1. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (No. 4, June 2015, Marvel) – Ryan North, Erica Henderson & Rico Renzi
Neck and neck with Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is bidding to be 2015’s most humorous, heartfelt Marvel title. There are several moments in this particular issue that will make you laugh out loud and give you the impression that Ryan North was born to write the character of Doreen Green. After preventing the Devourer of Worlds from consuming Earth, Squirrel Girl finds herself late for her computer science class only to discover that her roommate has deduced her secret identity: “[Y]ou’re the only woman I’ve ever met who has a pet squirrel. It didn’t take a rocket scientist.” An excerpt of the comical back and forth between our favorite first-year computer science student/superhero and Galactus, the formidable world eater/death incarnate:
SQUIRREL GIRL: Okay, so the thing is, all my friends live there. I’m sorry . . . but I can’t allow you to destroy the Earth, Galactus.
GALACTUS: I don’t see how you’re going to stop me / You already tried to beat me up, remember / Wait, you were actually trying to beat me up, right / When you were punching and kicking my foot / Because I couldn’t tell if you were trying to beat me up or just trying to, you know, buff my shoes / Maybe there was some moon dust on my shoe and you were just trying to gently and tenderly polish it away
SQUIRREL GIRL: Yes, yes, that was me trying to beat up a god-tier entity! I’m sorry, all right? It just worked in the past is all. I beat up Thanos once is the thing. . . . You know him? Purple guy? Half goth because he’s big into death, but half hipster because he makes his own gloves? . . . me and Tippy totally beat him up.
GALACTUS: Hah hah / Nice / What a tool . . . I like you, Squirrel Girl, you don’t fear me. In all my travels, you are the first to approach me . . . as a peer
2. Bitch Planet (No. 4, Apr 2015, Image) – Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine DeLandro & Cris Peters
Impressive in its ideological breadth and hypnotizing in its aesthetic depiction of an off-world penitentiary, issue #4 will alleviate any doubts certain fans may have had about Bitch Planet’s staying power. The wager that DeConnick, and her peers, has made throughout the new series is that art today occupies the most significant “event sites” of Feminism. As our heroine Kanau Kogo navigates her way through prison politics and is tasked with organizing a female team to compete in the all-male sport Megaton, discriminating readers will get a sense of the double gesture of Marxian-Communism that DeConnick is making throughout.
Read Bitch Planet as both an analytic construction and political intervention with the italicization that emancipatory politics today must continue to anchor itself with artists and story tellers. To quote Badiou: “[W]e have to find a new fiction, to find our final belief in a local possibility . . . [T]he question of the real possibility of a fiction is a question of courage. Courage is the name of something that cannot be reduced to either law or desire.” Rereading Bitch Planet’s #4’s letters column and supplementary essay on institutional racism in school sites, one can’t help but applaud DeConnick and crew for indeed instilling courage in those who require it. With each new issue BP has reconfirmed, at least in my mind, that comic books are at their best when they are irreducible to its normative, popular preadolescent form.
3. Sensations Comics Featuring Wonder Woman (No. 9, June 2015, DC) – Lauren Beukes, Cecil Castellucci, Mike Maihack, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story & Jordie Bellaire
If you’ve never quite understood the appeal of Wonder Woman, writer Lauren Beukes’ South African take on the Amazon warrior may just do the trick. In Beukes’ own words: “I wanted to write a kid-friendly story my 6-year-old daughter would appreciate, . . . Imagination is a kind of courage. This comic was a way of sharing the love of this character across three generations, from my mom to my daughter.” Having done a brilliant job thus far of recruiting the best writers and artists to tell whimsical and empowering Wonder Woman stories, Sensation Comics #9 is no exception. Featuring two black South African sisters, Beukes’ coming of age tale does a charming job of italicizing the need for “more kickass heroines of color that young girls could aspire to be.” The second story by Cecil Castellucci gives us an equally fun snapshot of Wonder Woman’s initially awkward relationship with the formidable Lois Lane. In combination with Beukes’ one-shot, the entire book is a terrific testament to how progressive the core of the Wonder Woman character is.
4. Spider-Gwen (No. 3, June 2015, Marvel) – Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez & Rico Renzi
A dynamic elseworld title that plays out what would’ve happened had Peter Parker died leaving Gwen Stacy to play the Spider-Woman role. If issue #2 piqued your interest in the character, then issue #3 will certainly get you hooked for the long haul as Gwen and her dad Captain Stacy continue to butt heads on the precarious path she has chosen for herself. Not at all too late to get on board, new readers in particular will appreciate the series thus far for the degree to which writer Latour has revealed the depth of Gwen’s faithfulness and commitment to Peter Parker’s memory. Though certainly not the Spidey universe your dad may have grown up with, Latour and team have done an enthralling job of depicting a world that we can all sympathize with: a world where all possible choices and actions are effectively bad ones.
5. Superman (No. 39, May 2015, DC) – Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson & Hi-Fi
A lovely little issue that captures Superman in a brief interlude where the Supes has temporarily lost his superpowers. If you’re like me and you haven’t been sold on the rebooted revamped New 52 Superman, issue #39 where Clark spends an entire day with Jim Olsen is a charming reminder of why we all fell in love with the character in the first place. Long-time fans in particular will appreciate the intimate conversation between Jimmy and Superman on the Daily Planet’s roof top as they enjoy some dinner and shoot the bull. JIM: “Man. I bet it’s a lot to take in. All those people asking for help. All the bad things.” SUPERMAN: “Is that what you think I hear most of the time? People asking for help? Bad things happening? / No. Mostly, I hear good things, Jim. Right now after work, it’s people seeing others they love. Welcoming them home. Laughing over dinner. Playing with their kids. I try not to pry, I respect privacy, but there’s a crowd of noises that are similar enough. / I missed them.” JIM: “…How’d it feel to be human for a day?” SUPERMAN: “To be honest, Jim . . . / . . . Not as different as I thought it would.”