If you are really into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is the book for you. A compilation of essays, fiction, and comics about female superheroes and other characters, Girls Who Bite Back includes everything from commentary on possible Buffy racism (with sentences like, “It is worth noting that though Mr. Trick is a vampire, he maintains his Black identity.”) to fictional instant message conversations between girls with special powers (“MoodyGrl: Have you met any other mutants on this site? Bullettrain69: not so much muties as—well, this one girls’s kinda a mutant. She’s an astral projector down in wisconsin. That’s as far as it goes—powers-wise—but she can do it every night.”).
The basic theme here is feminist empowerment through the redefining of female superheroes, which isn’t the worst idea, but it’s definitely a post-modern, cultural studies sort of thing. For example, one of the essays refers to Angelina Jolie as someone who has “forced a reconsideration of what it means to be a valuable person.” (While reading this, I kept thinking of possible college courses: Superwoman: Slut or Hero? Exploring the Female Action Figure, or Post-Modern Theories of Identity: Storm vs. the X-Men Patriarchy).
In fairness, few of these essays are that over the top. And there is some good stuff in here, especially Elizabeth Walker’s essay on the history of girls in comics, which is the only piece in the book to take an in-depth look at alternative comics, like Love & Rockets.
Unfortunately, the book meanders a bit too much for its own good, and after several essays about personal experiences with fatness and mental illness, plus some insults thrown at Annie (my childhood favorite movie), the theme starts to disintegrate—which is unfortunate, because a few of these essays put together could make one decent zine. –Maddy (Sumach Press, 1415 Bathurst St., Suite 202, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5R 3H8)