The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rich Barrett
Molly Ostertag
Molly Ostertag / Molly Ostertag

Every Wednesday, I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, Kickstarter, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

Strong Female Protagonist: Book One

By Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag
Top Shelf Comix

A former teen super heroine wrestles with concepts of social justice and making a difference in the world.

A common criticism of the superhero genre tends to go something like this: If Bruce Wayne really wanted to help Gotham City, he’d use his fortune to invest in schools, healthcare, public housing, and infrastructure needs rather than spend it on Bat-Planes and Bat-Cycles. And he wouldn’t waste his time beating up the same criminals over and over. In Strong Female Protagonist, Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag have taken this angle and given us a smart, fresh look at superheroes that doesn't stomp out all the fun. As a result, they’ve created one of the best superhero comics of the year.

Alison Green is the most powerful of a group of people referred to as “bio-dynamic anomalies.” As Mega-Girl, she wore a costume, fought other super-powered anomalies, and even joined a group called The Guardians. At sixteen, in a spectacular coming-of-age moment, she publicly unmasked herself and proclaims that she had wasted her teenage years punching bad guys rather than going to school in order to better understand the world she was trying to help. Now, attending college and falling into a unique relationship with a former “villain”, Alison is constantly wrestling with what it means to be a hero and to save the world.

The name of the book may lead you to believe that this is a feminist manifesto about the depiction of women in comics, but it really sets its sights on much bigger concepts. That said, it definitely attaches a very feminine viewpoint to some standard trappings of the genre which makes it unique. The book is a lot of fun and features plenty of fights and some fresh, new ways of depicting familiar super powers. There is a particularly fascinating and heart-wrenching scene involving a female stand-in for Marvel’s Wolverine who finds a way to use her regenerative powers to help people in a way that Wolverine would have never considered.

Strong Female Protagonist Book One collects 220 pages of what began as a webcomic (and still is). This past July, Mulligan and Ostertag ran a Kickstarter to raise funds to self-publish the book. They blew past their goal by more than $50,000. Top Shelf Comix has stepped in to help with the distribution, leading to an official release in bookstores and comic book shops this week. Here’s more info on the book as well as a preview. You can also buy it directly from the creators here.


All New Captain America #1

By Rick Remender, Stuart Immonen
Marvel Comics

Sam Wilson, an African-American, becomes the new Captain America.

The latest in Marvel’s 2014 push for greater diversity within their heroes (following the introduction of a Muslim teenage Ms. Marvel and a female Thor) is the All New Captain America. Sam Wilson—formerly The Falcon—will take over the name and don a new costume that incorporates some legacy aspects of his own past outfits. Wilson, an Avenger and longtime partner to Cap since they shared billing in the 1970s series Captain America and The Falcon, is probably at his most recognizable to a broad audience since appearing in the Captain America: Winter Soldier film. He’ll be following in the footsteps of original Cap Steve Rogers, but will be bringing to the job his own experiences and skills both as the Falcon and as a social worker who is in touch with a different America than Rogers has known.

Unlike the last time the mantle changed hands in 2007’s Death of Captain America (that time to another longtime partner, Bucky Barnes), Steve Rogers is still alive and will continue to appear in this series. However, after having the Super-Soldier serum drained from his body by a villain called The Iron Nail, he has rapidly aged to his 90-year-old state. It will be interesting to see how long this change sticks within the Marvel Universe—big status quo changes are usually overwritten within a couple of years, but, it’s a lot easier to undo something negative like a death than something positive (at least as many people perceive it) as making a black man one of the biggest heroes in the Marvel Universe.

Rick Remender has been writing Captain America since the last relaunch of the title two years ago and will likely be continuing a number of the threads he has started in this title. He’s joined by artist Stuart Immonen who has been doing some of his best work recently on Marvel’s All New X-men. Here’s a preview.


The Kitchen #1

By Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle
DC Vertigo

Three housewives of imprisoned Irish gangsters decide to keep the business going while their husbands are away.

Set in 1970s New York City—when the area once known as "Hell’s Kitchen” lived up to its name by being ripe with crime and gang activity—The Kitchen finds a new angle for telling a Scorcese-like gangster story. Three mob wives—Kath, Raven and Angie—decide they should be out collecting payoffs in the absences of their Irish gangster husbands who are serving time in prison. Even though they’ve been mostly sheltered from the business, they find they take to it easier than they would have thought.

This new 8-issue mini-series comes from two up-and-coming creative talents. Ming Doyle has worked on a number of comics for various publishers like Image Comics and Boom! Studios including many anthology contributions in the past few years in addition to having a successful career as an illustrator. She is an artist who seems poised to hit the big time. She’s working with newcomer writer Ollie Masters and together they seem to be reveling in bringing ‘70s New York (the fashion, the hairstyles and the Times Square seediness) to life.

Here’s a preview.


Drifter #1

By Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein
Image Comics

A space western from the guys who previously gave us a viking crime drama.

Abram Pollux survives a spaceship crash on a strange backwater planet only to get shot in the back by a mysterious masked gunman. When he wakes up in this strange, desolate world, he’s itching for revenge.

Drifter is yet another new science fiction series from Image Comics and, like the recent comic Copperhead, is another that mixes sci-fi and western genre tropes. When Pollux revives from the shooting, he finds himself in a frontier town inhabited by a marshall, a man of religion, a saloon full of rough characters, and of course some non-humanoid creatures. The first issue ends on a very intriguing note that will surely appeal to fans of high-concept, mind bending sci-fi.

Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein previously collaborated on Viking, a mashup of crime and Norse drama. In mashing up sci-fi and westerns they seem to be pulling specifically from the European variety of both genres with the pathos and existential drama of Sergio Leone’s westerns and Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius’ space epics. Klein, most recently the artist on Marvel’s Captain America, sets the tone for this book with his rich, moody, painterly artwork.

Here’s a preview.


30 Minutes To Live

By Greg Thelen and various artists

The sun has exploded. What do you do with your last 30 minutes on Earth?

The frightening concept behind Greg Thelen’s webcomic anthology 30 Minutes To Live is that the sun has just exploded and everyone on Earth has just learned that the blast—and the end—is coming in 30 minutes. What do you do? Thelen explores this over ten short stories with ten different artists. The opening story shows two friends in a girls’ boarding school sitting on the roof pondering life, death, and sex. Others check in on situations showing soldiers in the Middle East, expectant parents in a hospital, inmates in a prison, and an old woman in a nursing home. In addition to having different artists, each story has a different tone—solemn, funny, horrific, heartbreaking.

Thelen and his artists began posting their stories back in December of last year with the last one being completed this past September. Each is a short and some are more engaging than others, but it’s well worth reading them in the suggested order. You can check them out here.