comics to read after wonder woman

It’s official: Wonder Woman has hit theaters, on a scale that rivals her Trinity counterparts Batman and Superman. When I say that Wonder Woman has been a feminist icon that has empowered women since her inception, I don’t think I am telling you anything that you don’t already know or haven’t already heard in the months leading up to this blockbuster event. However, what you might not know, is that while Wonder Woman may be the most iconic female badass in the comic book world, she is certainly not the only one. And the list of incredible female characters extends far beyond the superhero genre.

From my experiences working in a comic book shop back in the day, many women that came in wanting to dive into the wonderful world of comics, arrived with the standard names in mind, whether they be the X-Men or the Gotham City Sirens (all wonderful choices, of course). However, they were always pleasantly surprised by the vast world of female-centric comic books that weren’t even on their radar. While I love Batman and Preacher and the men of Sin City as much as the next nerd, it is always important to have a story that you can see yourself in, that you can pull you up when you need it, and makes you feel less alone. Comic books are for heroes of all shapes, sizes, genders, sexualities, and races. Some may wear capes and fight crime, but others just bring awareness to otherwise untold stories and perspectives.

With that being said, ladies (And gentlemen! I’m not here to discriminate!), if you want something to read after watching Wonder Woman, you really can’t go wrong with these comics.

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Promethea

By Alan Moore and JH Williams III

Originally published in 1999, Promethea is an action/fantasy comic written by V for Vendetta and Watchmen writer Alan Moore and illustrated by the unfathomably talented JH Williams III. At quick glance, Promethea evokes many of the same qualities as Wonder Woman: a mythological female warrior, dressed in gold armor and ready for battle. However, don’t confuse her for an Amazon, as this is a story about stories, and the kind of strength that women have had to muster during every era in history.

The story centers around Sophie Bangs, a student in New York researching a paper about the mysterious Egyptian folklore hero, Promethea. However, what she comes to realize is that Promethea is no ordinary myth. She is “…the words made flesh. The flesh made words.” Similar to the characters of American Gods, Promethea is brought to life through the people that write about her. She is a story. As dark forces seek to destroy her, Sophie Bangs must use her creative mind to write about, and in doing so, become the warrior Promethea. Ancient orders, mystical beings, battles between realms, and absolutely fantastical visuals ensue. Promethea’s five collected volumes bring to life a female heroine that embodies the roles of women through generations, be they a poetic muse, a lover and goddess, or a motherly angel in the trenches of World War I.

Batwoman

Batwoman Elegy 

By Greg Rucka and JH Williams III

Wonder Woman may be the most iconic female superhero in the DC Universe, but she certainly isn’t alone. This 2009 Detective Comics arc breathed new modern life into Batwoman, as she tackled a psychotic fairytale nemesis, known only as Alice, in what is quite possibly one of the most beautifully drawn comic books of all time.

Kate Kane is an army brat, having grown up with her twin sister with two active duty parents. After her mother and sister were kidnapped and murdered as a child, Kate vowed to serve, only to be discharged for being gay prior to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ With the assistance of her father, the Colonel, Kate found another way to serve, by becoming another dark crusader for Gotham.

In Batwoman Elegy, Kate faces her new arch nemesis, the mad leader of the Religion of Crime, who seeks to become queen of Gotham using hallucinogenic chemical weapons to turn Gotham into a fairytale bloodbath. Batwoman employs some of the standard “Batman Rules,” such as maiming but never killing your target. But unlike the brooding and disturbed Bats, she comes from a place of honor and integrity. Her sense of justice is rooted deeply in her moral sense of duty, and yet she still comes off as incredibly human, wanting to find love and make her father proud. Batwoman has continued to impress in the years since this arc, delving deeper into her relationships, both romantically and with the city she has vowed to serve.

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Hack/Slash 

By Tim Seeley

Certainly not a superhero and certainly not an angel, Cassie Hack is the ultimate ‘final girl.’ Her normal life ended the moment she came under attack by the Lunch Lady, a traditional horror movie slasher of sorts…and Cassie’s own mother. Cassie prevailed, becoming another in a long list of archetypal lone female survivors of slasher movies. However, wanting to spare others from the tragedy that she experienced, Cassie became a killer herself. Specifically a vigilante, traveling from town-to-town with her trusty ogre of a sidekick, Vlad, hunting down and taking out those that seek to murder teens in this witty and entertaining ode to the slasher movie genre.

Having plenty of experience identifying the difference between slashers and killers (Slashers always come back for a final scare. Duh!), Cassie manipulated the used and reused and used again age old female tropes to her advantage to catch and kill a whole lot of bad dudes (and dudettes), including some familiar faces like Chucky, Jason Voorhees, and the monsters from Evil Dead. If you didn’t think this cool sub-cultural girl could get any cooler, there is even a crossover with the Suicide Girls. Cassie Hack is no damsel in distress, and she knows better than to run upstairs instead of outside. Anyone who is a fan of horror will love this bonafide, baseball bat-wielding badass.

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Kabuki

By David Mack

In an alternate reality, Japan has a strict no crime policy, one that includes the brutal murder of criminals and the assassinations of corrupt politicians. However, the Japanese government cares more about keeping the peace in whatever way is most economic for both the Yakuza crime lords and the government. The Noh is a group of eight female assassins run by a former WWII general. Each assassin has her own methods, including “The Siamese” conjoined assassins with added bionic limbs. Kabuki, the deadliest of them all, wears a bullet proof mask to cover the scars that disfigure her face, a brand given to her by one of the most untouchable and evil men in Japan. Her weapons are farm sickles and her fingernails, all coated in clear poison.

The only thing more fascinating than the story itself is the way it is put together. David Mack is both the writer and the artist behind the series, exploring different mediums and styles of art for each volume. From black and white, Sin City-style in volume one to something that borders more on visual poetry in volume two, Kabuki is one of the more visually adventurous comic books out there. The style of writing, particularly Kabuki’s narration and inner reflection, makes the story flow across the artwork as if you were watching it. The story itself deals with incredibly dark themes, but it never feels gratuitous and it is certainly not without its eloquence.

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Saga

By Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

Narrated by Hazel, the daughter of a couple from two warring species, this science fiction space opera tells the story of Alana and Marko, on the run from war and authorities and trying to save themselves and their illegal mixed race infant daughter. This story operates on the scale of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, while the core relationship feels more like a Shakespearean tragedy. Alana and Marko face everything from mercenaries to monsters to strange robot princes to (perhaps most frightening of all) ex-wives and parents in their journey to exist in peace and raise their daughter.

As made clear from the cover of the first volume (which features Alana breastfeeding Hazel), Saga doesn’t shy away from themes of female empowerment and the courage of motherhood. Saga brings a galactic battle to a brutally honest level, through a cast of characters representing the forgotten side of war. Beyond our lead characters on the run for simply falling in love and having a baby, Vaughn includes characters such as a Izabel, the ghost of a girl severed in half by a land mine, and Sophie, a young child sex slave rescued by a bounty hunter on his pursuit of Marko and Alana. This is a story of the tragedy of war and the things worth fighting and sometimes dying for.

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