Tag Archives: Matt Fraction

New Girls in Town: Top 10 Toughest New Female Characters in Comics

16 Mar

I think a case can be made for any of these characters. Each one is tough, and thoroughly unique. Let’s take it from the top shall we? I wanted to look at characters with relatively short histories, so Barbara Gordon and Kate Bishop will not be making appearances on this list. This is strictly for the next generation of comic heroines. So without further ado, let’s talk about the top-10 toughest new girls in comics.


alanaAlana – Saga

It was hard to choose just one woman to represent the cast of Saga from Image Comics by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. The Stalk, Izabel, Gwendolyn, Klara, and even Lying Cat could have been on this list. I ultimately decided on Alana because she faces off with bad guys, pilots a space ship, and saves the love of her life with a newborn in tow. Despite her extreme circumstances she manages to be a pretty great mom to Hazel. She doesn’t allow herself to be defined by her maternal role, but she takes it very seriously.




Izzy Dare/Smasher – The Avengers

Isabel “Izzy” Dare, or Smasher, gets her own issue in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers from Marvel Comics (Avengers #5). We learn that this incarnation of the hero is a small-town girl from Iowa. She is a brilliant science student who returns from her studies to help her father take care of the family farm and spend time with her ailing grandfather, Dan Dare (who had quite a few adventures of his own back in the day). After finding a pair of cybernetic goggles in a corn field she becomes an intergalactic defender, Smasher. She saves the world, rises through the ranks, and becomes an Avenger to boot. She also takes her responsibilities to her loved ones very seriously. She juggles superpowers and deep familial love quite well.


Harper_RowHarper Row – Batman

In Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo for DC Comics we find a host of powerful characters, but Harper has captured our imaginations, well mine at least. She is a headstrong, brave, and intelligent young woman who believes in Batman’s power as a symbol of hope and does everything in her power to make sure he always makes it out of his conflicts alive. She recognizes his mortality and her ability to help him. Despite his warnings to stay away, she knows that she is an invaluable ally to the Caped Crusader, and continues to provide assistance. In addition to her complex relationship with Batman, she serves as a mother figure for her little brother, Cullen, and would stop at nothing to defend him. She is a dynamic new defender of Gotham.

Mara – Maramara

I think the reason that I am so impressed with the title character from the Image Comics series, Mara, by Brian Wood, Ming Doyle, & Jordie Bellaire is due to the surprise I experienced while reading about her. She is a seventeen-year-old superstar. She has access to unlimited resources, and fame enough to make a Kardashian feel like a nobody. She is beautiful, talented, wealthy, and adored. Yet she instead of being the primadonna one might expect; she is poised and unyieldingly brave. When she begins to manifest super-human abilities, she boldly confronts the public. She refuses to be terrorized into compromising her character.


hawkeye8Cherry/Penny – Hawkeye

I love a girl that keeps the men in her life on their toes. This redheaded force of nature from Fraction & Aja in Hawkeye from Marvel Comics does just that. She uses her sexuality to charm Clint Barton into taking part in her schemes. She is unafraid to take on a challenge or to stack the deck in her favor. She may not be the most independent woman in the world, but she does not shy away from danger. She’s a nice throwback to the comic book bad girls of days gone by.




pearlPearl Jones – American Vampire

From the Vertigo Comic series American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, comes this impossibly strong character. What I love about Pearl is that she starts out a victim, but refuses to remain one. Her evolution over the course of the series has been a journey of self acceptance, growth, and empowerment. The Pearl we know today is a far cry from the Hollywood hopeful taken advantage of in the beginning of this series. She has become intensely powerful force; knowing her vulnerabilities and her history makes her inspiring and endearing.



olivechewOlive Chu – Chew

The daughter of Tony Chu, the central character in Chew from Image Comics by John Layman and Rob Guillory, has recently started coming into her own. Olive was previously little more than an angst-ridden teen (albeit an incredibly lovable one). In recent issues under the tutelage of Mason Savoy, she has begun to hone her abilities and learn new skills that promise to give her a new role in this one-of-a-kind series.




tamaradevouxTamara Devoux/Captain Universe – The Avengers

So, she has the power of the entire universe coursing through her. Seems tough to me. Jonathan Hickman gives us another example of a strong and complex female character from The Avengers from Marvel Comics. Despite the awful things that happened to her before becoming the host for universal power, Tamara has already saved the world once in this new role.

fatalejoJospehine – Fatale

In the series Fatale from Image Comics by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips we are introduced to the mysterious and powerful character, Jo. She can bend any man alive to her will. Jo also seems to be immortal or at least ageless. She has a unique connection to supernatural forces, and a survival instinct that makes her a true fighter. She takes on physical challenges and devastating circumstances at every turn. Her resilience is truly remarkable.




