From Danger Girl to Triggergirl 6 – We highlight the best of the female spy comic book genre

By ·August 20, 2016 11:30 am
Spy genre

In most iterations of the spy narrative, you’ll often find a man in the central lead as the secret agent, while women play skirting roles either as alluring temptresses or sometimes as duplicitous and dangerous femme fatales. Watch any James Bond film and you’ll see examples of this.

Within the cinematic spy genre this methodology is rarely broken (but when it is, it tends to work wonders – see 1967’s Deadlier than the Male). In comics, however – and particularly in recent years – there is a stronger tendency to feature and celebrate the female-led spy narrative, with a woman in the protagonist secret agent role.

We take a look at the best female spy comics, with a view to recommending these to readers who are interested in the genre, but who might not know where to start. Or even those who are familiar with the genre, but who don’t know what to try next.

For the sake of accuracy, we won’t be focusing on any superhero comics (many of which do involve spies, such as Black Widow); we will only focus on comic book series that fit firmly within the spy genre.

All of the below content is spoiler-free, in order to entice readers to check these comics out.

Danger Girl (1998 to present)

A Danger Girl cover by J. Scott Campbell.

A Danger Girl cover by J. Scott Campbell, featuring Abbey Chase.

“Welcome to Operation Danger Girl! A top secret covert force, Danger Girl consists of the best female operatives in the world.”

“Huh?”

“We’re spies.”

Why we love it

Abbey Chase is the protagonist in J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell’s Danger Girl. She inhabits an action-packed spy world, ripe with artistic design that unashamedly leans towards overtly sexual female imagery and also brimming with intentionally cheesy narratives (which seeks to satirise the spy genre). While on paper these two concepts might sound like a bad combination, Danger Girl pulls them off exceptionally well, in an alluring concoction.

The male characters are often treated as the vain bimbos or foolish villains and the female characters (there are several key female members of the team) are presented as the more intriguing characters. As the original comic run veers into its endgame, there are a few twists and turns concerning betrayal and Nazis that serve to close off an all-round enjoyable mini-series.

How long is it?

What we are recommending above is the initial mini-series that consists of seven issues. However, since this there have been a further 15 different Danger Girl runs and iterations that you could venture into afterwards, if you like the core seven issues.

Try this if you like

Cheesy, intentionally over the top spy genre satirisation with gorgeous women on every page.

Queen & Country (2001 to 2007)

Queen & Country

“There’s a bounty on your head Ms. Chace… one million U.S. for the head of Minder Two.”

Why we love it

Despite some of the interior art leaving much to be desired, with its simplistic artistry (various different artists contribute to this comic), it’s the narrative itself (written by Greg Rucka) that warrants Queen & Country‘s place on this list. Tara Chace is an operative for SIS (colloquially known as the Minders) who becomes the target of Russians after she assassinates a key enemy. The narrative depicts the reality of her missions as a spy, whilst also showing the politics and bureaucracy that goes on behind the scenes, back at SIS.

Tara herself comes across as kind of a forlorn but professional spy, who believes in what she does but who keeps being thrown in even more dangerous situations, due to the orders from above. As stated, the art style can take a little getting used to, as can the lettering choices used, but the serious and thoughtful story provides a sturdy backbone to get your teeth into.

How long is it?

The series ran for 32 issues, which can be purchased in collected volumes too. There are also three spin off novels from the series.

Try this if you like

Starkly realistic spy narratives that treat the high stake missions and the surrounding politics with commendable seriousness.

Velvet (2013 to present)

Velvet

A cover by Steve Epting that depicts protagonist Velvet Templeton.

“The problem is, Roberts doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know that desk outside the Director’s office, that wasn’t my life… that was my consolation prize. My real life died a long time ago.”

Why we love it

Velvet shows that age is no limitation by presenting us with Velvet Templeton – an ex-secret agent who now resides in a role as secretary to the Director of the Agency. When a colleague and friend of Velvet’s is killed, Velvet is framed for the murder and goes on a personal mission to uncover the truth.

Where other female-led spy narratives sometimes lean on the beauty of their protagonists, Velvet instead focuses on the maturity and experience of an agent who is sharply adept but out of practise. It’s a smart, on-the-run style narrative with a strong female lead. The comic is helmed by Ed Brubaker (who is famous for FataleThe Fade Out and other titles), Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser.

How long is it?

Velvet is an ongoing series that is, at the time of writing, up to its 15th issue. This series can be purchased in collected volumes too.

Try this if you like

Stories about heroes in their mature years returning to what made them great in their youth.

Triggergirl 6 (2013)

Triggergirl 6 art by Phil Noto.

Triggergirl 6 art by Phil Noto.

“I remember nothing before waking up this morning. The only thing planted in my mind was to kill the President of the United States. I had him dead to rights; all I had to do was pull the trigger. And I couldn’t. Something else took over… something deep inside me.”

Why we love it

This is one of our personal favourites. Not only is it drawn by Phil Noto – who holds arguably the most gorgeous artistic style in the comic book industry – but the narrative by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray is a highly imaginative and thought-provoking concept. Triggergirl 6 is a lab-made assassin who is sent to kill the President of the United States. From there, the narrative reveals more about her origins and the reason behind the assassination attempt, culminating in a strange but compelling ending.

The sheer beauty of Noto’s imagery is what makes every page a piece of exceptional art in its own right. The brevity of the narrative doesn’t detract from its quality, but rather contributes to the taught and refined approach, as well as an impactful and worthwhile moral message.

How long is it?

Triggergirl 6 is only one single issue, which is slightly longer that the length of a normal-sized comic book issue. This is the entire narrative from start to finish.

Try this if you like

Futuristic SF spy narratives that feature technologically advanced spies with superior gadgetry.

Were there any female spy comics that we missed that you think should be included among this list? Alternatively, has the above enticed you to check out any of these comics? Share your comments below.

Image credits: Image Comics, Oni Press, IDW Publishing

More: Danger Girl Queen & Country Triggergirl 6 Velvet

Written by Christopher Hart

Co-Editor in Chief / Film, TV and Literature Writer

Christopher holds an MA in Publishing and a BA in Comparative Literature, and currently works as an analyst for a major Bank in London.

Christopher self-publishes his own Science Fiction and Fantasy stories. His completed series of short stories is titled 'Altered Stone' and can be found on Amazon.

His specialist subjects include LOST, Preacher, Supergirl, A Song of Ice and Fire, Kevin Smith, Bioshock and Fallout.

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