The Ladies of Comics Who Made 2016 a Little More Bearable


The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Publisher Marvel Comics
Writer Ryan North
Art Erica Henderson
Colorist Rico Renzi

The Marvel Universe had it coming. This full-length graphic novel puts the “comic” back in comic book, offering big laughs, dumb puns, rah-rah positivity, and the sharpest, most joyous cartooning a mainstream comics company will allow into continuity. Yes, cartooning. Henderson’s beaming, bucktoothed heroine — who we’re often told has the power of both squirrel and girl — kicks butts/hoards nuts in panels of vibrant, vital simplicity, often alongside her endearingly daft sidekicks: Koi Boy, Chipmunk Hunk, an actual squirrel named Tippy-Toe who sports a dashing pink bow. For all the squirreliness, North and Henderson spin a first-rate superhero yarn, just as they do in their USG monthly, this one involving an evil clone, Thor’s hammer, Doctor Octopus’s arms, and what happens when a mob of the hero’s rodent pals seize control of an Iron Man suit. Yes, Squirrel Girl’s butt-kicking/nut-hoarding takes place, technically, in that same Marvel Universe that is forever being blown apart by grim crossover events. If only the movies were this nuts. — Alan Scherstuhl

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

Publisher Marvel Comics
Writers Amy Reeder (also cover artist), Brandon Montclare
Penciler Natacha Bustos
Colorist Tamra Bonvillain

The smartest hero in the Marvel Universe is a nine-year-old girl wonder who lives on the Lower East Side. Meet Lunella Lafayette, headstrong and unafraid to stand up for herself, even when it means going up against a giant crimson dinosaur, a clan of thieving cave people, or the Hulk. In this reboot of the classic Devil Dinosaur comics, Lunella is the type of hero we would’ve been proud to have as kids: a person of color who eschews everyone’s expectations in favor of being her best self. “Most people never wanted to see me as anything but a normal little girl,” she says. “But I have big ideas.” As for Devil Dinosaur? It takes her a while to warm up to him — and when she does, they make quite the dynamic duo. After a fortuitous (and destructive) introduction in which the red T-rex saves her life (twice), she realizes: “At least he never told me what to do or who to be.” Boom. You tell ’em, Lunella. — Tatiana Craine

Giant Days

Publisher BOOM!Box
Writer John Allison
Illustrators Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin
Colorist Whitney Cogar

Somehow, a self-effacing white dude has mastered the voice of generations of young women. John Allison, who started with the young adults of Bobbins, moved on to the mystery-solving teens of Bad Machinery, and occasionally dipped a toe into the hellscape with Mordawwa, has entered the world of college freshmen with Giant Days, starring three students who love each other dearly but whose paths would never cross had they not been made dorm-mates. Allison’s droll, absurd sense of humor never gets in the way of the brave, weird, hilarious, true(ish)-to-life adventures of pragmatic Susan, chaos-machine Esther, and optimistic Daisy. Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin’s art is beautiful and goofy, and the storylines take serious topics seriously, but not without fun — just wait till you see the revenge the girls take on the dopes who dare to put Esther on a “25 Hottest First-Years” site. Pick up the holiday special now to tide you over till January’s issue No. 22. — Meave Gallagher

Fresh Romance/ Beauties

Publisher Rosy Press; Emet Comics
Writer Marguerite Bennett

What do a supernatural high school romance, a Regency-era chastity drama, and a rational matchmaker from another dimension have in common? They’re all part of Fresh Romance, a comic series Kickstarted by Janelle Asselin. Originally published by Rosy Press, the first collection was printed this year and just rereleased by Emet Comics. Fresh Romance is like if a richly illustrated anthology had a love child with a sex-positive magazine — between the serialized stories, there’s the Divorcé(e) Club advice column and articles about everything from orgasms to the ebb and flow of desire. It’s like a soap opera for the Tumblr era, showcasing a broad spectrum of sexualities, empowered women, and a collection of rad art that really pops. Our favorite is School Spirit, which combines secret magic powers, combating homophobia, and some pretty amazing makeout scenes. Plus, at the end of this first run of Fresh Romance, there’s a two-parter that reimagines Beauty and the Beast, along with some other short-and-sweet gems that will pull at your heartstrings. — T.C.