Eva_Bell  Eva Bell – All New X-men Uncanny X-men 

Brian Michael Bendis’ contributions to Marvel’s X-men universe already shine in this new character. Eva can freeze time. As a young mutant, she is unsure of herself and her powers, but with each issue she appears in she grows more confident and bettered respected by the members of her team. She is a truly powerful new mutant.


I will be the first to admit this last is anything but complete. Write in and tell me who should have been listed that I missed, or let me know if you think there is a clear number one on the list. Be sure to vote. I will repost this list in the order that you vote in.

comment here or e-mail me comicsonice@gmail.com, and follow me on twitter @comicsonice

Review Hawkeye #8

1 Mar


Hawkeye #8

Matt Fraction & David Aja

Published by Marvel Comics

Hawkeye #8 starts with a visual bang of brilliant storytelling from Aja and Fraction. This issue marks the beginning of a new story arc centering on Clint Barton’s seemingly ill-advised involvement with a red-headed stranger, Penny, and her litany of complications. From the beginning of this series, Fraction and Aja have stressed that their focus is purely on what happens to Clint when he is not working with the Avengers. That’s for the best, because issue 8 takes him to some decidedly un-heroic (a strip club mafia-front and jail come to mind).

Clint gets tangled up in Penny’s charms and proceeds to make a series of questionable decisions. Fraction bravely allows Clint to be a guy, not a perfect, shining, armor-clad hero. Clint’s ability to (and at times downright insistence that he must) make bad decisions make him intensely relatable and endearing. The humorous tone of the book remains grounded firmly in Clint’s refusal to take himself seriously. Against all odds, Fraction is able to make an elderly man wearing a tracksuit and an oxygen mask work as a villain in a Marvel superhero book; this should give you some insight into the outrageous twists and turns you can expect in this series. Near the end of the of the issue Fraction relates these street level skirmishes to some truly heavy-hitting monuments of Marvel mythology, showcasing his skill as a writer, and setting the table for the next course.

While Fraction’s choices make the narrative of this book stand out, what cements this book’s must-read status for me is Aja’s artwork. Nowhere in the cape-wearing comic world is there a more identifiable trademark style than an Aja on Hawkeye. Not only his rendering style, but his aesthetic choices regarding everything from layout to the angles he chooses to show scenes might as well have his name in neon lights.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Aja’s style its somewhere between pop art and 1960s advertising graphics. Aja uses very little shading, and coloring is generally very monochromatic. Because he commonly fills a page with up to twenty-four frames, his canvases can be very small. So, considering that Aja works with a limited: color palette, linear variation, and space; and still manages to tell such incredible visual stories, I am going to go ahead and label him a genius. I am so glad that he’s back.

In addition to getting Aja back on the title this month, we have also been given the extraordinary gift of five big beautiful full-page illustrations from Annie Wu. Wu’s work evokes a completely different feeling than Aja’s and provides brilliant contrast by hearkening back to the genre of romance comics. I do not think there is another medium on the planet that allows you to purchase so much great art for $2.99.

Hawkeye is a completely original take on hero books tethered by Fraction’s bold storytelling and Aja’s signature artwork that hits the mark in a big way this month.

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This review was originally published on Bag & Bored, check out their site here:


Greatest Hits: Sexism in Vintage Comics

11 Feb




I originally tracked down all these images to create the banner for my site. Every time I looked at them, I wondered if people who viewed the blog were actually able to make out what they said. I couldn’t stand the thought that people might be missing out on these spectacular instances of vintage sexism in comics. I am so glad that these are humorous now, women in comics have come such a long way.




Here we see Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) using her superpowers for housework. Interestingly enough, this backup feature “The Female of the Species!” featured in X-men #57 in 1969, was written by Stan Lee’s assistant Linda Fite, in an attempt to include a feminine perspective. In this same piece Jean states that it doesn’t take telekinesis to turn heads. You’ve got to love that. Jean was the only member of the original team not given a backstory in these backups.  






In this frame we see Batman telling his new wife, Kathy Kane (Batwoman), that she is not invited to join them on their adventure. This was published in Batman #122 in 1959. Prior to their marriage, Kathy had been an ultra-femme crime fighter. She carried a purse full of gadgets in lieu of a utility belt, and of course wore a dress. Batman seemed to find her more of an annoyance than an ally.  



Sue Storm doesn’t see how she can be of help, but she is quickly reminded that she is always of help because she is beautiful! She can help keep morale up, of course, thank goodness. This panel comes from Fantastic Four #12 published in 1963. 





This images are all from Detective Comics #371 published in 1968. Throughout the issue, Batgirl repeatedly jeopardizes the mission by worrying about her appearance. Silly Batgirl. 

