Free Comic Book Day: DC Superhero Girls Review

The first Saturday of May should be declared a national holiday across fandom culture. Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). Since 2002, independent comic book stores nationwide (and more recently international stores as well!) have participated to bring free comics to the reading public. FCBD promotes literacy especially among children them the joy of reading and the different forms creativity and imagination can take. FCBD promotes independent book stores and buying your reading material from the people who can literally tell you what writer, what artist, what year what issue you hold in your hands.

Check out the complete list of 2016’s free comics!

From my celebration I picked up DC Superhero Girls.

From left to right: (top) Batgirl, Supergirl, Poison Ivy, Katana, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Bumblebee

Based off the webseries, available free online and in its second season, DC ages its heroes down and tosses them into a superhero high school. This goes over as well can be expected. And I mean that both with endearment and also disappointment.

So, here are the pros and cons of DC’s Superhero Girls straight from FCBD.

The Pros:

It’s an all female led cast. You can’t get much better than that, taking DC’s female heroes (as well as villains/anti-heroes–Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Katana) and giving them the spotlight. I will read anything that gets Wonder Woman in her element of interacting with other women because of how natural those relationships are (or should be). An all female led cast means women can be friends without being stereotyped as catty backstabbers. Women can support each other.

The characters look like teenagers. There’s no attempt to hypersexualize their costumes or their bodies.

Like the webseries, the comic is full of DC Easter eggs. If you haven’t been watching the webseries, yes, that is Starfire flying by on page 3. And yeah, The Flash and Green Lantern are totally bros walking down the hallway. And Principal Waller? Yes, she is the same Amanda Waller who is in charge of the Suicide Squad. If you know the DC universe, even a little, you will spend this comic laughing at all the references and character thrown into this world.

It’s (nearly) an all female creative team. Shea Fontana is the writer, Monica Kubina does the coloring, Janice Chiang is the letter artist. Both the senior editor and the assistant editor are also female. Yancey Labat is the only male among them. My year of reading books by women has nearly ended, but it’s not over yet! It’s such a joy to find a comic about women being written and created by women.

However, there are still The Cons:

The whole narrative is so cutesy and stereotypical. I know it’s a personal preference, but I like my children’s content to have a little bite! The narrative arc is Supergirl wanting to quit school because she fears final exams. And while this fear leads the story to a flashback of her life on Krypton at a Kryptonian high school, we become mired neck deep in high school stereotypes. I am so sick of characters who can be summed up as “the bully” or “the popular girl”.  Please, let this comic take risks.

This comic does not take risks. Please, let this comic be bold! It’s not enough of a revolution to have a female team. Girls need radical female role models who don’t just get good grades and smile. We need women who can show us all the ways to be female, complete with all our flaws. To be fair, I have not seen all of the webseries and this comic did not feature Harley, Ivy or Katana, so perhaps the webseries provides more variety on what a female superhero looks like and acts like.

The Verdict:

I think my frustration at the simplistic plot hindered my enjoyment. And while I would still recommend, you need to put aside your critical eye and take it for what it is. Do I want DC Superhero Girls to take itself more seriously? Of course! I want most children’s media to take itself more seriously and challenge its audience. If you want to laugh and smile at some good DC references while reading about your favorite female heroes, this is the place to go. But if you want a feminist story that challenges gender stereotypes and pushes back at what a comic for young girls should be, maybe you’d better leave this one on the table.