female characters with rousing success. Kate Bishop and Nadia put their own unique spins on being superheroes, and it’s an absolute joy to behold. As much as I scoffed at DC’s bimonthly push with Rebirth, I’d happily shell out extra cash for twice the fun with Hawkeye and The Unstoppable Wasp. They’re so good that I’m totally over my annoyance at Civil War II. Welcome back to my good graces, Marvel. I missed you.

 

Hawkeye

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In the aftermath of Civil War II, Kate Bishop decides she needs a change of pace, so she packs up her arrows and heads to Venice Beach, California, to open her own private detective agency. Trouble is, Kate isn’t exactly good about turning in paperwork, playing by the rules (read: “laws”), or doing research. But what she is good at is shooting people with arrows and saving the day. So it all balances out in the end, right? Right. Kate’s first case pulls her into the sinister secret society Take Back Control who has set its brainwash-y sights on a young woman being stalked by one of TBC’s acolytes.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know Kate’s been co-Hawkeye for a while now, but this is her first solo title. She isn’t living under Clint’s shadow or tagging along on a team’s adventures. She gets to define what being Hawkeye means and what brand of justice Hawkeye pursues. Kate reminds me of a younger, less scientifically adept Bobbi from Chelsea Cain’s wonderful Mockingbird, with strong whiffs of Veronica Mars and Netflix’s Jessica Jones. She’s quippy, very good at punching people, and confident in her abilities even if she can’t always live up to her own expectations.

I hate to keep referencing other titles, but if you loved Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Kate, you’ll love her here. Kelly Thompson doesn’t try to mimic Fraction, but she does port over Kate’s sarcasm, bluntness, and go-get-‘em attitude. Romero even pays homage to Aja’s energetic action sequences and the perpetually purple attire. Yet despite all the callbacks, this Hawkeye is definitely its own thing. I hardly need to tell you how great Jordie Bellaire’s colors are. She gives Hawkeye a palette to match the sunny setting, and takes Leonardo Romero’s quirky, multi-dimensional style to a whole new level. Joe Sabino’s lettering is also on par with his usual high quality. This is a comic chockablock with sound effects, captions, and background text and he manage to get it all on the page without overwhelming the reader. This is a refreshingly down to earth series with an intersectionally feminist bent and needs to be added to your pull list like yesterday.

Writer: Kelly Thompson; artist: Leonardo Romero; color artist: Jordie Bellaire; letterer: Joe Sabino; designer: Manny Mederos; cover art: Julian Totino Tedeso. Marvel published the first issue in December 2016 and the next, #3, releases February 1, 2017.

 

The Unstoppable Wasp

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The stolen daughter of the late Hank Pym and his first wife, Maria Trovaya, Nadia was raised by the same sinister group as Black Widow. Eventually she escaped, only to discover her father had died after a battle with Ultron (or did he???). After Civil War II, Nadia joined the Avengers, which is where issue #1 begins. Now in New Jersey, Nadia sets her sights on obtaining citizenship, saving the day as the superhero Wasp, and upending the Avengers’ boys club. Although Nadia still has a lot of growing up to do, with Ms. Marvel at her side and Mockingbird as her guiding light, she’ll do just fine. She may not be able to keep up with Kamala’s non-stop pop culture references, but her sunshiny personality, brilliant mind, and cheerful self-confidence will give the Avengers a run for their money.

Nadia is Natasha Romanoff’s polar opposite. Her time in the Red Room hasn’t left her serious and violent but determined to find the best in life. Nadia’s world is wide open and full of possibilities and though I don’t know where her series will take her, I will happily go along for the ride. Like The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Unstoppable Wasp is charmingly dorky and enthusiastically adorable. It cranks Mockingbird’s feminist humor up to eleven, and not just because Bobbi Morse makes a guest appearance. What made Mockingbird such a fierce series—her science smarts, sarcastic humor, open-arms empathy, and general badassery—gives Unstoppable Wasp its heart and soul.

Frankly, I wouldn’t expect any less from Jeremy Whitley, aka the creator of the nearly perfect comic book Princeless. Once again he demonstrates how easy it is to be respectful, inclusive, and representational of your audience. Elsa Charretier’s art is a delight and perfectly matches Whitley’s tone. Her detailed, densely layered art routinely defies the traditional 6-panel page layout. In a lot of ways her style reminds me of a cross between Babs Tarr and Darwyn Cooke, with a dash of Chris Samnee and Annie Wu. With Megan Wilson’s bright, bold colors, the art is quite simply stunning. Joe Caramanga has, as per usual, nailed the lettering. Unstoppable Wasp #1 is dialogue and narration heavy, but he keeps the text flowing in an easily followable continuum, not to mention the playful use of sound effects. If you’re subscribing to Hawkeye, you might as well add The Unstoppable Wasp while you’re at it. They both demand to be read and loved.

Writer: Jeremy Whitley; artist: Elsa Charretier; color artist: Megan Wilson; letterer: Joe Caramagna; cover art: Elsa Charretier and Nicolas Bannister. Marvel published the first issue in December 2016 and the next, #2, releases February 1, 2017.

Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

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