We've just wrapped up Women's History Month, but the importance of women in comics is pretty much a year-round thing. Case in point: three female-centric graphic novels this month that come highly recommended.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch Vol. 2: Something Wicked (Archie Comics, $14.99)
One of the best aspects of Sabrina is that unlike the other characters at Archie Comics, she hasn't been in continuous publication for 80-plus years. While the kids in Riverdale are frozen in the public's mind as to who and what they are, Sabrina's status quo can be a bit more flexible.
The current Sabrina comics tend to favor the "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" TV show version of the character, in that she deals with dead-serious magical problems while also juggling the humor and heartache of high school.
Kelly Thompson (writer) and Veronica and Andy Fish (illustrators) make Sabrina into an adorkable and good-hearted character — despite having to deal with Wendigos and a murderous fellow witch. "Sabrina: Something Wicked" is recommended because it's actually something charming.
Adler Vol. 1 (Titan Comics, $16.99)
The conceit of "Adler" is that it resembles Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," except in this case, it's gentlewomen. Writer Lavie Tidhar plucks various female characters from Victorian adventure fiction and throws them together for a story that is one part 19th-century reserve and two parts ripsnorting action.
Tidhar places the action in 1902 London, so a number of characters have to be updated from their 19th-century origins to fit the new era. For example, our narrator is Jane Eyre, who is now a former battlefield medic who served in the Boer War.
She quickly becomes the Dr. Watson to our titular character, Irene Adler. You may remember her as the opera singer and formidable intelligence from "A Scandal in Bohemia," in which Sherlock Holmes referred to her with some exasperation as "that woman!"
The Big Bad here also is a she. Literally. It is "She Who Must Be Obeyed," aka Ayesha, from H. Rider Haggard's 1887 novel "She: A History of Adventure."
"Adler" wouldn't be as engaging without the expressive art of Paul McCaffrey. His work speaks of all sorts of influences, from the Franco-Belgian school to manga to steampunk to airbrush. So hurry up and read "Adler," already. As she herself says at one point, "the game is underfoot!"
Fat (Graphic Mundi, $17.50)
Is "Sabrina" too silly for your taste? "Adler" too lowbrow? Well, you can't say that about "Fat," an autobiographical story by Austrian artist Regina Hofer that is layered, educational — and very, very painful. Brace yourself.
Through stark black-and-white artwork, employing images both literal and symbolic, Hofer documents her battle with food disorders (primarily anorexia and bulimia), dysfunctional and abusive home life and feelings of depression, failure and existential despair.
I have no idea where one gets the courage for this sort of bare-all confessional. But I do know it's effective. "Fat" isn't an uplifting bildungsroman. But it's an important story, one that will explain the suffering that millions of people endure better than any doctor.