One of the hardest things about reading comics is knowing where to start. Comics shops carry hundreds of titles and get dozens of issues in every week on new comic-book day. On top of that, many comics have complex mythologies and backstories that make it hard to just pick up any random issue and have a clue what is going on.
That’s why Heroic Girls recommends comics every week that are excellent “jumping on” points for new readers or books that you should have been reading all along. Without further ado, here are our picks for the week of October 30, 2019.
The first book I’m recommending this week is one that I shamefully forgot in the video: Excalibur #1. The X-Men are in the middle of a major Renaissance, and no character is benefiting more from that than Betsy Braddock.
Betsy was formerly known as Psylocke. After being trapped in the body of a sexy Asian assassin for years (Don’t ask. – Ed.), she finds herself recently returned to her original, white body and inheriting the mantle of Captain Britain, defender of the British Isles from her brother Brian.
Excalibur is a reboot of the super-fun Europe-based mutant team from the ’80s and ’90s. This time around the team is battling in the “Otherworld” a.k.a. “Avalon” and features Betsy leading X-Men stalwarts Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, Rictor … and Apocalypse?
Marvel has been hitting them out of the park with these reboots. We’re betting Excalibur will continue that hot streak. (I somehow missed this in the video, but it’s a definite recommendation. – Ed.)
Fantastic Four Grand Design #1
In the spirit of Ed Piskor’s fabulous X-Men: Grand Design trilogy comes Fantastic Four: Grand Design #1 by Tom Scioli. Told from the point of view of the omniscient Watcher who records all human activity, Fantastic Four: Grand Design is a recounting of some of the Fantastic Four’s best comic-book moments.
It’s a fabulous recounting of Marvel’s First Family’s greatest adventures with cameos from Doctor Doom, Black Panther, Namor, Galactus, the Inhumans and a treasure trove of other Marvel heroes and villains.
The story is at bit vague, but what you are really here for in the Grand Design series is the art. Rendered in a lovingly high-brow/low-brow pop style, the book is intentionally retro — aping the look and feel of the 1960’s book by Stan and Jack, all the way down to the intentionally yellowing paper and the purposefully offset printing “mistakes.”
This is a book that I loved at first sight. If you’re a fan of old Marvel comics, I’m betting you’ll love it, too.
Invisible Woman #4
This is not actually a “jumping on point,” but I don’t think I’ve recommended Invisible Woman by Mark Waid and Mattia De Iulis with covers by the incomperable Adam Hughes.
Even though she is the most powerful member of one of the world’s greatest superhero teams, Sue Richards. a.k.a. Invisible Woman, is generally not given much love outside the Fantastic Four books. Too often, she is defined by her motherhood, and given short shrift on a team dominated by her genius husband and the playful banter between overgrown boys Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm.
Writer Waid smartly gives Sue some dimension by revealing that in the early days of her superhero career, she actually was recruited by Nick Fury to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. as a spy. The ability to turn invisible at will caught his eye for some reason. Go figure.
When her old running partner from S.H.I.E.L.D. goes missing in the modern day, Sue finds herself separated from her family, her team and S.H.I.E.L.D. as she uncovers secrets that someone is desperate to keep hidden.
This is a five-issue miniseries that will undoubtedly be collected into a trade paperback at a later time, but it’s so much fun that I thought it would be a crime not to mention it here.
Spider-Gwen: Gwen Stacy TPB
Speaking of trade paperbacks, this week sees yet another release of an over-sized digest book featuring a female Marvel superhero. This month’s winner is Spider-Gwen: Gwen Stacy. This massive tome collects the first 12 comics in the Spider-Gwen saga for only $12.99. It’s a great value.
The first thing to recognize is that Spider-Gwen is not called “Spider-Gwen” anywhere except the cover of the book. Putting your real name in your superhero name is a secret identity no-no. Spider-Gwen is actually called Spider-Woman in the book, which recounts what happens on an alternate Earth, where a radioactive spider bites Gwen Stacy, instead of her boyfriend Peter Parker.
The character was originally supposed to last for approximately three pages in the original “Spiderverse” cross-over series, but fans loved the look of Gwen so much, they demanded more, and she was given her own on-going series shortly afterwards.
Gwen operates in her own world under the moniker Spider-Woman. But Marvel already has a Spider-Woman in the mainstream Marvel Universe, so they used the nickname “Spider Gwen” to refer to the character. But as Gwen has exploded in popularity, they have made some attempts to rename her to “Ghost Spider” to avoid confusion. (Notably in the Marvel Rising comic and cartoon.)
Meh. I like “Spider-Gwen.”
Street Angel: Deadliest Girl Alive
One of my favorite comic book oddities of recent years has been Street Angel by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca. Published as a series of one-shots, Street Angel tells the story of a tough as nails homeless girl who rules the streets with a skateboard and ninja sword.
The art looks like something a bored teenager would sketch on the back of her biology notebook — in the best possible way. It’s rough and edgy with a punk-rock sensibility that perfectly suits the over-the-top cartoonish violence contained within the book.
I can’t recommend this for little kids, but Street Angel is a great book for older tweens and teens if they can handle a bit of violence, and a great book for grown-ups of all sorts. As long as you can separate pretend violence from the real world, you will get something out of this book.
Wonder Woman Annual #3
After wowing us by co-creating Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, writer G. Willow Wilson has just been killing in her current run on Wonder Woman — weaving a story of gods and monsters worthy of the Amazon’s greatest champion.
But all good things must come to an end, and Wilson is leaving the book to work on a literal “dream project”: A spin-off of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, The Dreaming.
Wonder Woman Annual #3 is the first project by the new creative team that will be taking over the book, Steve Orlando, V Kenneth Marion, Tyler Kirkham and Sandu Florea.
It’s outside of the normal continuity, so it’s a good book to pick up if you haven’t been following the main book. It does tie in to the ongoing Leviathan “event,” but it can easily be read without a ton of general comics knowledge.
If you’re looking for a time to jump into Wonder Woman comics, this is as good a time as any.