Cribbed: I always loved the fact that Jakita is the muscle on Planetary. And she’s not only the muscle, she’s also the leader (well until Elijah figures out he’s the fourth man), and she’s also got the best sense of humor and most of the best lines. You almost never get that combination in a character, but Jakita just embraces it all and makes it work so flawlessly that you forget it’s kind of unusual to see. Jakita inherited her awesome powers from her father (essentially Tarzan) and her big beautiful brain from her scientist mother that lived in a highly advanced secret city in Africa, though she was raised by a German family and all of that is just the tip of the iceberg of what makes Jakita so interesting. And as if she isn’t fascinating enough already, she can fight Batman to a standstill. So, ‘nuff said.
Read Jakita: Honestly? Don’t fuck around, just get the omnibus that releases in January. SO GONNA BE WORTH THE WAIT. And here’s some of that Jakita fighting Batman to a standstill to whet your whistle while you wait:
14. Monica Rambeau (holding at #14)
There was no choice after finally reading Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., but to add Monica Rambeau to my list of all time favorite ladies. And she hasn’t budged since. It helps that I read the excellent Nextwave on a yearly basis to revel in how exceptional it is. Since Monica is a woman of color it was surprising to get to see her lead the team, since that rarely happens, but I have to say, it was everything I imagined it could be. She’s a fantastic leader, a fantastic teammate, and an all around hilarious badass, even when she’s playing the ‘straight man’ which on Nextwave is of course a whole different thing then playing the straight man anywhere else. Also? Lady wears an all white costume to go superhero-ing in…and that takes balls of steel.
Read Monica: Nextwave, baby, all the way. You can also pick up the Captain Marvel Vol. 2 trade as Monica guest stars in a couple issues. Monica is also in the new Mighty Avengers book, but I've been avoiding it due to Greg Land illustrating. That is changing however, so keep your eyes peeled, this is about to become a book worth checking out. Here's Monica going ultraviolet nova, so cool:
13. CATWOMAN (down from #9)
Cribbed: She’s the only woman good enough for my beloved Bat, which says a lot. Selina’s had a lot of “origins” and to be frank, I’m not a fan of any of them. Some of them are loaded and make people rage-y (Frank Miller I’m looking at you) and some of them are the dullest most cliché origins imaginable and I realized years ago that I’ve just created my own internal origin for Selina – one that fits her actual personality and badass reality. Ever since I realized I have my own internal origin for her I’ve been much happier…take that comics! I love that Selina doesn’t need to define herself as hero or villain, and I suppose anti-hero most clearly describes the character most of us have come to love over the last ten years or so, but I suspect she doesn’t care one way or another and I love that about her. It should also be said that as much as part of me would love for Selina to just give in and fully become a straight “good guy” because maybe she and Bruce could finally move forward and be deliciously happy, I love that she’s unwilling to remake her life to fit into his narrow world view. I can’t imagine how well you have to know yourself and be confident in who you are to resist bending to not only Batman’s will, but Bruce Wayne’s as well. It’s impressive to say the least. I wish all the time that Selina’s book was a book I could love, but I’ve tried time and time again and it’s just not for me. Maybe next time around!
Read Selina: You should absolutely read all the Catwoman Brubaker/Cooke stuff – it’s all wonderful. That said, I’d stick pretty religiously to that stuff as her other series – both the current, and the old 90’s Balent stuff is truly terrible on the whole. Here’s Selina being complex and amazing:
12. SIF (new – jumped from the on the bubble!)
Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti’s unfortunately shortlived Journey Into Mystery starring Sif was off the wall bonkers in all the best of ways. Sif was funny and full of heart, unconventional, and kicking ass at every opportunity. Sif, in Journey Into Mystery was bold and brave, berserk and burly. She was also other adjectives that don’t start with B – like fiercely passionate and unyielding in her commitment. She’s a warrior through and through and it's a shame this book couldn’t hold out, but I hope Sif will land elsewhere as her usual brilliant self. Girl’s in a movie, yo, you think that would warrant some page time, no?
Read Sif: Your best bet are the two Journey Into Mystery trades which are super fun and also gorgeous. Also worth a look if you can find it, is Kelly Sue DeConnick’s lovely Sif one shot from 2010. Here's Sif tearing shit up:
11. AGENT 355 (down from #10)
Agent 355 from Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's Y: The Last Man, oh how I love you! Forever at Yorick’s side, sacrificing herself for the last man on Earth, even when he’s being a moron that deserves a bullet to the brain instead of someone to jump in front of one, 355 showed a strength of character and a restraint that I respected immediately. Despite Yorick’s insane (but sweet) quest to find his girlfriend Beth and Agent 355’s emotionless front, the two characters become inseparable friends and tragically, lovers too late. But ultimately, though the end of the series pains me, it’s hard to regret 355’s holding back of her emotions, as I could only respect her more for waiting until her mission is complete to admit her feelings and act on them. In a world gone mad with everyone reaching greedily for their share (or more than) that kind of fortitude takes a particularly level head and strength of character that I can’t even begin to comprehend.
