Today, Readers, I’d like to present you with rad comics about amazing women. I’ve been sucked into a vortex, books whirling around me as I try to catch them all. It’s been really satisfying to find a big ol’ batch of fun, feminist comics. A teen girl samurai, a bisexual reporter romance, and the return of a beloved vampire slayer? It’s enough to make a girl’s heart explode. 2019 is definitely shaping up to be packed full of comics with strong women leads, so I excitedly present some suggestions of current and upcoming titles. If you want some other choices, here you go. If you want to know more about comics and graphic novels, we have an intro to that.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Jordie Bellaire, Dan Mora and Raúl Angulo
This reboot comic is clearly attempting to right some of the wrongs of BtVS. Let’s talk about Buffy as an institution for a moment. It’s always been rife for conversation—is it or isn’t it feminist? Why was Sunnydale so white? What messages was the show sending about women’s sexuality, given that Buffy’s beau turns evil immediately after their first time having sex? There was a lot good in there as well—for instance, as a burgeoning gay, I appreciated that Willow & Tara’s first kiss wasn’t hyped up as a ratings stunt.
The Slayerettes and their foes are here in a slightly askew light; familiar, but recast or altered. Willow and Xander are on equal footing in their friendship with no romantic undercurrent, while a tomboyish Buffy pays her own way with a job at the Tuna Shack. Cordelia, still popular, is nice and friendly to all. Spike is second fiddle to Dru’s very empowered Big Bad. I’m eager to see where Bellaire takes the story, and the cadence and rhythm of the series dialogue is well captured.
The Magicians: Alice’s Story by Lev Grossman, Lilah Sturges, and Pius Bak
Want more magic? Alice Quinn is a shy, bookish girl who is crackling with unexplored powers. After her brother disappears during his time at a magic training ground called Brakebills, she fights her way into the school, and it isn’t long before she is at the top of her year. The novel is like an older, edgier Harry Potter and it comes from the mind of acclaimed authors Lev Grossman (who wrote the original novel series) and Lilah Sturges (Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass). Though I wish less of Alice’s story were dependent on her romance with a fellow student, I still enjoyed seeing the character develop from reserved to powerful.
Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn and Claire Roe (October 8, 2019)
A crime noir starring a bespectacled bisexual protagonist? This is the graphic novel I never knew I needed. Newbie reporter Madison Jackson wants to prove herself at The Boston Lede, especially since foxy star reporter Lexington Ford keeps scooping her. Madison is definitely one of those characters who is perpetually making frustrating choices, but damn if it isn’t fun to read. I loved how totally queer everyone is—a refreshing change from the usual token one or two characters. Madison is flawed, crushable, and persistent, and I’d like to personally express a desire for a sequel, please.
Ronin Island by Greg Pak, Irma Kniivila and Giannis Milonogiannis (December 10, 2019)
Wily, spunky Hana is treated like an outsider for being Korean, and her frustration has lead to animosity between her and cocky rich kid Kenichi. They live on Ronin Island, a place packed with survivors of the Great Wind, a disaster that devastated China, Korea and Japan. Ronin Island is disrupted by the appearance of General Sato, a samurai who wants to be crowned as imperial governor to protect the locals from a group of ghoulish enemies, the Byonin. This leads to a journey to reach the Shogun, and who doesn’t love a good journey story? Though the violence is sometimes graphic, Byonin don’t bleed and it keeps the fights from being gory (important because I’m a sensitive baby).
Superb by Sheena C. Howard, David F. Walker, and Ray-Anthony Height
The good news? A year ago, a group of astronauts saved Earth from an asteroid. The bad news? They created a meteor shower and Youngstown, Ohio, became a Level 5 impact zone. So now the town is full of ass-kicking superhero teens like Kayla Tate, recently back in town and reunited with her childhood friend, Jonah Watkins, who has Down syndrome. The teens will have to fight against the shady doings of global tech company Foresight.
Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell
Hugo award–winning author N.K. Jemisin has written her first comic book, which follows a new Green Lantern, Sojourner Mullein, as she works to protect the City Enduring. Citizens are living a peaceful life, protected from violence by the removal and outlawing of all their emotions. Creeeeepy…
Morning in America by Magdalene Visaggio and Claudia Aguirre (October 8, 2019)
Set in 1983, monsters are attempting to destroy a small Ohio town (this is the second Ohio-based disaster on this list, what are comics trying to say?). There’s only one thing keeping it from total annihilation—a teen girl gang called The Sick Sisters. The comic cleverly introduces the girls by name and punishable crime, very cute. The retro vibe will make fans of Stranger Things extremely happy.
Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden (September 10, 2019)
in this graphic novel, Bea and Lou are on the run when their sudden encounter in West Texas changes both of their lives. Two queer female leads on a strange, mystical road trip? Fully signed up. Tillie Walden wrote the brilliant graphic memoir Spinning, and this is a big departure in both content and genre. Sort of like an overtly queer Thelma and Louise getting lost in a nightmare version of The Wizard of Oz.
For much of my life I stayed away from comics, feeling like the genre was too male, hetero, and violent. Now I have hope! I’ll definitely be looking out for follow ups to these.