15. NIMONA (up from #19)
I wrote a whole post about Nimona I love her so much. Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona came to an epic (and staggeringly emotional) conclusion this year. You can read it in its entirety online, but I also encourage you to read the collected print edition forthcoming in 2015. What’s so great about Nimona? Well, she’s just so Nimona-y! She’s a shark! She’s a dragon! She’s a sheep so she can use her own wool to knit you a sweater! She’s everything and it’s awesome. Totally without any kind of traditional morals, she’s far more of a “true villain” than Blackheart (who she sidekicks for) but she cares for him (and he for her) in the most tender and realistic of ways. One of the best things about Nimona is the boundless energy, enthusiasm, and optimism she possesses. It makes her villainy contagious and keeps the webcomic from feeling too dark, instead Nimona is REALLY EXCITED ABOUT CRIME. You will be too.
Read Nimona: If you’re not reading Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona webcomic, you are using the Internet incorrectly. Please remedy that immediately. Here’s Nimona being a hilarious badass:
14. VELVET/VELVET TEMPLETON (new!)
Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, and Elizabeth Breitweizer's magnificent Velvet is unlike any other lady on this list...if only because she's actually been allowed to age. A rarity in comics, especially when it comes to women, Velvet is a woman that both looks and acts her age - she's still magnificent - but what's not magnificent about her age anyway, I ask you? - and so she stands out among the pack before we even get started. And once we get started she's wonderful too. Smart and badass but vulnerable and tragic, complex and fantastically flawed. Velvet is an incredible spy, long out of the game, now forced back in to clear her name (and keep herself alive) and she makes wonderfully human mistakes while still being magnificently capable. Velvet also has one of the best and most real fight scenes I've ha the pleasure of reading in comics in a very long time.
Read Velvet: There's only one place to read Velvet but its magnificent, so get on over there. The Image ongoing series Velvet by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, and Elizabeth Breitweizer is ongoing now, and the first trade collecting the first five issues is out now.
13. MISS AMERICA/AMERICA CHAVEZ (down from #6)
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, not only debuting strong last year, but still on the list despite having not read much of anything with her this year. 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 the Young Avengers Omnibus by Gillen and McKelvie, do not pass go, do not collect $200. It collects the entire lovely Young Avengers run, it’s awesome. Enjoy. Oh, and here’s some terse battle strategy for you, courtesy of Miss America:
12. MONICA RAMBEAU (holding at #12)
Like I said with Elsa, ever since I (finally) discovered it, I re-read Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. at least once a year. That keeps the perfection that is Monica Rambeau nice and fresh in my mind. She’s a favorite lady and like some others here, lack of appearance in stories doesn’t seem to hinder my affection for her. In Nextwave, Monica is the team leader and as 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. Glorious. 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 haven’t read it for dislike of the artist usually on that book, so read with caution. Here’s Monica going ultraviolet nova, so cool:
11. ARMOR/HISAKO ICHIKI (up from #20)
One of my favorite new characters in the last ten years, and completely underused. Where is she?!?!? I honestly do not understand why this character doesn’t get more play. She has an incredibly cool power set that also happens to be visually exceptional and that helps her she stand out with ease. I love characters small in stature and decidedly unimposing that can deliver a huge punch (literally), and Hisako has that in spades. Armor is one of the those characters you just can’t wait to dig deeper into. She got a ton of attention in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, but since then, with a few exceptions it’s been slim pickings. More, more, more, please! Like I said above, it might seem odd for Armor to rocket up the list when she’s not been in anything new, but re-reading some stories featuring her and finding myself yearning to see her in everything has her climbing this list even without solid representation.
Read Armor: Unfortunately Armor is not in anything right now so far as I know. The best place to read her is Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, available in trades and as an epic omnibus (I have it, it’s badass). She’s also pretty great in Brian Wood’s Wolverine & The X-Men: Alpha & Omega, which is not my favorite of Wood’s work largely due to the art, but Hisako really gets to shine. She’s also got a few fantastic moments in Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews super off the wall Astonishing X-Men: Xenogeneis. Here’s one of my favorite little bits from Xenogenesis – what a way with words she has: