Strong Female Protagonist is Awesome! But….

Okay, i just read the graphic novel Strong Female Protagonist (SFP, for short). I got it through NetGalley, an awesome site that allows you to sign up to receive an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of a book. You don’t get every book you sign up for but some of the books are available for review without the application process. SFP was one of the latter-type of ARC. It was a great book to jump back into NetGalley (I took an unintentional hiatus). I really do enjoy graphic novels. I’m not a Marvel or DC fan–I like superheroes, but not to read in graphic form. I love Bill Willingham’s Fables series. But Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series often leaves me with a churning stomach. It’s all about the visuals. SFP tells a great story with enough visualization to be intriguing yet enough left unrevealed to be tasteful. A little background on SFP.

Strong Female Protagonist a webcomic

The website header for Strong Female Protagonist

Strong Female Protagonist is written by Brennan Lee Mulligan and drawn by Molly Ostertag. It started as a webcomic and when they wanted to publish a graphic novel, they turned to Kickstarter. Voila! A graphic novel was printed and born! SFP follows the story of Alison Green. She is a “biodynamic” indiviudal. During her gestation, there was a freak storm that basically covered the entire world. Children (some) during this time had their bodies changed. Alison’s body is super-strong and invincible. All of her “powers” came to be known during her adolescence and soon meets other biodymanics like her. A few of them join up and become superheroes. When we meet Alison, however, she is just returning to college and trying to figure out how she is supposed to live her life while being physically different. I love this story because we see a superhero questioning her own story. Yes she has amazing powers, but how does having super-strength make her an authority of what is right and wrong? Now she’s trying to figure out how to do good in this world without fighting supervillains. SFP is so nuanced and layered. We see the supervillians and the need for superheroes, but we also see a young adult trying to live her life. She has to juggle the ethics of being a regular human, dealing with regular issues, and her super-ness. I have started to read the webcomic online (it picks up with chapter 5). I actually sat down and read it all today during my lunch break. Oh, so good! BUT…there is one little issue with the book. The author breaks the fourth wall (you know, that imaginary wall between the reader and the book’s universe). There are comments printed at the bottom of some of the pages. It can be very jarring and ruined the novel for me at some points. I mean, I do wonder what the author was thinking during the writing/drawing, and it was cool to know…sometimes. Other times, it was just intrusive. I had to put the novel down a couple of times and walk away because I felt so out-of-sync with SFP’s universe. The funny thing is, these comments are on the website. They just appear as the alternative text that pop-up on pictures. It totally works! I never felt that the author was intruding on the story. The comments could be snarky or sarcastic thoughts that might pop into a reader’s head. They could further tell the story. But don’t let a little inconvenience turn you away. This is a totally, awesomely wicked novel that deserves to be read by everyone!

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