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Hour of Power: The Best Lady Team-Ups of 2013

While controversies raged over the female geek, fake geek girls, Tess Fowler, and various other topics in the comics world, this year has had a number of great comic offerings featuring strong female heroes. Captain Marvel, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, has taken the comic world by storm and formed a die-hard fan base in the form of the Carol Corps. Gail Simone, along with the help of almost every talented female artist in comics, helped revitalize Red Sonja and propel her back onto everyone’s radar. Lest we forget, Ed Brubacker’s series Fatale continues to gives us clues about the mysterious Josephine’s powers and past, while his series Velvet debuted a fierce older agent with a great set of skills.

The list could go on and on, and while I was narrowing down the list for the top comic ladies of 2013, I decided to make a separate list for team-ups so I could exhibit more of these great comics.

1.) Fearless Defenders

Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: Will Sliney Cover Art: Amanda Connor

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Will Sliney
Cover Art: Amanda Connor

Fearless Defenders has been an action filled romp since the first issue. The 12 issues of this comic featured some of the best action of any comic I read last year, while dealing with a large roster of characters and a cancellation that forced the story to come to a quick end. Not only was the story-telling and action breathtaking, but the covers of each issue surprised readers each month with their creative post-modern sensibilities, drawing on many genres to create an array of surprising and imaginative covers. For example, issue 2 resembles an action figure, issue 9 turns the defenders into anime characters, while issue 5 imagines the defenders characters in a Mortal Kombat-esque line-up.

Another positive aspect of the book was the character development that Bunn take’s the defenders on through the course of this short series. When a character dies in an early issue, the internet poured out vitriolic outrage that Bunn responded to with appreciation. After all, if he had written a story that had garnered so much emotional outpouring, the he was writing a good story indeed.

Annabelle_Valkyrie

Dr. Annabelle Riggs: Likes Girls

The Relationships, romantic or otherwise, also keep the Defenders busy. Misty Knight and Valkyrie share a tenuous relationship built on violence, while the relationship between Valkyrie and Annabelle Riggs becomes both comically and absurdly complicated as the series progress.

The fast pace of the story, both intentional and necessitated by early cancellation keeps the reader on their toes, even when the comic takes a pause to address romantic relations. Issue 9 took a pause to look at the women’s current and former lovers as they form what Bunn calls “The League of Super-Dude Bros”

Just as Valkyrie can (and will) sweep any man or women off their feet, the intensity and excellence of this run of Fearless Defenders will sweep anyone along who dares get their toes wet with this book.

2.) Princeless

Story: Jeremy Whitley Art: Emily Martin Colors: Kelly Lawrence Letters; Dave Dwonch

Story: Jeremy Whitley
Art: Emily Martin
Colors: Kelly Lawrence
Letters; Dave Dwonch

Princeless is an amazing all-ages title from Action Comics. Originally released as a digital comic, the physical versions quickly followed as demand for the comic grew. Released last year, Volume 2 of Princeless follows Princess Adrienne, her guardian dragon Sparky, and her side-kick, Bedelia, as they go on a quest to save each of Adrienne’s sisters from the towers they have been sequestered in. Cute, fun, and excellently written and drawn, this comic should also be used as a textbook example of how to do diversity correctly in comics.

Volume two includes a variety of characters, men, women, tall, short, people of color, caucasians, homely, beautiful with a myriad of motivations that resonate with readers. Volume two deals with Adrienne’s quest to find her  sister, Angelica – the most beautiful sister of the family. When Adrienne encounters her, the worship of her beauty has clearly gone to Angelica’s head – as even though she is free from her tower, Angelica longs for nothing other than to be beautiful for beauty’s sake. After an ordeal where Adrienne and Bedelia perform bravely, if ineptly, the sisters come to recognize that while they are very different – one a tomboy and one a beauty – that both talents are equally good depending on how they are used.

The feel-good story is told expertly by Jeremy Whitley, who makes sure that the story never strays too far into cutesy territory, and the lessons are subtle enough for young and old readers alike. As  Trina Robbins says:

The Princeless team have cooked up a rare treat in PRINCELESS. Give it to you daughter, your sister, your neice, the girl nest door, but read it first yourself

While typing this, I just ordered two extra copies for my young cousins, because I refuse to give up my own copy of this amazing book.

