Strong Female Protagonist
Author: Brennan Lee Mulligan
Publisher: Top Shelf
Gorgeously illustrated by Molly Ostertag.
With all I've been saying about strong female protagonists, how could I not want to read this?! It turned out to be everything I hoped for. This is what I'm talking about when I say I want a strong female protagonist. Alison is freaking awesome and it has nothing to do with the fact that she can pretty much kick anyone's ass whom she wants to. Here we have a superhero comic that simultaneously parodies superhero comics and tells an amazingly good superhero story of its own.
Alison Elizabeth Green is MegaGirl in a world where young teens have become superheroes and supervillains. Alison's power is super strength and invulnerability, but she's not even remotely invulnerable to self-doubt and to questioning the whole superhero-supervillain trope, and fretting over her place and power in such a world, nor is she to questioning whether, in the final analysis she, as a hero is really any better or even any different to a villain.
The satire and comedy meld perfectly with the harsh reality of the story told here, and it all combines to make a remarkably good superhero story. I particularly liked the sly comments at bottom of each page which have some trenchant or amusing observation to impart. It’s like the writer is reviewing his own work! On page 52, for example, there's an amusing aside about trashcans. On page 111, there's one about two side characters who appear in just the one panel. Later there's a bizarre one about a soldier trying to get his commanding officer to read his poetry. It goes on for every page and they're hilarious.
We follow Alison through her life - mostly her regular life, but with heroic interludes sprinkled in. Alison came out as a super hero, so she has no secret identity. Everything is out in the open, even her past, which frequently comes back to haunt her. Her relationship with the villains is unusual, too. She's actually friends with one who has given-up his villainy, and with another who has found a rather scary way to make up for her past. That character is known as Feral, and I loved her almost as much as I loved Ali.
I was a bit sorry that they didn’t develop an intimate relationship, but that was another strong point of this novel: she didn't need a relationship precisely because she was a strong character who didn't have to have some partner around to validate her.
And that was another amazing thing about his comic: it didn’t present women as objects to be ogled. All of the characters were ordinary people. There were no pneumatic breasts, no improbably toy-like legs. There was no ridiculously juvenile smart-mouthing and clunky one-liners during fights. The whole thing seemed perfectly real, even as it was obviously fictional.
Little bits here and there didn’t work. For example, the reversed text (white lettering on black background on page 127) doesn't function at all well. It's all but illegible. Curiously, the comment typeface used in this way on page 142 works fine. I think it’s that the 'hand-written' font used for the panels just doesn’t work well in the negative.
Also I don’t get that the coach is talking about a 4th quarter in a soccer game on page 181. Soccer doesn't have quarters unless they really wimp out in high school girls soccer. Who knows, maybe they do. I never played high school girls soccer. I found this - if true - to be a truly sad commentary, though. Here I'm reading about a strong female protagonist and learning that girls might be considered such wimps that they can’t play for 30 or even the regular 45 minutes of soccer each half without taking a break! How ironic is that?
I've recently begin reading a sci-fi novel which features, at one point, a planet which is still undergoing a meteorite bombardment similar to that which Earth underwent in its early history (known as the late heavy bombardment - something for which the young-Earth creationists cannot account!). This is why I think that when I read on page 198 of a meteorological forecast, my brain immediately went to meteors instead of weather! That was a weird moment. I began wondering if the meteor bombardment was what caused the superpowers. Very confusing - and totally wrong!
That weirdness aside, I loved this comic from start to finish in its entirety. It was beautifully written, refreshingly illustrated (props to Molly Ostertag), it was realistic within its framework, even as it poked fun at not only superhero conventions, but also at itself. I highly recommend this comic. You can get a look at some of this story on the website: strongfemaleprotagonist.com.