The Adventures of Superhero Girl

55-coverThree cheers for Superhero Girl! She has incredible strength, inhuman toughness, and the ability to leap over “any building shorter than eleven stories”. She’s got a cape and a mask. Now, if she can just find a proper nemesis and some crime to fight . . .

On her good days, Superhero Girl has it really good. She beats up ninjas, aliens, and time-traveling baddies and still finds time to rescue a cat stuck in a tree. On her bad days, though, not only is she dealing with super-problems, she also has issues that we regular humans can easily recognize: a nasty cold, lack of a real job (and income), an obnoxious brother, and being awkward at parties. Plus, it’s not always easy to find criminals to thwart when you live in a mid-size city in Canada. Luckily, Superhero Girl has a great roommate and other friends to help when she’s having a little trouble saving the day.

The art, the brief silly story arcs, and the humor are just as clever and fun as you’d expect from graphic novel superstar Faith Erin Hicks. The Adventures of Superhero Girl is more episodic than other works of Hicks’, like Friends with Boys or The War at Ellsmere, but recurring characters like Skeptical Guy and Superhero Girl’s brother Kevin hold things together well. There’s also a lot of enjoyment to be had from the rich cast of minor characters, like the superhero Spectacle and the villain Bear with a Monocle.

The art is bold and bright. It suggests classic superhero comics without really looking much like them. Screentone with oversized dots brings to mind old-school shading, but looks interesting in a new way. Characters are drawn in a style much like those of Hicks’ other works, simultaneously less realistic (in terms of detail) and more realistic (in terms of body type) than your usual comic-book superhero.

Even if she were drawn like a classic superhero, Superhero Girl doesn’t dress like one, as her perfect-superhero brother points out. Pairing her cape and mask with chunky boots and t-shirts, Superhero Girl has a rebellious, indie take on the look that goes with her unorthodox ideas about superheroes in general – like her idea that they don’t all have to have tragic pasts. Sometimes, you just decide to use your superpowers to fight crime, and that’s all there is to it.

Another way in which Superhero Girl is unusual is her lack of a real romantic interest. Sure, her friends are trying to set her up with Skeptical Guy, a.k.a. Shaun, but I myself am skeptical of whether that’s going anywhere. Superhero Girl’s single status is handled in a realistic way: she bemoans it a little when her roommate starts spending lots of time with a new boyfriend, but mostly it’s not even on the radar. Who has time to sulk over being dateless when there are cat-faced aliens to fight?

While the characters are all about college-age, this book could work as well for kids and teens as for adults. It’s witty but not complicated. The battles are highly silly, and there’s no sexual content, swearing, or even innuendo. Younger kids might not get all of the jokes, but even they would likely enjoy the wacky straightforwardness of Superhero Girl’s character and the world she lives in.

The book’s ending is not especially conclusive, but I doubt that readers will mind that any more than they would mind the lack of closure at the end of, say, a collection of Calvin and Hobbes comics. The Adventures of Superhero Girl is more of a series of adventures – a slice of life, that life belonging to an offbeat Canadian superhero – than it is a single tight narrative. It’s a light, silly read, easy to pick up and enjoy, with no deep knowledge of the superhero genre required.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl
by Faith Erin Hicks
ISBN: 9781616550844
Dark Horse, 2013

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