1. She-Hulk (No. 3, June 2014, Marvel) – Charles Soule, Javier Pulido & Muntsa Vicente
I’m a sucker for superheroines. When Kari Larsen recently posted a “girlcanon” list of her all-time favorite books, it got me thinking about the representation of women in contemporary comics. On top of the heap is Charles Soule’s current run of She-Hulk. A bit of a scandal that Soule, one of the busiest guys right now in comics, wasn’t nominated this year for Eisner’s Best Writer category. Having earned his undergraduate degree in Asian Studies with a concentration in Chinese language, he currently practices law in New York. No coincidence, then, that She-Hulk (a.k.a., Jennifer Walters, Dr. Bruce Banner’s cousin) is a struggling lawyer in Brooklyn who quits her job in a big firm to break out on her own with the help of her new paralegal Angie Huang. Soule is one of the big reasons why we’re currently in a new golden era of comics. And each issue of She-Hulk reveals his quirky take on corporate and immigration law as it would go down in the Marvel universe. A sample of the job interview dialogue between She-Hulk and Angie Huang:
SHE-HULK: Okay, Ms. Huang.
ANGIE HUANG: Angie is fine.
SHE-HULK: All right, Angie. First question – – Do you always bring your monkey to interviews?
ANGIE HUANG: I bring my monkey everywhere. He will be with me here in the office as well. Non-negotiable. Hei Hei is a singularly impressive creature.
SHE-HULK: Riiiight. I’m sure Hei Hei is amazing, but I’m actually more interested in you at the moment. I have to say, your resume is amazing. A bit of a gap recently, but other than that . . . you seem like you have experience with . . . just about everything.
ANGIE HUANG: I was one of those early achievers, Ms. Walters. I’ve been in the working world for . . . just about forever. And the gap – – I was traveling. Wanted to get off-stage for a while.
SHE-HULK: Oh, I get that. Perfectly. But with this resume, you could get a big-firm job, easy. Why do you want to work here?
2. Ms. Marvel (No. 3, June 2014, Marvel) – G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona & Ian Herring
Marvel is just killing it right now. Who would’ve thought in the 1990s, when many of us millennials were just discovering comics, that Marvel would one day eclipse DC in the writing department? But Marvel is doing it. And the newest issue of Ms. Marvel is just another fine example. Though I hear a lot of complaints from collectors about the Marvel Now! marketing campaign and the new numbering system, the important point to be made is that rebooting and reimagining many of the Marvel classics have had the net effect of attracting new readers who would otherwise not read comics. And isn’t that the point?
3. Hawkeye (No. 14, Oct 2013, Marvel) – Matt Fraction, Annie Wu & Matt Hollingsworth
Free Comic Book Day is coming on May 3, the first Saturday in May. Most retailers will allow you to grab 3 to 5 designated comics, and it’ll be a great excuse to browse-hop from shop to shop and familiarize yourself with local retailers. If you’re a person who has yet to develop a taste for comics, May 3 will be a perfect day to try out some new titles risk free. Bringing cash? Consider spending it on Hawkeye. This is the title that will convert you to comics, especially if you’re a millennial. Eisner nominated this year for Best Continuing Series, what is particularly relatable about Kate Bishop, a.k.a. Hawkeye, is her struggle to find employment and thrive in her new home away from home – Los Angeles. Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, and She Hulk: All titles that are street-level, grounded in reality, and simply a joy to read.
4. Red Sonja (No. 8, 2014, Dynamite) – Gail Simone & Walter Geovani
So impressed with Gail Simone’s continuing take on Red Sonja. After everything that went down at Marvel and DC, having a serious falling out with Deadpool’s editor and being fired from Batgirl in 2012, I’m glad to see that she has landed in a company that appreciates her talents. Not unlike writer Charles Soule, Gail Simone has quite a fascinating back story. As a former hairdresser and comics fan, Gail Simone co-founded a website in ’99 that was solely dedicated to identifying female superheroes who had been murdered or raped as a plot device for a male character. It is a bit ironic how she is now working on what was once synonymous with titty comic. Of course, Simone has managed to complicate and truly elevate what was previously just a byproduct of adolescent male fantasies. If you enjoyed 300: Rise of an Empire, especially Eva Green’s portrayal of the warrior Artemisia, Gail Simone’s Red Sonja is a must. Given how consistently brilliant the writing is, it is a bit baffling as to why Simone wasn’t nominated for an Eisner this year. Perhaps another example of subtle patriarchal bias.
5. American Vampire: Second Cycle (No. 2, June 2014, Vertigo) – Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque
Quincy Rhoads recently turned me on to this, and I’m so glad he did. In this issue we see the brave Pearl, running what is essentially an “underground railroad” for vampires (yes, not all vampires are EVIL evil). Evidently the Carpathians (i.e., the classic vampires) want to get rid of all the other species of vampires. What hooked me was Pearl’s affection for the vampire children as she set them up with fake passports, effectively new identities. Snyder’s pacing is exquisite; reading this book was a bit like watching a great thriller. And Albuquerque’s art dovetailed quite well with Snyder’s sense of suspense. Incidentally, it is Albuquerque’s art that partly got me back into comics – his art in Animal Man floored me. Reading this particular issue I couldn’t help but wish he had done the art for the Buffy comics – Albuquerque just has a way of depicting demons and monsters that is neither silly nor goofy. Not particularly into vampires, but Snyder and Albuquerque have made me want to go back and pick up the back issues. I know which trades I’m picking up on Free Comic Book Day.