Western Comic: Strong Female Protagonist, Volume 1 (English)

June 3rd, 2015

SFPV1Not too long ago, Alison Green was a “superhero.” That is to say, she is a “biodynamic” person, whose chromosonal instability gives her what we refer to in common parlance as “super powers.” But, honestly, Alison’s had enough of “fighting crime” with her super strength because it really isn’t helping anything. She’s as likely to destroy a building while saving the people inside…and she’s sick of it.

So Alison chose to unmask herself and try to be normal. It’s not working all that well, but she’s doing her best. She’s always done her best – at being a good guy, at being a good person, and it’s becoming more and more obvious to her that doing her best just isn’t really enough.

And with this, my dear readers, we are introduced to  Volume 1 of Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag, the first collected volume of their ongoing webcomic which was funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

If there is a single word that I would use to describe this series, that word would be nuance. Alison is old enough and smart enough to see all sides of the issues her biodynamic powers bring up…and she’s intelligent enough to see that there’s not all that much that separates her from the bad guys.

It’s not an easy read, especially in places where Alison is brutally honest about the not-always-positive outcomes of her exploits as Mega Girl. The chapter where she learns that an erstwhile ally is making a sacrifice that is almost inconceivably horrible and sublime is especially difficult. But that is exactly why you all ought to read this comic. These characters are human, whatever their powers are.

The comic has one tic I’m still not entirely sure if I liked or not. Author and artiss comment on individual pages at the bottom. In some places it feels comfortable, like we’re in the middle of a conversation, or as if I’m listening to the commentary track, in other places it catapulted this reader out of the action and actually ruined the flow of the story. This kind of light commentary worked well in light moments, but was slightly intrusive in the heavier moments.

I did not actually expect any LGBTQ content, but there is some. While Alison is not gay, the most complicated character in the volume, Feral, is. She hit on Alison when they first met, and although it didn’t go anywhere, she still quite likes Alison. In a surprising use of this old chestnut, the well-worn trope adds to Alison’s respect and affection for Feral, rather than diminishing it. (Thinking about it, it recalls to mind Paula from Red Garden and her unreturned, but also unscorned affection for Kate.)

Overall, however, the entire story is so tightly told, so well-rendered, that I was enrapt, and read it in one sitting. Refreshing, nuanced, smart and emotional, Strong Female Protagonist is the superhero comic we need.


Art – 8 Solid, pleasant, easy to follow
Story – 10 Exceptional in concept and execution
Characters – 9

Overall – 9

This comic understands the human condition and nuance and does a stellar job of balancing the beautiful and the ugly. Most importantly, it doesn’t jettison the happy just to wallow in the gritty.

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7 Responses

  1. Shannon says:

    Oh lord, the Feral bit. *shudders*

  2. I’m a pretty big fan of this comic although lately it’s had a few stumbles with some plot reveals/clashing ideologies. There are points throughout the series where the various schools of thought sound really well thought out and considered, like both sides are presenting their best arguments, and other points where I wince and go “that was me a few years ago but if you [the creators] are older than me why isn’t your rhetoric better?” It is diminishing my enjoyment of the series a bit but at this point I’m still enjoying/recommending it. Could use more LGTB now that I think about it though.

    • The creators aren’t old, by my standards. In fact, not all that much older than Alison herself. And Alison is mean to be college age, so conflicts of interest and perspective make a great deal of sense, I think.

      • From having met Molly at a con I place her at least a few years older than I am (20-somethings are so hard to place, it’s like you stop aging for a few years physically) and I’m already a few years beyond college myself but the rhetoric I’m thinking of really feels like someone just finished their freshman or sophomore year. Also to be more specific, as you have probably seen this is a comic where a lot of characters have long speeches on morals and such, not a bad thing but I have a lot of clear moments when I go “oh that’s not just the character, that’s the creator talking as well” and the ideas just feel under-developed. This was most noticeable when we have a character whose in her early 30s and is clearly supposed to be saying these high minded things that Allison has never even thought of but instead it just sounds, basic. When it’s Allison talking I rarely have a problem since she has so much self-doubt that having either a good argument or a flawed one is in-character, it’s everyone older where it feels off!

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