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Strong Female Protagonist: Book One

Review

Strong Female Protagonist: Book One

Written by Brennan Lee Mulligan and drawn by Molly Ostertag

STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST: Book One asks what it really means to save the world, and whether being a superhero is enough to do it. The book follows Alison Green, a student at the New School in New York who used to be Mega Girl, the invincible girl with super strength who was part of the justice group the Guardians. However, she took off her crime fighting mask during her last encounter with her arch-nemesis Menace (Patrick), when he told her the pointlessness of it all --- how her strength and his ability to read minds would ultimately make no difference to the world because there are problems that their powers are powerless against. Since that moment, Alison has struggled to figure out what she should do when smashing and fighting are the only things she's really good at.

"In Mega Girl's world, poverty and disease are the real issues, and ones she can't just beat up."

Superman and Mega Girl have essentially the same powers with the exception of flying --- although that doesn't seem to matter, because Alison gets around by jumping with her super-strong legs --- but in Superman's world, the villains play along, and they are the ultimate threat to humanity. In Mega Girl's world, poverty and disease are the real issues, and ones she can't just beat up; Menace, the biggest danger to the people, has renounced being a villain.

Because of that, there aren't a lot of scenes where she gets to beat on bad guys, despite the book being filled with super-powered people. Most of the crime fighting happens in flashbacks, and the one time Alison does fight a villain --- when one of Menace's old henchmen tries to attack her at the New School --- it's really only a temporary solution, since even behind bars the huge mutant is still seething at Mega Girl, and can still find a way to escape to try and hurt people again. This is an interesting twist on the classic superhero story. Even though the bad guys often come back in later issues, episodes or movies, the usual solution is to take them out --- but eventually, Alison realizes she just needs to talk to the bad guy. (Although there is something to beating him up first, since she can only talk to him when he's being held in the jail cell she put him in.)

While trying to figure out what good she can do, Alison is surrounded by other superheroes who all have their own idea of what saving the world means: her friend Pintsize creates the Guardians to help people the way heroes did in his favorite comic books, while Feral, a girl who can regenerate, commits the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of strangers who hate her. Even Alison's old archenemy, Patrick/Menace, uses his mindreading powers to help her empathize with old enemies. We're in the middle of this with Alison, getting all the input and help and secrets as she's trying to decide on the right thing for her to do, who is really making a difference in the world, and at what cost.

Alison is strong in the physical sense and in every other sense --- she stands up for herself, she tries to understand others, and she deals with a lot of super-human issues from a very young age --- but titling the book STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST  may not have been the best move. It's amazing that there is a strong female protagonist running the book, and that she's a superhero with super strength and that this power isn't just reserved for men, but pointing out through the title that the character is a strong female protagonist makes it seem like an anomaly, which should not be the case. That makes it sound like an odd, novel thing that should be speculated at, instead of letting the main character speak for herself. Isn't that why there's a strong female protagonist in the first place?

Alison Green still shows us that just because there are super-humans does not mean that the world is suddenly a comic book with issues that can be solved with fists. She reminds us that we can't leave problems up to a few people we think are more powerful than we are, because sometimes that power doesn't solve anything.

Reviewed by Jess Costello on December 7, 2014

Strong Female Protagonist: Book One
Written by Brennan Lee Mulligan and drawn by Molly Ostertag

  • Publication Date: December 9, 2014
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
  • ISBN-10: 0692246185
  • ISBN-13: 9780692246184