We Could Be Heroes If We Knew What That Meant

Leigh Anne Staff Image

Alison Green, the star of the comic Strong Female Protagonist, used to be a superhero named Mega-Girl. She was pretty good at it, too; then she had an existential crisis and went off to college to learn other ways of saving the world. Leaving Mega-Girl behind isn’t all that easy, though: as Alison tries to cobble together a normal life at school, she keeps running into awkward situations. Other heroes want her to suit up again. Villains hold old grudges.  Worst of all, people bend over backwards to give her special treatment, which makes Alison squirm every time it happens.

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Proving once again that some of the best fiction around today begins on Kickstarter, this web comic-turned-print is funny, sad and thoughtful. In fact, I would argue that Alison’s super-power is not physical strength, but strength of character. Alison isn’t just coasting through life: she’s actively questioning just what it means to be a hero, and whether or not the good work she does even matters in a continuously suffering world.

There are no easy answers. Just a lot of angst, fight scenes and flashbacks. The creators—Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag—also take hilarious jabs at all the superhero tropes you know and love, from the “after-school special” inspirational speech to mental telepathy (which would be far more annoying than it’s worth, if Mulligan’s hilarious interpretation of it is to be believed).

The ratio of funny-to-serious, is perfect, too, with clever jokes and self-aware remarks inserted just when the plot is in danger of becoming too depressing. As a bonus, the alt text from each strip’s original web publication is reproduced at the bottom of every page, adding an extra chuckle to the reading experience.

Strong Female Protagonist is one of those graphic novels that long-time comics fans will deeply appreciate. It’s also the kind of book you hand to someone who doesn’t realize just how much depth, breadth and wit a comic can have. You’ll definitely enjoy it if you like Squirrel Girl or Ms. Marvel; non-comics readers who like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena: Warrior Princess,  and/or Veronica Mars will want to take a look as well.

What does it mean to be a hero? Everybody’s got to figure that out for themselves, but thanks to Strong Female Protagonist, you don’t have to do it alone.

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Leigh Anne recommends good books and outwits Google daily. If you hear anybody singing or whistling in the stacks, it’s probably her.