EXCL. PREVIEW: "Avatar: Smoke & Shadow" TPB Threatens the Fire Nation
News last week of my beloved Rogue being left on the cutting room floor for the forthcoming X-Men Days of Future Past film had me all mopey and thinking about why certain characters mean so much to me, and who manages to hang on, despite all odds. It was time for a list!
[As a sidebar, I didn’t have time this year to do my annual holiday gift list, but I’ve included links to all of these characters’ best or recent work that I mention so that if you’re shopping super late this year, this could help you out.] And fair warning, before we begin, if a character was repeated on the list and I didn’t have a ton of new thoughts on her I cribbed heavily from my 2010 post, but I gave myself permission, so don’t worry.
As mentioned, back in 2010 I did a 20 Favorite Fiction Females post, and now, after a truly exciting year for female characters in comics, and with a promising 2014 ahead of us, I thought it might be time to revisit the list. See who still makes the cut and who fell clean off. I did a post in early 2013 about 10 characters that were making a run for the title, and some of those ladies did indeed make the jump, and deservedly so.
What I found most interesting as I pulled the list together this time was how some characters managed to triumph over lack of material or worse, bad material. Wonder Woman, despite the fact that I can’t read her book, hasn’t fallen at all from favor in my mind – maybe she’s just got so much iconic power that I am helpless in front of it? Similarly, Big Barda hasn’t been around significantly for years, including the year I made the list, but she still easily makes my list (even if she’s fallen a few spots). When I think of Barda there’s just no other character quite like her and as a result she’s all the more precious to me. On the other hand, Batwoman, who had her peak in 2009/2010 under Greg Rucka and J.H. William’s brilliant and groundbreaking Detective Comics has actually plummeted from spot #1 to clean off the list.
It definitely seems that, for me, having a largely untouched run that is lodged fondly in my memory – such as Cass Cain’s Batgirl or Jakita Wagner in Planetary – works to a character’s favor. I guess I do a better job of preserving their memories and thus loving them unequivocally. However in character’s like Batwoman’s case, she went from near perfection, to a book that, while it had its highlights, was far from perfection for me, with inconsistencies in character, writing, and art as well as shifting creative teams, all of which left me unenthusiastic about the character. I have no doubt that she can rebound, but this year, with so many tough competitors she just didn’t make the cut. And that’s all a very long roundabout way to say that the DC ladies took it on the chin pretty hard this year compared to in 2010.
In 2010 DC women DOMINATED the list with an incredible 9 spots – nearly half the list. By comparison Marvel only had 4 spots and their top spot was #4 (Rogue). But because the DCU has largely become a place I can’t enjoy, very few ladies made it out intact, including some classic favorites that it pained me to admit I think of less these days than I’d like to (Oracle!)
In fact, only Wonder Woman and Cass Cain didn’t fall in their placement.
So, who did make the cut?
Jessica is damn lucky that Netflix and Marvel have partnered to give her a television show, without that she made such little impact in the last year or so (tragic!) that I nearly forgot she existed. Jessica Jones has limitless potential, though I confess I much prefer her as the darker more adult trending P.I., with a ton of problems from Alias to her superhero persona we have seen of late. That said, there are infinite directions she can go in, and I do love her with Luke Cage. Having baby Dani around all the time feels a bit limiting for the character from how I’ve seen it handled so far, but I’m sure there are ways to use the stress and obligations of family to Jessica’s advantage in character development, rather than something to hold her back. I eagerly await someone figuring that out. Soon please?
Read Jessica Jones: best to just read the phenomenal Alias trades by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos and call it a day, it’s Jessica at her absolute best. You should also do this to prepare yourself for the Jessica Jones Netflix show (so excited). That said, this moment from New Avengers (circa 2011?) with Jessica and Luke Cage is pretty awesome:
I’ve enjoyed Michonne on The Walking Dead television show, the actress (Danai Guria) is a great cast and the writing of her has been pretty solid all around. In the comics I haven’t been enjoying Michonne near as much lately. She hasn’t had much to do for a long time now, and though she’s just naturally a badass, her personal romantic relationships have been a bit awkward and unrewarding. Basically this is an example of me knowing a character has a ton of potential, but being a bit disappointed in how she’s being allowed to show it off. This is not unlike Jessica Jones – in fact both ladies probably owe television for their inclusion on the list this year.
