Three of the four comics reviewed this week are brand new releases (the other’s a 30th anniversary monster collection of Aliens comics, more on that below). The big theme behind these three comics is representation. In Hellcat! readers see an everyday woman, Patsy Walker, as she attempts to juggle life and superheroics. She’s not some otherworldly goddess, she’s a character women her age can relate to. Faith features a superhero who doesn’t fit traditional body-type tropes in comics, and it’s neither a sight gag nor a lame joke. She, again, comes across as a real person with unreal powers. Finally, Power Lines stars a young black man with incredible powers that he doesn’t understand, as he struggles to do the right thing against a system that’s set up to make him fail. These are real stories, no matter how high the heroes can fly, and it’s this type of representation that’s bringing thousands of new fans to the rack every week. The industry won’t grow through old paradigms about race, gender, and body politics, and the creators of today’s comics are plugging into that fact. Plus… Aliens.
A bit of real world history here: Patsy Walker was a Timely Comics (a Marvel precursor) character from back in the 40s. She starred in a romance comedy series like Archie. Then, in the early ‘70s, someone got the amazing idea to turn this old character into the superhero Hellcat and add her to the Avengers. Today’s iteration of her character is still a superhero, though usually an unwilling one, whose mother used to write fictionalized (and very embarrassing) comics about her as a teengager. This level of character immersion is rare in comics, and it adds to the vintage feel of Patsy Walker. In this issue, Patsy’s late for a meeting with her high-school frenemy Hedy, who holds the rights to those old teenage comics. What’s holding her up? A “C-List Asgardian sorceress”—this comic bursts with life, creativity, and comedy.
Written by Jody Houser with art by Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage.
By day, Faith is an entertainment blogger in Hollywood. By night, she becomes a high-flying, telekinetic superhero. Faith first caught lots of attention because the titular hero didn’t fit into the intensely sizeist comic book norm. And while this comic does amazing things for normalizing all different body types, it’s also a fabulously fun read. See that? A comic book can make a cultural statement and be a great read about super powers, alien cults, and pop-culture obsession. A new series kicks off with Faith #1 this summer, and it should serve as a great entry point into the series (and comics in general).
Created by Jimmie Robinson.
Power Lines tells the story of D-Trick, a young black high schooler in Richmond, California who messes around with a gang but hasn’t really gone deep into gang life yet. When pushed, he finds he has supernatural, superheroic powers. The comic approaches race and racial tension in a serious, straightforward way that asks hard questions. In this issue D-Trick is in a fancy white neighborhood when he stops a bus from crashing, then pulls the passengers out before the bus explodes. Immediately after, he is subdued by cops, beaten, and thrown into the back of a cop car. This is not your average superhero story, in fact, it’s not even your average “superhero story dealing with race.” This is a much deeper, more nuanced and honest look at what would happen if a kid who dabbled in gang life actually received superpowers.
This week marked Alien day (on 4/26… a play on the planet LV-426 where the first Xenomorphs were discovered) and Dark Horse Comics celebrated with the release of a gorgeous, huge collection of all the Aliens comics from 1988. Serving as the official sequel to Aliens until movies came along and re-wrote the backstory, Aliens the comic follows Hicks and an 18-year-old Newt as they struggle against the Xenomorphs again. This collection isn’t cheap, but hardcore fans will really appreciate the story here. Hicks has deep acid burns on his face, Newt’s being treated for psychological damage, and it’s all illustrated in a vivid black-and-white with crowded, messy panels that create an extra layer of claustrophobia in the work.
Check these comics out online or support your local comic shop.