Comics! Though not superheroes per se, you should really, really check out Cowboy Ninja Viking. The 10th issue just came out and all of it is collected in trades thus far. Here's a one sentence synopsis of the story: a government program to train people with multiple personality disorder into killing machines goes horribly wrong in the best way possible. Other features: no ads, oversized format, and each issue is inked in black and white and ONE color that changes each issue.
Here is an IGN Review of the first issue: http://comics.ign.com/articles/103/1037713p1.html
For the record, having read the series from the beginning, it only gets better.
Hellboy. Again, not quite a superhero, but this comic will scratch that itch. If you haven't been paying attention to Mike Mignola's work these last 17 years, you need to do yourself (and him) a favor and check this guy out. Okay, the series is long (10 trades thus far and no sign of stopping), but it's not marred by the cliffhanger continuity that plagues most superhero comics each issue. Each trade nicely collects and presents a story or a collection while simultaneously advancing the main characters. The art and the writing is sophisticated and Mignola incorperates a ton of Norweigian myth into this series, as well as other myths.
Also, there are a lot of offshoots: BPRD, Abe Sapien, Baltimore: the Plagureships, etc, all of which are very good as well. If you take only one suggestion from this list, pick this one.
The Criminal Series by Ed Brubaker. This is a noir/crime comic, so if you have no interest in that particular branch of storytelling, then skip this. But, this series is very character driven and the art is fantastic. Like Hellboy, the volumes are fairly numerous, but each one is a self-contained story. Your local comic shop probably has the first volume, and if so, skim the first issue and think about it.
You probably know Daredevil as you said you're familiar with Marvel, but, if you have not read Frank Miller's run on it you need to do so. Out of everything the guy has done, this is his best work. Fuck the Dark Kinght Returns (and especially the sequel), Sin City, and 300. The entirety of it is collected in three volumes and is well worth the investment. The writing (Miller doesn't take over until the second volume) is very well paced and when he's drawing as well, it's one of the most thoroughly cinematic comics I've ever experienced. I like Daredevil, if my avatar didn't already give it away.
Regarding female writers, look into Gail Simone's work. She was doing some really cool stuff with Wonder Woman last year but I haven't been following her work lately.
The foriegn superheroes thing is a bit more tricky because its an American invention. Japan, as I'm sure you know, has the biggest comic book market in the world, but they're not really doing anything with superheroes. Let me do some research. I'm curious now.
EDIT: Lastly, I apologize for recommending a bunch of comics that do not fit any of your criteria.