Read Michonne: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard is the only place to find Michonne, but it’s all you need – there’s now an incredible 118 issues of The Walking Dead and with Michonne’s first appearance in issue #19 she’s in a whole lot of them. If you’re specifically looking for Michonne you should start with Volume 5: Heart’s Desire, which begins with Michonne’s first appearance in the series. You can also of course watch her on The Walking Dead on AMC which returns in February 2014. Even with all these issues, this is still probably my favorite Michonne moment, so simple, so very Michonne:
I like Rachel from Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising a whole lot, but there’s no contest who my favorite character is, it’s the sarcastic and awesome Jet. Gorgeous, guitar playing, joke making Jet. I love her. Terry Moore has been talking recently on twitter with some other folks about the fact that Rachel Rising is struggling. This is a crime as it’s a great, smart, and legitimately scary book that’s also of course beautiful as everything Moore does is gorgeous. So, if you’ve been on the fence, get off it and buy yourself some Rachel Rising.
Read Jet: Read Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising for all sorts of reasons, but Jet is my favorite reason to read. The trades are available – 3 of them and up through issue #18 ( I believe) but you can also pick everything up digitally if you want to get fully current. Need more incentive. Here’s Jet, being Jet (well, sorta):
As I wrote about Storm last March, she’s a character I WANT to like very much, but frequently the writing she gets is pretty stilted. I guess the untouchable perfect goddess thing doesn’t work so much for me. Which is why I’ve always enjoyed the more human (and mohawk wearing) Storm. So I’ve welcomed her return to that as she lost trust in Cyclops and ultimately broke loyalties with him in Brian Wood’s X-Men run. Add to that an Ororo on the heels of a divorce and feeling a bit salty — the mohawk returned, she got a slick costume update, and Brian Wood got another crack at her in his new X-Men volume. There hasn’t been A LOT to see yet of her in the new X-Men, but I like the direction we’re headed in. I remain convinced that Storm is a hidden treasure in Marvel and that she’s one of the only ladies of Marvel that makes sense as a Wonder Woman alternative. I’d love to see Marvel give her that attention and respect – a shot at the title, if you will.
Read Storm: The best place to read Storm lately is in Brian Wood’s X-Men, both the previous volume (two trades) with David Lopez and the new one with Olivier Coipel. You can also find her in Uncanny X-Force, but I don’t recommend it.
Greg Rucka writes some of the best women in comics and has for a very long time. Private Eye Dex Parios is one of my favorites. Ballsy and unapologetic, Dex is a wonderful mix of near fatal flaws and mostly untapped genius. A total screw up at life in general and yet a hell of a detective with a good heart and an unflinching moral code (though one that only makes sense to her – the best kind as far as I’m concerned), I simply cant get enough of Dex. Two Stumptown volumes were certainly not enough, so I hope we’ve got more headed our way in the future.
Read Dex: Unfortunately Stumptown is on break between volumes, but don’t let that stop you from picking up the first two collected volumes, which are gorgeous and awesome. Greg Rucka doing what Greg Rucka does best and Matthew Southworth delivering absolutely stunning visuals. As always, I recommend the hardovers on Stumptown, which Oni has made particularly gorgeous – oversized with exceptional matte stock/covers. Need a push? Here’s Dex:
One of my favorite new characters in the last ten years, and completely underused. Where is she?!?!? I hold out hope that Brian Wood will be able to bring her into his X-Men, since he’s written her before both in Wolverine & The X-Men: Alpha and Omega and in his run on Ultimate X-Men I suspect a fondness for her. With an incredibly cool power set that also happens to be visually exceptional, she stands out with ease. I love characters small in stature and decidedly unimposing that can deliver a huge punch (literally), and Hisako has that in spades. Armor is one of the those characters you just can’t wait to dig deeper into. She got a ton of attention in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, but since then with a few exceptions it’s been slim pickings. More, more, more, please!
Read Armor: Unfortunately Armor is not in anything right now. The best place to read her is Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, available in trades and as an epic omnibus (I have it, it’s badass). She’s also pretty great in Brian Wood’s Wolverine & The X-Men: Alpha & Omega, which is not my favorite of Wood’s work largely due to the art, but Hisako really gets to shine. She’s also got a few fantastic moments in Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews super off the wall Astonishing X-Men: Xenogeneis. Here’s one of my favorite little bits from Xenogenesis – what a way with words she has:
I wrote a whole post about Nimona this past year I love her so much. She’s just so Nimona-y. She’s a shark! She’s a dragon! She’s a sheep so she can use her own wool to knit you a sweater! She’s everything and it’s awesome. Totally without any kind of traditional morals, she’s far more of a “true villain” than Blackheart (who she sidekicks for) but she cares for him (and he for her) in the most tender and realistic of ways. One of the best things about Nimona is the boundless energy, enthusiasm, and optimism she possesses. It makes her villainy contagious and keeps the webcomic from feeling too dark, instead Nimona is REALLY EXCITED ABOUT CRIME. You will be too.
