I first read about Strong Female Protagonist, by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag, at Capricious Reader, but by the time I got my copy from the library, I’d forgotten what it was all about. So when I started reading it, I was more or less going into it blind.
Alison Green is a tier one biodynamic individual. She has super strength and is invincible. In her world, that makes her a superhero alongside other superheroes, fighting tier one biodynamic individuals who are supervillains. Fighting crime and beating the bad guys as Mega Girl is a whole lot of fun … until one day she comes up against her arch enemy, the mind-reading Menace, and discovers evidence of a conspiracy that puts all of her heroic feats into a new light. As Menace puts it, “Nobody thnks we can change the world, and they’re right.”
Is Menace right? Beating up the bad guys suddenly feels irrelevant to Alison. She has no clue what she’s doing, and it doesn’t make sense that people are looking to her for answers just because bullets can’t harm her and she’s strong enough to lift a car over her head. So Alison steps away from the business of being a superhero, enrols in college and tries to figure things out as best she can.
The only thing is, not everyone’s ready to let her forget her past. And in the meantime, Alison’s given up on saving the world. She wants to change it instead. But is such a thing even possible?
Strong Female Protagonist is a webcomic which found its way into print via a successful Kickstarter campaign. And I am so glad it did. I loved everything about Alison’s story: her struggles to live a somewhat normal life, the frustrations of living in a world that even her powers can’t truly save, the spotlight it shines on everyday heroism. Despite her powers, Alison is as human as everyone else, uncertain of what’s going on, unsure of how—and if—she can change things.
In many ways, this is a graphic novel that grapples with a lot of heavy issues: Is it worth saving the world if saving the world means preserving it the way it is? What is the worth of a tortuous self-sacrifice that saves individual lives but won’t make the world a better place? Can a handful of moments make the difference between a superhero and a supervillain? And if it does, what does this say about our world? But at the same time, there are many, many fun moments. It’s a perfect blend.
The other thing I enjoyed about Strong Female Protagonist? The notes from the author and the illustrator on the bottom of each page. Sometimes these notes add further explanation to a panel, other times they point out something in the art, and often they’re just a pure fun me-to-you wink and nudge from the author and/or illustrator.
If Mulligan and Ostertag decide to do another Kickstarter for the next volume? I’m definitely in! If you haven’t read this comic yet, you really must add it to your to-read list. And when you’re done, you can continue with the further adventures of Strong Female Protagonist online, where the webcomic is updated twice weekly.