3.)  Uncanny X-Force

Writer: Sam Humphries Artist: Ron Garney Cover: Oliver Copiel

Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Ron Garney
Cover: Oliver Copiel

This is the only controversial pick on this list, as it could be argued that Brian Wood’s new X-Men series deserves to be featured over the Uncanny X-Force team. I will concede that the X-Men team features a cast of all women whereas Uncanny X-Force incorporates two men – Puck and Bishop. However, despite that, and despite the initially contrived beginning of the series, I have enjoyed Uncanny X-Force more than X-Men for several reasons.

The first reason is that Uncanny X-Force is a much more beginner friendly comic. You don’t need to be completely up to date on the goings on of the X-Men universe in order to enjoy the story in Uncanny X-Force. For someone who just began reading comics in the past year, this was a boon as I just wanted to enjoy a good X-men story without necessarily needing to know all of the politics behind it.

While the reasons between the Uncanny X-Force’s formation seem fragile and silly – Storm and Psylocke have both come off bad relationships and need a violent vacation – the story manages to develop the team and the characters in a charming way, despite the shaky start. As the series moves forward, Psylocke remains the center of attention, bearing the brunt of character development and tragic occurrences, allowing the comic to explore give Psylocke closure in a way that centers the character and enables her to prioritize her life goals. Along the way she also picks up a Demon Bear – a psychic entity that lives in her psyche until she calls him. Closure and a new pet? Total girly win!

The other characters of the series are not ignored as each member of the team gets to explore their dark-side by facing down their own Revenants – interesting versions of what might have been had each character taken a different path. While the series changes direction with upcoming issues, this first run of Humphries and Garner is a great lady team-up, with just enough testosterone added to keep the cat fights at bay.

4.) Rat Queens

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe Artist: Roc Upchurch

Rat queens was an unexpected diversion for me the day I picked it up. Though I typically steer away from high fantasy, Kurtis J. Wiebe (of Peterpanzerfaust fame!) and Roc Upchurch manage to place the Rat Queens at the low end of the spectrum. These girls quest, drink, brawl, and then repeat the process. In fact Betty, the dwarven fighter, is one of the only characters I think could take on Red Sonja in a drinking competition.

Writer: Kurtis Artist:

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Artist: Roc Upchurch

Though their after hours activities often leave them hungover, in jail, and memory-less, their fighting skills prove their worth to the town they live in. Unfortunately, fighting and snark seem to be their only assets , so it is no wonder that an attempt on their lives quickly materializes. The team goes about fighting this threat in the best way they know how, making loud noise and trying to kill the source.

The best moments of the comic are the brief stolen moments between and sometimes during battle. Betty cleans up and attempts to woo a potential lover one morning after the rest of the girls start a brawl while she is mid-flirt, Hannah shares a moment with the Captain of the guard, and Violet and Dee share some amusing dialogue mid-battle.

#1 Variant Cover: Fiona Staples

#1 Variant Cover: Fiona Staples

All of the Rat Queens, in fact, take a moment away from brawling when a rival group, The Peaches, succumbs to an ambush and loses some of its members.

Of course the appeal of the comic is the general impertinence, the stolen moments of emotion just an added bonus to quick-witted writing and an art style that is able to depict the high-fantasy concept while, while capturing the low-comedy tone. With this combination, Wiebe and Upchurh are able to subvert the genre just enough to differentiate Rat Queens from run of the mill fantasy, while still adhering to genre expectations set by previous works. I’m not sure where the comic is currently going, and I don’t really care as long as the Rat Queens are there!

All in all I felt like 2013 was a great year for female team-ups! When you’re able to get a good team-up book at least twice a month I’m down to call it a win. Here’s hoping that 2014 will continue to surprise us with great team-ups, and continue the great ones already in production. With ComicBookResources reporting a Black Canary and Zatana book from Paul Dini and Joe Quinones out this summer, 2014’s list is already fielding contestants!

Want to argue with me about Uncanny X-Force vs. X-Men? Think there’s a great team-up left off the list? Put it in the comments!

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One comment on “Hour of Power: The Best Lady Team-Ups of 2013

  1. Pingback: Comic Picks of the Week | We Are Comic Reviewers

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