19. BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOV (new!)
Finally! After much wishful thinking that Natasha would earn her way onto this list, I can easily feature her – and in the top 20 no less! Thanks to gorgeous and consistent work by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto it was easy for Natasha to find her way onto this list and it’s about time. As one of the most known superheroines in the world thanks to Scarlett Johansson and the Iron Man, Avengers, and Captain America films, this character was long overdue for her own title. I’m glad Marvel wasn’t too put off to try it again after they cancelled her 2010 series – which was also very good – so it’s a shame it was cut short. Natasha is often described as “the most dangerous woman in the world” and even though she’s technically missing super powers, it doesn’t really feel like hyperbole. In the hands of smart creators Natasha is decidedly complex, not particularly shiny or good, and smart as they come. I’ve been a fan for a long time and it’s great to see her getting some stories really worthy of her.
Read Black Widow: Natasha has of course been around for a long time, but some of her absolute best stories have happened in the last five years. Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna’s mini-series Black Widow: Name of the Rose, with the exception of a questionable cover, is wonderful. The new Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto series, as mentioned is excellent and the first trade came out this summer. Also worth a look is one of my favorite Avengers runs in recent years – with one of my all time favorite Widow stories – Warren Ellis’s Secret Avengers – collected here in trade (Secret Avengers #16 - #21 – from 2012) – and featuring a ton of great artists from Jamie McKelvie, Alex Maleev, and Stuart Immonen, and including one of my favorite David Aja stories. Black Widow isn’t in all of them as they all stand alone, but she’s the inarguable star of one of the stories and appears in a few. Here’s a great Black Widow bit:
18. ALANA (down from #4)
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s Alana from Saga has been a favorite since I first laid eyes on her and she debuted strong at #4 her first time on the list. Alana has fallen down the list less because I love her less and more just because she hasn’t gotten as much “screen time” as she did at the outset. When you’ve got as many great characters as Vaughan and Staples have, something’s just got to give. Unfortunately it did hurt her placement on this year’s list…but I still love this lady. She’s just so nuanced and complicated. She’s warrior and lover, mother and wife, badass but also almost childlike in her innocence of some things – her freakout that she had “broken her daughter” when Hazel’s umbilical cord nub fell off, was charmingly human and naïve – proving you can know all about the universe and still not know about the simplest of things. I just love her for all of it. Her chemistry with Marko, her fears contrasted with her incredible bravery, her terrible taste in books, her awful new career, her brush with drug addiction, it’s all just so wonderfully real and beautiful and awful. Never leave me, Alana.
Read Alana: Saga Omnibus. JUST BUY IT ALREADY. Here she is being adorable:
17. MAGIK/ILLYANA RASPUTIN (up from #18)
Who would have thunk it? I’ve never been a big Magik fan, or didn’t know I should be, but the work that Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Bachalo, and Frazer Iriving have done with her in Uncanny X-Men is awesome. Magik is such an interesting character, kind of funny and mean at once, reserved in how much she connects to others (understandably given her nightmarish life) but also boldly unafraid to say whatever she thinks. She’s an odd fit with Cyclops’s team, but it works wonderfully, and not just because her teleportation powers are incredibly convenient. I also happen to love what Bachalo is doing with her soulsword – letting it change shape/size/and even design a bit, giving it a life of its own. I wrote about how much I’d love to see a Emma Frost/Magik book team up and I’ve decided to ask Santa for that book AGAIN this year. C’mon Santa, make a believer out of me, last chance!
16. EMMA FROST/THE WHITE QUEEN (down from #08)
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 as it took him a while to find the Emma Frost groove, but now that he has, he’s killing it...when we get to see her. 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 destroyed the character have only made her more complex, more challenging, revitalizing her yet again. She had a pretty interesting year last year, but hasn't gotten to do much this year, so I hope 2015 will find her getting a whole lot more panel time...perhaps that Emma/Magik team up I've been dreaming of. 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. Emma's changes mean it's an exciting time to be an Emma fan...if only we can finally get some of those stories.
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 in commitment to my demand for an Emma Frost/Magik team up, here’s another priceless bit of the two of them: