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.
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.
By Vocal Minority