There’s nothing novel about women creating great comics and graphic novels. What we’re seeing lately, though, is an unprecedented variety of high-profile, buzzworthy projects from female creators. Whether writing and illustrating stories of detectives, superheroes, or the trials of growing up, women are telling their own stories in exciting new ways, and you don’t need to be a girl to enjoy the talent and fresh perspectives that these writers and artists are bringing to the shelves. And the coolest part? Female creators are tearing up the sales charts, proving that graphic novel fans are loving what women are bringing to the table.
Lumberjanes Vol. 1, by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen
Friendship to the max! If you’re looking for a girl-centric, all-ages adventure, Lumberjanes is an excellent place to start. At Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, mystery and excitement are the norm, with a diverse group campers more than ready to take on a variety of supernatural threats. The Lumberjanes are a little punk rock, very funny, and extremely tough, and the book is an awesome story of friendship and bravery from an creative team made up entirely of incredibly talented women.
Saga, Volume 1, by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Art is an indispensable element in any graphic novel, but rarely moreso than in Saga. In this epic space drama for adults, two soldiers from opposing sides of a brutal galactic war fall in love. Marked as enemies by both factions, they struggle to survive and protect their daughter Hazel. Though it’s full of crazy aliens and sci-fi action, the real heart of the book is family, and the strength and sacrifice required of parents. It’s been a phenomenon, and Fiona Staples’ unique style is a big part of that. Thanks to her, the Saga universe is a layered, weird, and incredibly beautiful place.
Paperback $16.19 | $17.99
Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More, by Kelly Sue Deconnick and David Lopez
Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, isn’t a new hero in the pantheon, but she’s joined the A-list in recent years under writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. With a movie coming soon, Captain Marvel is definitely ready for the big time. As Carol enters a new phase in her life and career in this volume, she takes on the job of representing her fellow Avengers in outer space. Her first mission involves equal parts compassion, diplomacy, and super-powered punching as she teams up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to return a lost alien girl to her homeworld.
Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
Nimona isn’t a hero, exactly, but it’s hard not to cheer for her. The mischievous, impulsive sidekick to supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart, Nimona sets out to prove that their medieval kingdom’s beloved Sir Goldenloin isn’t nearly the saint he appears to be. Set in a fantasy world of knights, weird technology, and superpowers, Noelle Stevenson’s storygleefully mixes genres. The art and storytelling have a light, cartoony style, but the narrative evolves into one with surprising depth and a touch of the epic.
Paperback $13.49 | $14.99
Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy (The New 52), by Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher, and Karl Kerschel
Girls rule the school in this off-beat Batman spinoff set at prestigious Gotham Academy. The adventurous Olive Silverlock and her best friend “Maps” Mizoguchi navigate the tricky prep-school social scene while investigating secret societies, super-villains, and ghosts that roam the halls. With hints of Harry Potter, writer Becky Cloohan uses the long, weird history of Batman’s hometown as a backdrop, but still somehow manages to keep things bright and lively. Things are finally looking up in Gotham, with a whole new generation of heroes bringing a little light into Batman’s world.
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
This all-new Ms. Marvel has been groundbreaking not just for featuring a young, Pakistani-American teenager behind the mask, but for bringing a sense of real joy and adventure back to superhero comics. G. Willow Wilson’s Kamala Khan is just about the closest that comics have come to recreating the magic mix of teen angst and the sheer joy of the Spider-Man adventures that began in the ’60s. Kamala is a fully realized teenager (who just happens to have shape-changing superpowers) in a series in which growing up is at least as tough as facing down the bad guys.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi
A reminder that comics aren’t just about capes and tights, Persepolis is a funny and poignant autobiographical tale by graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi. As a child living in Iran during the 1970s and ’80s, Satrapi witnessed firsthand the tumult of the Islamic revolution and the war with Iraq that followed. No dry history lesson, this is the story of a young girl’s day-to-day life under an oppressive, misogynistic regime. It’s sometimes horrific, but ultimately a masterful and deeply felt tale of a woman’s resilience.
This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Rose Wallace has been spending summers at fictional Awago Beach for as long as she can remember, but the comfortable sameness of the place is slowly giving way to the challenges of young adulthood. This coming-of-age drama of bickering parents and life-threatening secrets is the first graphic novel to ever have won the coveted Caldecott Medal for children’s books, but it’s really about the transition into young adulthood. Mariko Tamaki’s story is charming and real, while the pencil illustration from her cousin Jillian Tamaki is gorgeous.