Graphic Novel: The Future is Female: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World - Reviewed

The future is female. Pénélope Bagieu’s book Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, will prove to you, so was the past. Released on March 6, 2018, Brazen is a collection of twenty-nine stories that showcase courageous women who helped shape the world we live in today with their dedication, strength and courage. This book gives us short but incredibly poignant glimpses into the lives of women all over the globe, throughout all different times in history, in a way that is fresh, fun and absolutely inspiring.

I stopped keeping count of the amount of times this book reduced me to tears throughout my read. Moving, emotional, and motivational, the work that Bagieu has put into this book shines onto every single page. Choosing both recognizable names throughout history, such as Betty Davis, Hedy Lamarr and Mae Jemison, as well as lesser known, but still just as impressive women, like Agnodice, Wu Zetian and Sonita Alizadeh, this book explores the history of women who had all different kinds of impact on the world and their accomplishments. There are women who changed the course of history with their intelligence, with their creativity, with their inventiveness, but this book also doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are women that changed the course of history by being loud and proud about their sexuality, embracing body and sex positivity and fighting for the ability for women to choose what to do with their own bodies. The reminder that there are many, many ways in which women can empower one another was such an impressive statement made in the book. As I read this book, I found myself growing emotional, imagining the impact this book could have had on my life if I had read it as a young girl. 

Though there are certainly some mature themes, such as domestic violence, sex, and child brides, I think upon discretion of a parent, this book could be an incredible tool to supply a teenage girl who is searching to find her place in the world. There is nothing that makes me more proud to be a woman than reading stories about women throughout the generations who fought for our freedoms fearlessly, courageously and without a care of their reputation. These are women ahead of their time, many who did not receive celebration or notoriety until long after their deaths. Showcasing women from a mixture of ethnic backgrounds as well as characters who identify as LGBTQ, the women of Brazen certainly hold inspiration for any girl from any background. Bagieu’s writing style is smart and engaging, creating light, fun easy to read panels that still have enough depth in them to tell stories of intense emotional sequences. It’s hard to fully put into words how impactful this book was to me, how much it inspired me to keep persisting, no matter the cost and I believe that sentiment will be echoed by any who read it.

Penelope Bagieu’s artistic talents further add to the charm and appeal of this book. The panels feature fun, colorful artwork with a very unique cartoon-like quality to them. Though the drawings offer a youthful perspective and are full of whimsy, her attention to significant details within each story is extremely impressive. No impactful moment is lost within the art. The cartoony linear drawings, contrasting with some of the heavier material of certain stories certainly make an impact, but I have to say, the way she closes each story is my absolute favorite portion of her artistic work. Each story ends with a two page spread in which the art changes into a beautifully vibrant, swirling fantasy style concept. Each spread offers depictions of a moment or moments in the character’s life, but it is done in such an electric, detailed way. Leaving out words and dialogue entirely, the stark contrast between these super stylish, fantasy-like depictions and the clever, humorous panels in which the heart of the story is told mesh together to form a memorable book in the best possible way.

--Rachel Rutherford