Read Agent 355: There’s only one place to go, but it’s glorious: Y: The Last Man. Enjoy! And here’s one of my favorite bits:
10. FOREVER CARLYLE (new)
Until the most recent issue of Lazarus (#5) I would have said it was a bit too soon to put Forever on this list, even though she’s been impressing me since issue #1. However, in issue #5 Greg Rucka and Michael Lark managed the kind of subtle, smart character building that poise a character to become one of the great. The scenes in that last issue not only catapulted Forever onto this list, but into the top 10. No small feat. If you read comics and you’re not reading Lazarus you are straight up screwing up. Get your head on right, kid!
Read Forever: The first Lazarus trade is out now, collecting the first arc. Then you can pick up #5 as a single or digitally and you’ll be all caught up. You’ll thank me. Here’s some Forever taking care of business, unsavory though it is. Shades of Jakita, yeah?
09. GWENDOLYN (new)
Two ladies from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Saga on the list! And not only on the list but in the top 10! And honestly? I’ve got TWO more Saga ladies in the runners up category – tell me this book isn’t hitting it out of the park. One of the best things about Gwendolyn, other than her design - which is simply the best damn thing since sliced bread – is that in a lesser writer’s hands she would be the character we hate. She’s the ex-girlfriend to our two (okay, three) primary heroes and so she’s naturally the odd man out, she’s naturally “the bitch” that we’re supposed to side against. But Vaughan is not a lesser writer. He made her a fully fleshed out badass and gave her great characters to interact with and her own storyline that quickly evolved from something as simple as revenge. And reading her it was impossible not to fall in love. And that, for when she and Alana do finally meet (soon!) will make everything so much more interesting than simply hating her. Well done, sir, well done!
08. EMMA FROST/THE WHITE QUEEN (up from #11)
Emma Frost is a total bitchy badass, and maybe it’s because I wish I could be more that way, but I just love the hell out of her. A lot of writers really seem to “get” Emma’s voice as Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon, Warren Ellis, Scott Lobdell, Kathryn Immonen and several other significant writers have all nailed her voice over the last dozen years and made her a force in comics to be reckoned with. Under Brian Michael Bendis’s pen I was a bit worried. It took him a while to find the Emma Frost groove, but now that he has, he’s killing it. Writers (and artists) spent YEARS rehabilitating Emma Frost into the character we’ve got today, one I wouldn’t trade for a million Jean Greys. But recent events (post Phoenix possession), which could have been destroyed the character have only made her more complex, more challenging, revitalizing her yet again. I still miss her in white and hope we’ll eventually return to it as the “baseline Emma,” but what has been happening with her in Uncanny X-Men has been truly interesting. It’s an exciting time to be an Emma Frost fan.
Read Emma: Best bet these days is Uncanny X-Men, but also worth your time if you like the character is Generation X, Morrison’s New X-Men, Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, and Ellis’s X-Men: Xenogenesis. And to remind you all (from several numbers ago) that I’m still holding out hope for that Emma Frost/Magik team up, here’s another priceless bit of the two of them:
07. CAPTAIN MARVEL (new)
Seventeen year old me would probably spit on this list for Carol Danvers appearing on it, and in the top 10 no less. But what 17 year old me doesn’t know yet is that Kelly Sue DeConnick was going to come along and totally make me fall in love with Carol, even though that’s in direct opposition to my fierce loyalty to Rogue. Under DeConnick’s pen I have come to care for Carol so much – it’s kind of incredible. Hell, thanks to DeConnick and Andrade I freaking cried. CRIED! Jesus. Anyway, Carol’s development as a character has been incredible and though the current series is ending, I’m delighted that Marvel is giving it another chance with DeConnick at the helm, she’ll also have the fantastic David Lopez working with her and that sounds like a match made.
Read Carol: The obvious suspects are Captain Marvel Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. If you only have money for one then I actually recommend Vol. 2 as I think Andrade is the better Capt Marvel artist and he takes over partway through that volume. I also think DeConnick really hits her stride in Vol. 2. AND Monica Rambeau shows up as a guest star in Vol. 2. Super cool bonus point? I’m quoted on the cover of Vol. 2 (from my CBR Review of the book). So, yeah. Volume 2, yo! Also worth a look is The Enemy Within crossover which is good, and I really loved DeConnick’s work on Avengers Assemble: Science Bros with gorgeous art by Stefano Caselli and Pete Woods. Carol’s only a guest star, but it’s really fun superhero stuff. Here’s Carol getting down to business. The business of dinosaurs!
06. AMERICA CHAVEZ/MISS AMERICA (new)
Who knew!?! I basically didn’t know America Chavez from a hole in the wall when I began reading Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers, and yet here she is at NUMBER 6. WHAT?!?! America is like when surliness meets goodness…and the result is so goddamn good. A laconic, powerful woman of action, America grew on me without me even realizing it. America was an interesting part of Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers tapestry, certainly not the star the way Billy, Teddy, and Loki were, but her role was incredibly important just the same and she distinguished herself in every issue – oftentimes by what she didn’t say. I ended up loving her so hardcore for her terse attitude and interest in punching everything into oblivion. I do love characters that punch. What can I say, I’m a Neanderthal.
Read America: Go directly to Young Avengers Vol 1 and Vol 2 by Gillen and McKelvie, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Enjoy. Oh, and here’s some terse battle strategy for you, courtesy of Miss America: