1. Ms. Marvel (No. 2, May 2014, Marvel) – G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona & Ian Herring
What a great time to be alive and reading comics. The most recent incarnation of Ms. Marvel as Kamala, a 16-year-old Pakistani American, would’ve been unthinkable in 1968 when Ms. Marvel first appeared. Yes, it’s embarrassing that it has taken over four decades for Marvel to have its first Muslim character headline in a comic. But now that it’s here, the massive fan response just goes to show that this was long overdue. Issue #1 has sold out and is already in its second printing. An excerpt from a fan letter from the back pages of this month’s Ms. Marvel:
Hi, I just finished Ms. Marvel #1. I LOVED it. . . . I’m not a young Muslim girl living in America, but I am a (brown!) daughter of South Asian immigrants who grew up in Singapore. My life was and is a constant battle between the culture of my heritage, and the “western ideals” that seem to be everywhere that isn’t home. So despite our differences, I relate so much to Kamala. Her desire to fit in, to just be “normal” like everyone else… to write fanfiction :P… I’m a little bit older and wiser now, but Kamala’s struggles in issue #1 struck me deep. Feeling such a kinship to a fictional character is so rare for me in any kind of media (as much as I enjoy a lot of it ) — that finding it in a Big Two comic is just amazing! . . . Regards, Yamini Marley
2. Batwing (No. 4, Feb 2012, DC) – Judd Winick, Chriscross & Ryan Winn
If my previous post on Marvel’s Black Panther peaked your interest in black superheroes, you might want to try Batwing – Africa’s Batman. The art is brilliant. The writing brilliant. And Batwing’s backstory as a child soldier in General Keita’s army will enrich and complicate your sociocultural understanding of the Bat mythos. Unlike Bruce Wayne, David Zavimbe didn’t have a trust fund waiting for him when both his parents died of Aids. To wit, writer Judd Winick does an admirable job of balancing the operatic superhero elements with the authentic “beauty and terror of Africa.”
3. Thor: God of Thunder (No. 1, Jan 2013, Marvel) – Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic & Dean White
Three degrees of awesome. First, Dean White’s coloring is hypnotizing in its painterly acumen. Second, the new Thor reboot geeks out on the philosophical gods-amongst-us themes that Ridley Scott’s Prometheus couldn’t quite deliver. Third, writer Jason Aaron has promised less of the tired Asgardian tropes (e.g., angry old dad, sneaky little brother, ugly troll, etc) and more of what makes Thor such a badass. In Aaron’s own words: “more Vikings and space gods and armies of lizard men made of black goo and wondrous new cities of the gods and winged horses getting their heads chopped off.”
4. Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers (No. 1, Sept 2013, Marvel) – Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Ming Doyle & Michael Del Mundo
If the trailer has you hooked and you’re just looking for a one-shot to familiarize yourself with the characters, Tomorrow’s Avengers will do the job. Prepare to fall in love with Groot, the walking tree. And Rocket, the talking raccoon. As I was reading this, it dawned on me how strange and beautiful a time it really is to be alive and reading comics. Again, I don’t want to overstate it. But we live in an age when a major studio has gone out of its way to make a live-action movie with Drax the Destroyer played by the Filipino American wrestler Dave Batista. Life is kind of cool sometimes.
5. Wonder Woman (No. 29, May 2014, DC) – Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang
I’m going to put aside the painful fact that Lex Luthor will be played by Jesse Eisenberg in the new Man of Steel sequel. When Zack Snyder confirmed last December that Fast & Furious’ Gal Gadot would be the new Wonder Woman, I – like many of you – was less than euphoric. DC’s recent comic book reboot of Wonder Woman has only reconfirmed in my mind that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel will be an absolute, unmitigated trainwreck. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang reminds us that Wonder Woman, categorically and emphatically, can not be a rail thin, 95 pound underwear model! She’s supposed to be a badass! To quote Wonder Woman herself from Issue 29: “Sisters . . . Warriors, I ask you to join me in a fight to reclaim heaven. Follow me . . . not as your princess . . . but as the God of War!” If an actor can’t deliver those lines believably, then she shouldn’t be in the role. Period.