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7 Comics That Feature Kick-Ass Women Kicking Ass

When the first issue of Ash & Thorn (which pubs June 24) was billed to me as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets The Golden Girls, I was like, “Yes? Please? Give it to me now?” I love comics that are all about kick-ass women kicking ass, and this new series sounded like it was right up my alley.

It didn’t disappoint.

With the apocalypse looming, an elderly trainer of Champions comes knocking on Lottie Thorn’s door, only to find that Lottie herself is no spring chicken. Despite her advanced age, however, Lottie soon proves herself to be quite capable of kicking some serious monster butt. But will she be able to persevere once she finds out what happened to the previous line of Champions?

I don’t know, but I want to!

Books like this push all the right buttons for me. Dark sense of humor. Women defying expectations. Stunning artwork.

If these are also your jam, you might also want to check out the comic series below:

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Grace Ellis

This series was my gateway into comics. It’s an all-ages comic about a group of “hardcore lady types” away at a summer camp in the middle of a forest filled with magical creatures — though the magical shenanigans are not necessarily what they signed up for. As one group of cabinmates battle with bad-ass monsters and bond with other supernatural creatures using their smarts and other skills, it becomes clear that the most powerful force of all is their friendship. Filled with feminist puns and magical kittens, this series is charming as hell.

 

Bitch Planet by Kelly Due DeConnick and Valentine De Landro

I bought my first Bitch Planet when I bought my first Lumberjanes but, hoo boy, the vibes are quite different. This series takes place in a dystopian reality (no, not the one we’re living in right now) in which women are sent to an off-world prison for being “non-compliant.” Noncompliance can take many forms, from “seduction and disappointment” to “disrespect” to being a “bad mother.” A reclamation of the women in prison exploitation films from the ’60s and ’70s, the storyline centers around a group of inmates who agree to compete in “Megaton,” Earth’s most popular sporting event. But winning the game isn’t necessarily their first priority.

 

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

While series like Lumberjanes and Saga (an epic space opera that also happens to be feminist as hell) got me hooked on comics, it was when I picked up my first volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl that I experienced true love. Sure, the premise is completely bonkers (it’s about a superhero with the powers of both girl and squirrel who eats nuts and kicks butts) but that’s why it’s so good. Squirrel Girl herself is friendly and funny and empathetic, but she can be fierce, too, when it’s necessary. Not only that, but she loves herself as she is, and isn’t shy about saying so. This series has a fantastic sense of humor and I cried when it ended recently because I am a mush.

 

SLAM! by Pamela Ribon, Veronica Fish, and Marina Julia

Roller derby is one of those sports that makes me go all heart-eyes, but which I’d never be able to do myself, as I lack the athleticism, endurance, and basic coordination that’s required. (When I took my 5-year-old daughter roller skating earlier this year, I couldn’t even make it off the bench.) So SLAM! is my glimpse into a world of women who are living the dream… and that’s about as close as I’m gonna get. This series follows two roller derby noobs who come into their own over the course of a season. So. much. fun.

 

Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva, and Irene Flores

I immediately loved this comic series because it gave me some serious Empire Records vibes and I love me some Empire Records. Originally published as Hi-Fi Fight Club, Heavy Vinyl takes place in late-’90s New Jersey, where the protagonist has landed her dream job at a local record store. But things are not quite what they seem—they’re even cooler. It turns out that the record shop, Vinyl Mayhem, is actually a front for a teen girl vigilante fight club that’s dedicated to taking down crime/the patriarchy!

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

In this awesome comic series, Jersey girl Kamala Khan takes up the mantel of Ms. Marvel after being exposed to a Terrigen Mist that reveals previously unknown powers and possibly Inhuman genes. And sure, Kamala Khan is a badass superhero. But what I really love about her is the deep sense of responsibility and commitment she feels for both her community (her Muslim community and her Jersey City community) and her family. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also an unapologetic geek. This comic is about so much more than superhero-ing. It’s about the impossible balance between others’ expectations of you and the expectations you carry for yourself.

And once you finish G. Willow Wilson’s arc, there’s a new one from Saladin Ahmed and Minkyu Jung that’s also pretty good.

What are your favorite comics about kick-ass ladies?

 

Steph Auteri is a journalist who has written for the Atlantic, the Guardian, Pacific Standard, VICE, and elsewhere. Her reported memoir, A DIRTY WORD, came out in 2018. Favorite Genres: horror, comics, horror comics, and narrative journalism.

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