BEST BETS: "Jessica Jones," "Big Trouble/Escape from New York" & More October 2016 Highlights
When DC Comics announced it was launching a series based on its popular Ame-Comi line of figures, I don’t think I heard a single person say, “Yes! I was hoping for that!” The Ame-Comi collectibles can be imaginative and attractive (some more than others), but no one was clamoring for a series that sexualized DC’s superheroines even more overtly than they already are. In fact, the most common responses were either head-scratching or eye-rolling, depending on how much the person thought DC has legitimately tried to reach out to female readers lately. But then the creators were announced.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray write the series and Amanda Conner drew the first couple of installments, which were serialized digitally first, 10 pages at a time. Putting the creators of the well-regarded Power Girl series on Ame-Comi Girls was a smart move and convinced a lot of readers who otherwise would have dismissed the comic – including me – to give it at least an initial look.
It’s perfectly fair to say Ame-Comi Girls is way better than it deserves to be, but to fans of Palmiotti and Gray, that’s not a surprise. What is kind of shocking though is that it isn’t just very good; it’s also one of the best series DC’s producing at the moment. That goes for the art as well as the story. I already mentioned Amanda Conner, but other artists on the series include Tony Akins (Wonder Woman), Sanford Greene (Rotten Apple), Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin), and Mike Bowden (Cartoon Network Action Pack).
Each artist brings a different style to his issue and each issue features a different female character on the cover. Because of that, the series has an anthology-like look, but that’s not what it is. At least in the first four issues, Palmiotti and Gray are telling a continuing story. It begins with Wonder Woman’s updated (and way more kick-ass) origin and introduction to Man’s World in Issue 1, where she fights Cheetah. It’s more or less a standalone issue until it reveals that Cheetah is actually working with an all-female team of supervillains led by Duela Dent that includes Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. In the second issue, Batgirl and a younger, female Robin stumble onto Duela’s scheme, which escalates in subsequent issues until Power Girl and Supergirl get involved in Issue 4.
What’s especially interesting about the Ame-Comi universe is that it’s not just focused on the women of the DC Universe, but these women are apparently the only superheroes in it. In other words, there are no Batman and Superman; Batgirl and Power Girl fill those roles here. That means that Robin is solidly Batgirl’s sidekick, while Power Girl is sharply differentiated from Supergirl by her experience. Power Girl was also raised by John and Martha Kent, while Batgirl’s origin has a lot to do with the shooting that put her father in a wheelchair. It’s basically an ongoing Elseworlds series in which there are no male superheroes. Jesse Quick is the only Flash, for instance. We haven’t yet been introduced to the Ame-Comi versions of Green Lantern or Aquaman (at least, not in the print version), much less any of the C-level or below characters, but I’m eager to meet them when they finally arrive.
Ame-Comi Girls is well-written, interestingly drawn, and has very little chance of being pulled into company-wide events or crossovers with other titles. That makes it my favorite DC series going right now.