Read Nimona: If you’re not reading Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona webcomic, you are using the Internet incorrectly. Please remedy that immediately. Here’s Nimona being a hilarious badass:
Who would have thunk it? I’ve never been a big Magik fan, or didn’t know I should be, but the work that Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Bachalo, and Frazer Iriving have done with her in Uncanny X-Men is awesome. Magik is such an interesting character, kind of funny and mean at once, reserved in how much she connects to others (understandably given her nightmarish life) but also boldly unafraid to say whatever she thinks. She’s an odd fit with Cyclops’s team, but it works wonderfully, and not just because her teleportation powers are incredibly useful/convenient. I also happen to love what Bachalo is doing with her soulsword – letting it change shape/size/and even design a bit, giving it a life of its own. I wrote recently about how much I’d love to see a Emma Frost/Magik book team up. I’ve decided to ask Santa for that book this year. C’mon Santa, make a believer out of me.
Read Magik: The best place to read current Magik is in the new Uncanny X-Men book (currently on issue 15). There are a few trades out, but I’d also recommend picking up the latest incredibly fun issue (if you like fun that is) – Uncanny X-Men #15…er, make that #15.INH (sigh!) which is mostly shopping and hilarity and has Kris Anka killing it on the interiors – good god the clothes and hair! Here’s a taste of Emma and Magik, being, well, magic:
Cribbed in part from my 2010 post, cause nothing changes when it comes to my love of Barda: I’ve always been a sucker for the whole stranger in a strange land thing, and nobody embodies it better (in the right writer’s hands) than Barda and her hilarious assimilation to modern Earth culture. I’m also a sucker for a truly devoted couple in love, and Barda and Scott Free are one of the best in comics. Someone somewhere on the internet (I’m sorry I don’t know who or where you are?) said that one of the things that makes Big Barda easier to love than Wonder Woman, is that her relationship with Free has always grounded her and humanized her in a way that Diana usually feels untouchable. Now, I don’t necessarily agree that Barda is ‘easier to love’ than Diana but I can absolutely see the truth in that statement. I think that HAS been a stumbling block for Diana over the years, and one Barda never had. Regardless, I can’t think of much I’d like more in comics than a Barda/Scott Free book, in the meantime I’ll have to satisfy myself with the old tales and hope for a future DC where there’s room for a great character like Barda.
Read Barda: Actually, you CAN find Barda in the “alt reality/future/whatever” world of Batman Beyond Unlimited – so if you’re desperate for recent Barda, I urge you to seek that out. For the older stuff it’s definitely Birds of Prey but I’m not actually sure what issues/trades you should look for – any readers want to shout out in the comments?
Cribbed in part from 2013 post about Psylocke: Between what Rick Remender and Jerome Opena did with the character in the brilliant Uncanny X-Force, her recent costume change courtesy of the uber talented Kris Anka, her appearances in Brian Wood and David Lopez’s X-Men and Brian Wood’s new volume of X-Men I am in love with this character in a way I haven’t been since I was 16 (and blissfully unaware of how she came to be in the first place). I’ve always liked this character even though she’s problematic, but her stories for years have been a nightmare (not to mention her visual portrayals) so it’s exciting to see the character getting such a surge of interest by talented creators and thus a true chance at redemption. I’m excited!.
Read Psylocke: Check out Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run (available in trade). Unfortunately I cannot recommend the current Uncanny X-Force – though it started strong it fell apart very quickly. But Brian Wood’s previous X-Men book with David Lopez has some great Psylocke stuff and Wood’s take on Pyslocke in his new X-Men is excellent, she hasn’t gotten a ton of play yet, but what’s there is great and perfectly on point for what I would hope for in the character – I mean, why on earth did it take so many years for any writers to figure out that it would be amazing to have Psylocke shoot a bow and arrow “psychic knife”? So goddamn cool:
Go to the next page for #15-6!
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