Sugar and Spice

By Vocal Minority

Strange things happen when you go without modern media for a while.

In my case it was only three days. But trapped in a flat with no TV, no internet and nothing to read I wound up impulse-buying at the bookstore in town to stave off a night of self-reflection. All of which is a round about way of justifying the purchase of two Manga-sized OGNs bearing DC's new 'Minx' branding.

In my defense, I didn't realise I was buying a pair of comics aimed at teenaged girls. I was distracted by the fact that Andi Watson was responsible for one, and Mike Carey for the other - a pair of writers I've enjoyed in the past. Whilst making the purchase I was unware that I was a chromosome and several years away from the target group of these projects.

Excuses aside, it was time to get in touch with my inner teenaged girl, courtesy of Clubbing by Andi Watson and Josh Howard, and Regifters by Mike Carey, Marc Hempel and Sonny Liew.

Clubbing is an odd beast.

It's the story of a trying-to-be-older-than-she-is teenaged goth who is exiled to her grandparents golf course in the countryside after a run in with the police involving fake ID. And for the first part of the story that's exactly what it is: a fish-out-of water story. And then it switches gears when a murder occurs. And then, well...

I don't want to dictate spoilers in this review, but suffice to say that this book shifts gears somewhat, and I'm not convinced it's a good thing. Watson writes excellent melodrama and engaging characters as ever, but here the plot rather takes over and the characters that were interesting on their own take a back seat to the action.

Which makes it doubly perplexing when you consider the audience this is supposedly aimed at. It does certain bits nicely; group rejection, budding romance and rebellion are all covered well and you can see it fitting nicely with an episode of whatever teen soap is currently popular. The shift and some of the subject matter late in the story is a deviation from these things which presumably sell to the market and moreover doesn't actually fit with the book that came before. I was interested in these characters, I was engaged in the story of their interactions - anything that means I got less of that is, ultimately, unwelcome.

A shame. But it's not without its own kooky charm, mostly for the character writing and fluid art.

B -

Re-gifters has its own problems.

The tale of a young Korean girl dealing with a major crush and an impending martial arts tournament in which she is expected to kick ass (it's ok: she's something of a bad-ass. She just has to get her focus back).

Where Clubbing became too unconventional, Re-Gifters is arguably too predictable. The main character is certainly well drawn, and you're pulled into a slice of Korean-American life that I for one certainly didn't know existed. But the characters on the whole are somewhat one-dimensional. The format of the story can be pretty much anticipated from the start and it doesn't really surprise, so we never get that invested with the rest of the cast - they're just going through the motions.

This feeling of been-there-done-that doesn't really help when some of the characters' actions follow the pattern without really being justified in the story itself. Again I don't want to give spoilers, but if you want me to think a character is nice, then you have to show me more than them doing one good act. Especially when that 'good' is actually rather selfish at its heart.

The writing has some merit at times, the art's certainly fun. But there's something about this that just falls flat. Not bad, not great. Just very middling and ultimately anonymous.



The General said...

So, what is Minx exactly? Is it a series of OGNs geared toward teenage girls that are attempting to grab the manga audience? As much as I like good manga, these sort of things always confuse me a bit. I think when western comics overtly ape eastern comics, usually they do it with about as much sublty as a bull in a china shop. You'd think that, instead, western comics should just try to focus on being, y'know, good.

Vocal Minority said...

Yeah it's, um, exactly what you though in the first sentence. I probably should have mentioned that.

They're certainly western stylistically and all that, it's just really the packaging that make it Manga-esq.

They could certainly do with the 'being good' focus though...

Bill Ritter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Ritter said...

Conceptually I appreciate and applaud Minx. Personally I believe they're only half-way there to what needs to be.

I disagree with the format. I'd welcome full color or artists commanding black and white sensibilities (with sadness, I accept that Bill Seinkevich or Bernie Wrightson are unlikely to do Minx titles). I love the artwork of Josh Howard and Sonny Liew, but believe their style pops when colored.

I've also thought most of the Minx titles to be over-written. Too many panels per page, dialogue written rather than composed. Essentially too much jammed per page serving to overwhelm.

Vocal Minority said...

I half-agree Bill.

I didn't really find them over-written (at least these two). If anything Re-Gifters was under-written, or at least completed on autopilot.

But I can see the cluttered thing. That's what happens when you get western artists to do manga - in Japan artists have more pages to work in, and are used to their material being shrunk down, so tailor their craft to it somewhat. Equally said artists aren't used to working in Black and white most of the time, so that's another challenge.

If they really want to compete with imported Manga, they really should give people more space, and time, to tell a story. And find a story the needs telling like that.

Bill Ritter said...

By over-written I meant more like p45 in Clubbing. 6 panels, 9 word balloons, 1 caption, and not a lot of depth to the page. This is a lot of writing, not a lot of storytelling.

Your last paragraph is the sentiment I obviously (ironically) was over-writing.

Vocal Minority said...

I dunno. That page introduces a character important to the story, has a significant interaction with the main character and also her grandfather.

It's hardly pointless, and goes towards setting the feeling of the place; constraining a girl used to following her own whims....

...it's just one page and would be silly to over-analyse. But I think it works, although it would be better on a large page which the artist probably didn't plan as well as they could.

Bill Ritter said...

I'm thinking, Mr. Tim, you may be one of them that contrarians the general done warned us all about...

Vocal Minority said...

No I'm not. You can't prove that. You're wrong I say, WRONG!