BOOK REVIEW: Captain Marvel: What Makes a Hero, Fearless and Fantastic! & Powers Of A Girl
Over the last few months, not one, not two but three books have been released about the women of Marvel. And, what's great is that all three books target different ages of readers. Ever since DC launched its DC Super Hero Girls line to appeal to girls, I have wanted Marvel to do the same. And, its great that they are finally getting to that place.
Captain Marvel: What Makes A Hero
Captain Marvel: What Makes A Hero is written by Pamela Bobowicz with art by Eda Kaban for very young readers. Amazon suggests it is written for 4-8 years old (Grades 1-3). While the book has Captain Marvel in the title, it does cover many of the women of Marvel. Written as a picture book, the book features profiles of each of the superheroes from their own perspective. Their words are truly inspirational while being an easy read. Unlike the other two books, the heroes as they are written in this book are clearly the movie version, which is wise as younger kids probably know the characters from the movies more than the comics. As a result, it feels uncluttered and pure. Kaban's illustrations are whimsical and lovely. I am a big fan of children's book illustrations and hers are as fine as they come.
Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World
Fearless and Fantastic! is written by Sam Maggs, Ruth Amos & Emma Grange also for a young audience, but slightly older. Amazon suggests that it is written for 8-12 years old (Grades 3-7). I thought the book was a nice introduction to several of these amazing women. Each profile fit on one page, featuring a quote and a list of allies. The book is published by DK Children and I wish that they had provided some of the more detailed illustrations and pictures they are known for. Instead, the book features one stock illustration per profile. The profiles very succinctly encapsulate the biographies so that, if you are coming in as more of a fan of the movies, the reader is not too confused by all the continuity from the comic books. I also like the way the book divides the heroes into four categories - determined, daring, compassionate and curious. For kids (or adults like me!) reading this book, they can feel like there is a hero for them whether being that determined kid on the soccer field to that curious girl interested in science.
Powers Of A Girl
Powers Of A Girl is written by Lorraine Cink, who Marvel fans might know from Earth's Mightest Show and Marvel Minute among other shows on Marvel.Com. This book is written for an older readership, but is told from a familiar perspective. It almost feels as though Cink is reading the book to us. The profiles definitely go into more detail than the other books. Cink tries to balance the profiles to satisfy both comic book readers and movie watchers, but I don't know if she is so successful. As a comic book fan, I totally got into the profiles. If your knowledge of the character is from the movies, some of the biographies might seem strange because Cink incorporates so much of the comic book continuity. I'm not saying this is a bad thing because the comic books are where these characters are from. But, if you're a movie watcher wanting to know more about these characters, you might find it difficult to follow along. At the same time, Cink's writing style makes following the continuity less dry and more entertaining. The art by Alice X. Zhang is, however, simply gorgeous and the fact that she provided more than 100 beautifully rendered illustrations is just amazing. It's worth the purchase for just these illustrations alone.
There are two things I'll say about the three books.
One: they are all wonderfully diverse featuring characters of different races, ethnicities, ages and, in the case of the last two books, sexual orientations.
Two: I am struck by the omission of one of my favorite female superheroes - Invisible Woman, aka Susan Storm Richards. I had heard that the bad blood between Fox and Marvel's film rights ownership of Fantastic Four and X-Men caused Marvel to promote these properties less for years. But, it just doesn't seem right for Invisible Woman from Marvel's First Family has been excluded from all these books about powerful women superheroes. I'm hoping that now that the film rights have reverted back to Marvel as a result of the Disney acquisition of 21st Century Fox that she, once again, be given the respect she deserves.
It must also be said that the success of many of these women heroes is due to incredible women creators such as Kelly Thompson (Hawkeye), G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel), Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel), Nnedi Okorafor (Shuri) and Gail Simone (Domino) among many others. In an industry that had, for so long, been dominated by men, these women should be recognized. They give these heroes dimension and texture that really make them distinctly women.
I've got to commend Marvel for putting out these books. There are so many great women superheroes out there. And while these books might not be aimed at any particular gender, I think it is wonderful that all three books are clearly meant for girls and young women who are Marvel fans. And this is a good thing!