1. Sex Criminals (No. 8, Oct 2014, Image) – Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
The word of the month is education. Anyone who has taught in a traditional classroom setting knows that one of the most difficult hurdles to clear is lack of student interest. One misstep with a stale text book or a faint lesson plan can mean the success or failure of an entire unit. In response, the non-profit Reading With Pictures (RWP) released an engaging education-based comics anthology featuring 180 pages of original content, along with a 150-page teacher’s guide (available here). Conspicuously missing is any material on sex education. A shame given the rising popularity of misinformed abstinence-only programs. To fill the void, I’ve been using strategic excerpts of Sex Criminals. With issue 8, Fraction & Zdarsky prove yet again why Sex Criminals won this year’s Eisner and Harvey for best new series. Although you can’t use every panel given age appropriateness, Sex Criminals is chalk full of comprehensive information that is both compellingly presented and beautifully illustrated. An excerpt of the dialogue between Robert Rainbow and Suzie concerning her birth control options:
Robert: Okay. Let’s avoid investigation into how your body reacts to having its natural hormones tweaked and just assume that answer is “not well.” And we’ll explore some options that aren’t hormonally based to see if one sounds right. . . . An IUD – intrauterine device – made of copper . . . requires insertion into your uterus – I’d do that – once we make sure it’s a good fit for you, literally and medically. / Less than one in a hundred women get pregnant with an IUD, and it lasts for twelve years. It’s between $500 and $1000 –
Suzie: -Whoa, yeah, I, uh – you kind of lost me at “insertion,” but I’m looking for a kind of Baltic Avenue solution instead of a Park Place one.
Robert: Well, there’s condoms. They’re cheap, you get ’em everywhere, and when used properly 2 out of 100 women get pregnant. / They prevent STDs and if you use a spermicidal lubricant, it’s even more effective. Combine that with pulling out and –
Suzie: Yeah, I’ve been one of those two. I dunno that I’d be able to relax.
Robert: Diaphragms! It’s a little old-fashioned, but more effective than the sponge or the cervical cap. When used with a condom the instances of pregnancy drop even lower, along with the STD protection.
2. Howtoons [Re]Ignition (No. 4, Nov 2014, Image) – Fred Van Lente, Tom Fowler, Jordie Bellaire & Ingrid Dragotta
If you’re at all having trouble in getting your little ones into science, give them a copy of Howtoons [Re]Ignition. Gorgeously drawn by Tom Fowler and joyously written by Fred Van Lente, each issue of Howtoons give expert, meticulous Do-It-Yourself details on any number of science-oriented projects (e.g., how to make a potato-powered lightbulb, how to make a wind turbine, how to use principles of solar energy to build gardens, etc, etc). Parents and teachers alike will be impressed with the degree to which Fowler and Lente have interweaved the story with discursive science explanations; don’t be surprised if your kids enjoy the post-apocalyptic adventure of Celine as much as they get hooked on the projects.
3. She-Hulk (No. 10, Jan 2015, Marvel) – Charles Soule, Javier Pulido & Muntsa Vicente
Charles Soule schools us once again on the ins and outs of the American judiciary system as it would go down in the Marvel universe. The newest issue of She-Hulk resolves the wrongful death lawsuit against Steve Rogers. What could have very easily been a stale procedural has turned out to be one of the most poignant Captain America story arcs in quite awhile. Defending the now power-less Steve Rogers against the plaintiff Matt Murdock is our favorite gamma-irradiated, green attorney Jennifer Walters. What will make this run particularly intriguing for people who have not been keeping up with the title is the sheer glee with which Charles Soule is informing the character’s day to day psychology with the real idiosyncrasies of contemporary law practice. If you’re looking to be surprised in 2015, give She-Hulk a try.
4. Batgirl (No. 36, Jan 2015, Marvel) – Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr & Maris Wicks
Last month certain fans of Gail Simone frowned on Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher’s debut issue of the new Batgirl for their depiction of Barbara Gordon as a promiscuous, belly-showing, teenage Millennial. Issue #36 however is showing some promise as Stewart & Fletcher begin to find their footing with the introduction of some anime-adjacent villains. Though totally different from Simone’s take on Batgirl, the fast-paced, fun Millennial version of Barbara Gordon is quickly catching on with a certain social-media savvy demographic group. No surprise, then, that Stewart & Fletcher may have just inadvertently given us an emerging heroine for the first generation to have grown up on a steady diet of Tinder links and Grindr profiles.
5. Ms. Marvel (No. 9, Dec 2014, Marvel) – G. Willow Wilson, Adriana Alphona & Ian Herring
Our heroine finds out that she is not a mutant as she had previously thought. The Queen of the Inhumans breaks the news to her: “Your house is on Grove Street. But your home — your origin — is here, among your people. . . . Long ago, one of your human ancestors was genetically altered by the Kree–an alien race. That genetic legacy has been passed down through the generations– to you. You’re Inhuman.” If you saw the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, you’ll probably remember that the Kree are a fascistic, totalitarian race of blue-skinned aliens from the planet Hala. Clearly G. Willow Wilson and company are planning to take our Kamala Khan out on space adventures. Here’s hoping that they don’t totally divorce her from the Do-It-Yourself ethos they’ve managed to cultivate in the first eight issues.