Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

TRoOB: Strong Female Protagonist

Welcome to another edition of The Review of Obscure Books, my occasional comics review column. Up today, just for once (I tend to be months behind the times), is something that's quite new, just hitting the stands now.

I decided to Kickstart Strong Female Protagonist largely on whim: the pages shown in the KS looked like an interesting change of pace, and the price was reasonable, so I figured I'd support the indie comics. I got the book in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and having finished it the other day, I'm glad I did.

SFP is a little hard to describe properly, especially without giving too much away. The book (and mind, this is just volume 1 of an ongoing story) takes its time, and much of volume 1 is devoted to gradually showing you the background.

It's very much a supers book, but *feels* much more like a black and white indie. Our eponymous protagonist is Alison Green, aka MegaGirl, who has serious super-powers -- basically, Superman-grade invulnerability and strength. As the story opens, she is 20, studying at the New School in NYC, having quit the superhero business quite loudly a year ago. She's had a social awakening about just how *meaningless* the superhero thing is, and now she's trying to find ways to actually make the world better. The world is *not* making this easy for her.

I was slightly concerned that the story would simply turn out to be whiny social commentary, but that's far from the case: this is actually one of the more thoughtful deconstructions of superheroes that I've seen. The setup works well for that, since Alison is herself trying desperately to introspect on what it all means and how it should be used. She's terribly well-meaning but immensely frustrated by the contradiction that she can move mountains, but can't make a damned difference when it actually matters. Frankly, she is very, very 20, and the story gets into the implications of that quite deeply.

Bit by bit, volume 1 explores what's going on here: the origin of this odd cohort of supers; exactly what happened during her encounter with the evil mastermind Menace that led to her quitting the business; her family and her attempts to fit in as an ordinary university student. It plays with a lot of superhero tropes in all sorts of surprising ways: Chapter 3 essentially explores how Wolverine could truly be heroic, and the result is both horrifying and heartbreaking. The story is very self-aware, and one of the more interesting nuances is the way that supers in the US have fallen into the superhero/villain modes mainly *because* the American comic book industry has trained them to think that way.

Now that the KS is done, the book is showing up in comic stores and other outlets for better graphic novels. It's my pick for Best Graphic Story of the year (beating out Fatale, which needs its own entry). Highly recommended, especially to anyone who likes Astro City, which is the closest cognate I can find. They're similar in flavor, although quite different: where AS looks at what the world would really be like if it was full of supers, SFP is more focused on what supers would be like if they were real people. Check it out...
Tags: troob

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