Its nice to see that creator’s are willing to let the girls play now. Each of these characters has evolved to be an individual, with an independent motivation and personality. They are all tough in different ways, and have such a long way .


Here’s Jean being dark and powerful.


And Batwoman, being decidedly uninterested in Batman romantically.



And Sue doing more than boosting morale.


And Batgirl, not worrying about her makeup.  

As attitudes toward women continue to change, these characters will continue to evolve. Certainly now, they are great symbols for how far women have come in the last half century. 

Oh, Kate. Lah te dah.

31 Jan

For a while now, I have been loving Matt Fraction’s take on Kate Bishop in Hawkeye. She is tough, but he doesn’t make the mistake that so many writers do of taking away all her femininity. We have seen her go toe-to-toe with bad guys, risk her life to go behind enemy lines, put Clint in his place, and retain an impeccable sense of both humor and fashion. She is badass.Image

Once I saw her driving a purple Volkswagen Beetle, I realized, in my eyes at least; she is the Annie Hall of comic books. She is a girl I would totally have a beer with (my criteria for whether I like a character or not involves the shared consumption of alcoholic beverages, its a very highbrow technique for analysis).


Unfortunately something slipped in the most recent issue. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem, but after revisiting it, I realized what happened. Fraction had started making fun of her, which is fine, but here, it didn’t feel like she was in on the joke. Its unfortunate for the creative team that they put her story side by side with Clint’s, because the disparity between the treatment of the characters crystalizes due to that format. While Hamm seems a promising artist, something about his work here exasperated the problem for me.   

While Clint is selflessly accompanying a tenant of his building to see about his father, Kate is going to a silly engagement party. I do not infer that the party is silly, the creative team has told me as much, through the ridiculous wording of the invitation and the caricature of Kate swooning over it. (When I look at this image I hear the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice, and not in a good way hawkguys) When she tries to tell Clint about the party, he responds, “Yeah I don’t care,” and as charming and on-point as that is; it sucks for Kate’s character. I think she needed, or deserved a chance to tell us why she is braving hell and high water (literally) to go to this thing. I am not saying we need a long-winded explanation, just something other than: she is a girl, and girl’s love weddings. I don’t necessarily need Kate to be sagely, burdened by emotional baggage, or full of deep brooding feelings. She is perfect the way she is. The guys should respect what they have created enough to let her speak for herself. Kate can love weddings; she can want to go catch up with an old friend; she might just want to go see what everyone there is wearing. That’s all fine, just let her be a character with a motivation instead of a stereotype with a silly hat. Image

She is also referred to as Clint’s ‘ward,’ which she disapproves of, and given an opportunity to show her ineptitude and silliness; by giving Clint Scotch tape to close a box of canned goods. 

I would like to take a moment to remind you that this is the woman who drove the car in the third issue of the series, she saved Clint’s ass a few times, and now she does not understand the function of self adhesive sealing implements.Image


When Kate first appears in her “bridesmaid to-be dress” I thought, ‘that looks like a bridesmaid’s dress from 1978,’ only to realize that it is supposed to be a designer piece of couture that she loves. Would the same woman who wears an asymmetrical purple jumpsuit flawlessly, or dons that stunning gown in issue 2, touch this dress? Let alone lament its demise? If the guys at Hawkeye are going to make fashion a part of Kate’s character (which they evidently are *see mention of two designers by name in issue 7) then they themselves should take the time to see it through, and make it believable. Otherwise its just a ‘bitches love shoes’ joke, and really who needs more of those in their life? (Imagine if a female writer did that to quickly characterized a man in a story, “that new quarterback is great on defense,’ he said”)


I wish they hadn’t chosen Kate as the vehicle of the, ‘everyone can be a hero,’ message in this story. After being made to look like a silly immature girl in the exposition, she should get to prove her metal in the end. I would have forgiven a lot then. Instead, her bravery looks like foolishness. As she confronts the thugs in the pharmacy, she decides to impersonate a Batman villain, talking through a crucial strategy point. After being knocked out cold by a can of baked beans. She wakes up to find the good people of New Jersey have all come together to save her ass.

This is a triumphant moment… for the people of New Jersey (especially the one holding hedge clippers,) but Kate fails so completely. You have to wonder how she holds it together posing as super villains and facing off against hordes of circus-trained cronies, when she cannot manage a couple of looters in a pharmacy. 

I lived through Katrina, I know how beautiful and wonderful people can prove to be when they band together after a tragedy. My father-in-law and his buddies took pirogues down to New Orleans and pulled people off rooftops. Trust me, this a inspiring thing that needs to be said. People do rise to the occasion.  I am just so disappointed that they used Kate to say it. 

Guys, you have made a wonderful female character. She is dynamic. She is an individual. She has her own interests. Don’t lose her. I cannot wait to eat my words after the next issue.


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