Ms Marvel Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Ms Marvel made it onto my radar for being the first superhero comic whose protagonist is a young Muslim woman. Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American teenager from Jersey City who unexpectedly develops super powers, and the first story arc is all about her coming to realise it’s okay to be Ms Marvel and still be herself, in all her multilayered glory.
I loved Kamala from page one. She’s dorky and adorable and funny and smart, and like thousands of teenagers all over the world, she occupies and moves between different cultural spaces with ease. Kamala writes fanfiction about her favourite superheroes and wants to go to parties and be seen as “normal”; she also cares about her family and goes to Sheikh Abdullah’s Saturday youth lecture with her friend Nakia. As No Normal unfolds, Kamala realises that there’s nothing inherently incongruous about these things. It’s okay to be complex and to claim the space to be everything that she is. It’s the idea that superheroes can’t be Pakistani-American girls from Jersey City that needs fighting, not any part of her.
Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.
Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy and Emma Ríos
In short, it was totally my sort of thing. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that there was so much for me here, but because part of me was still expecting to feel at a loss I kind of was. I’m sure there’s a lesson in here somewhere.
Kelly Sue lets Carol settle into historical context. Helen was more than able, but Carol was the first generation that was allowed and that complex knot of admiration and tension between the two women is subtly played and rife for exploration in future issues.And then there’s this, which is actually about different Carol Danvers stories but still applies perfectly:
I love it when women mentor other women in the stories I read, and it’s even better when that relationship is both beneficial and flawed. It’s compelling and it’s human, and it doesn’t need to focus on men to achieve that.Yes and yes.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Through the Woods is full of untidy endings that leave questions lingering and refuse to settle the tension her stories raise. When I went to see Sarah Waters discuss the Gothic tradition recently, she said that this lack of resolution and the way it lingers in your mind is one of the hallmarks of Gothic fiction. Through the Woods accomplishes that better than anything I’ve read in a long time.
Pretty Deadly Vol 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos
Red Sonja, Vol. 1: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani
Sword and sorcery has never been my favourite subset of fantasy, and Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues never pretends to be anything other than what it is. On the other hand, I do like stories that deconstruct certain aspects of a genre while staying within its storytelling conventions. Terry Pratchett’s Cohen the Barbarian is a good example of this, and so is Red Sonja.
I enjoyed Simone’s determination to allow women to occupy grey areas; and also the fact that, unlike what you might think at first, this isn’t a story that sets two women against each other but rather one that shows patriarchal power at work. Red Sonja wasn’t closely aligned with my interests in the same way Ms Marvel and Captain Marvel were, but I’m glad I gave it a chance anyway.
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
All of the above is more than enough for a reader like me, who loves mythology and stories within stories, to fall for The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. But what really makes this book stand out is Greenberg’s narrative voice, to which I’m not sure I can do justice. It’s savvy, humorous, metatextual and full of warmth, and it was the best thing about a book I’d have a hard time not loving anyway.