4 Comics to Give You Hope

Squirrel Girl by Erica Henderson 2014

I read a range of comics from a range of publishers and genres: horror, fantasy, sci-fi, slice of life, superhero… and ones in between. If I reviewed all of them, I would never have time for anything else. Besides, there are some comics that give me such warm fuzzies and feelgoods that reviewing them would just be mainly exclamation points and squeeing. These four titles are examples of those. These comics give me hope and happiness in their diverse cast of characters, charming artwork, and emotional story lines.

Jem and the Holograms TPB, written by Kelly Thompson with art by Sophie CampbellJem & the Holograms, IDW

Jem hits the mark of carrying childhood nostalgia with smashing storylines and phenomenal art. Thompson and Campbell manage to update the ’80s franchise, making it feel fresh and modern. And, the art, which is like Lisa Frank threw up on it (thanks to colorist M. Victoria Robado), combined with Campbell’s indomitable fashion sense and characters with a variety of body sizes and skin colors, makes for a comic that hits all the marks.

It is telling of Thompson’s skill that she made even the relationship between Jerrica and Rio interesting. But who cares about them when there’s Kimber and Stormer?! I can’t ship Kimber and Stormer hard enough. The fact that younger comic book readers have a comic like this available to them — a reboot from my day-and-age of an amazing girls adventure series, which now includes heartfelt queer relationships — gives me all the feels.

Moon_Girl_&_Devil_Dinosaur_1_CoverMoon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, Marvel

When Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur launched last November, I had to pick it up. I knew little about Moon-Boy, who inspired the character of Moon Girl, but I absolutely had to get behind a comic that featured a young black geek girl at its center. It also helped that Amy Reeder was behind the story and artwork.

Lunella, AKA Moon Girl, inspires in me this sense of deep affection and protectiveness that I don’t often feel for fictional characters. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of beloved characters, but the feelings I have for Lunella are of the extra-special, big sister variety. Lunella is a brilliant scientist, and being the smartest person in most rooms, she’s also a little prickly — something a lot of geek girls can certainly relate to. Further, her terror about the inhuman gene inside of her is given plenty of room in the storyline, which frankly, doesn’t happen enough in superhero comics, and it is this room for emotional development that has contributed to my investmemt in Lunella.

Throw in Devil Dinosaur, which is basically like having a giant pet pit bull — you know the kind: big, ole’ hard head, kind of dumb, but so sweet, with a tail that can destroy a room (and your legs) — and you get Devil Dinosaur. This big red T-Rex’s devotion to Lunella is rendered so sweetly. Which just means warm fuzzies all around!

Hellcat #2 cover. Kate Leth (writer), Brittany Williams (artist). Marvel Comics, 2015

Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat!, Marvel

A few weeks ago, Melissa and Kayleigh talked about this comic, and I just have to throw in a thousand yeses to their thoughts. Besides great characters and writing, Brittney L. William’s work on this title is so charming it hurts. Like one of my other favorite artists, Sophie Campbell, she draws characters in a variety of sizes and skin color. Also, like Campbell, she uses fashion to convey character personality. I keeping saying “like Campbell,” but I must emphasize that William’s style is completely her own. In fact, it’s so distinct that when I was browsing my LCS, I saw a cover for a comic and immediately knew it was William’s work. (Said comic was Goldie Vance, of which I have already added volume one to my pre-order list.) Another distinct quirk of her style is when she uses chibi style characterization for high emotion scenes. It’s freaking adorable.

Really, Leth and Williams are a dream team. I can’t imagine loving this comic as much without Williams to bring life not only to Leth’s words, but to the spirit of Leth’s words. Leth gives us great female friendship, particularly in the form of besties, She-Hulk and Hellcat. She deftly handles Patsy’s past by showing her lingering PTSD, but also refuses to use said past as a creative excuse to revel in angst and pain. In the most recent issue, there’s a devastating event, yet hope is never gone because friends are shown supporting one another in their grief. Also, there are so many great guest appearances by oft-forgotten and mishandled superheroes of the Marvel-verse that I just can’t squee about this comic enough.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, MarvelUnbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 | Marvel Comics (2015)

The fact that the last one on this list is the third Marvel superhero title (out of four total) exhibits the good work Marvel is doing right now on less mainstream titles. Like a lot of people, I love superhero stories. But I am really not into the dark ones or even just the very dramatic ones — like, X-men, sorry, no, I don’t need to revisit the Jean Grey dramaz yet again, nor do I need another mutants vs. The World again, either. Further, it seems these flagship titles get all the attention, when there are some smaller titles (with more women on the team, and more diverse characters) that are just so much more hopeful and entertaining.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (UBSG) is one of those titles that has helped set the groundwork for more superhero comics that manage to do what Pixar films often do well — aim for a younger audience, but also reel in adults with cleverness. They are hopeful in tone, while still packing a deep vulnerability. Not to mention, these comics feature female leads and diverse casts, and Erica Henderson’s art inspires sheer delight in me, much like the other stand-out lady artists in this article.

But what makes UBSG sing for me is how it is meta without being pretentious (I always laugh out loud at Ryan North’s comments in the gutters). It is because of this playing with the superhero genre that makes UBSG one of those superheroes who can be called an actual role model. She often tries to talk her way out of battles with compassion and understanding — like seriously, you could learn a lot about conflict resolution from UBSG. You also learn a lot about science because it’s pretty clear that North and Henderson are the geekiest of geeks. Seriously, I know so much more about squirrels, koi, computer science since reading. And, like Hellcat, UBSG has guest appearances from a multitude of Marvel superheroes with a particular focus on some of the most absurd characters. It only makes UBSG all the more fun.

What about you, readers? What are some of the ongoings out there right now that make you smile, delight you, and generally make you feel that the world may actually be an okay place?

Ginnis Tonik

Ginnis Tonik

Smashing the patriarchy with glitter, pink lipstick, and cowboy boots. You can follow her on Instagram @ginnistonik

5 thoughts on “4 Comics to Give You Hope

  1. I have been hearing really great things about Jonesy and Space Battle Lunch Time.

    I am way behind on all comics and really need to read Squirrel Girl and Jem already.

  2. The better MLP comics make me happy, too, even on the darker endings of individual issues.

    Any of the female-led titles from the Boom! Box give me a bright spark of my day: Lumberjanes, Jonesy, Giant Days, and Goldie Vance all deserve tons of credit for being inspiring and hopeful, as well as overall fun.

    Weirdworld WAS up there…but its undeserved cancellation has to remove it from the list.

    1. Lumberjanes is another excellent one for the warm fuzzies, Dmaster. I meant to take a peak at Weirdworld, but like Jodie above said, it was one of those added to list and promptly forgot about…

  3. I only found out about Squirrel Girl when I got a special edition Pop Vinyl of her in my Marvel Women of Power subscription box, but I am SO IN LOVE. UBSG is so much fun!
    I’m terrible for adding stuff to my list and never buying from it, so I better just go out and buy the others right now!

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