Thursday, June 21, 2007

minx 2.0

How Jen Dik Seong Got Her Ki Back


Mike Carey's Re-Gifters, penciled by Sonny Liew, is an enjoyable read. Although the book is structured around formulaic plot elements and standard character accoutrements, these pieces come together in the service of a storyline that generates empathy for the characters and suspense regarding the final outcome.

Plot elements:
— Jen Dik Seong (Dixie) is a Hopkido black belt whom we meet in the lead-up to her prep for the national championships. Dixie is really good at Hopkido.

— Dixie is in unrequitedly in love with Brad, a white dude in her sparring group who is all wrong for her.

— Dixie's dad, who lost his business during the LA riots, is struggling to get back on his financial feet.

— Dixie learns that the neighborhood bad boy, Dillinger, is actually a really nice cool boy named Tomas.

— Dixie throws away the entrance money for the big competition on a birthday gift for Brad. (Brad turns around and gives the gift, a statue of a warrior, to the girl he pines after ...)

Character elements:
— Dixie is small, loud, and the school firebrand, known for her temper and feistiness. (Her teacher refers to her in-class eruptions as "visitations from Planet Dickson.")

— Dixie seeks to reclaim the inner serenity (ki) snatched from her by her intense feelings for Brad.

— Dixie's family is nuclear, supportive, and her parents are socially strict in the manner practiced, it seems, only by immigrant families.

— Dixie has one friend, Avril, who truly understands her.

Early in the book, Dixie gets into a scrape when she walks through the wrong part of town; the city's fractious racial geography emerges as a crucial plot element:


Dillinger is introduced in this scene; he talks down his buddies and defuses the situation. As the sensible alpha male of the neighborhood's Latino street toughs, he provides a stark contrast to the blandly white and weasle-like Brad.


As the plot progresses, Dixie earns the respect of the honorable boys, even those who earlier displayed racial animosity towards her, by decisively vanquishing each of them on the field of battle.

At a later competition, Dillinger himself goes from her street protector to the victim of her greater Hopkido mojo:


Before she does, the reader recognizes that Dillinger is Dixie's perfect match because he is man enough to accept that she can defeat him.

Re-Gifters cleverly combines the warrior's quest, the immigrant story, and a young love triangle. Comparing the first two Minx titles, I'd have to say that Re-Gifters is the better plotted and paced of the two, and proves that the building blocks don't need to be particularly original for a narrative to be satisfying.


As Pauline Kael used to say: it's corn, but it's good corn.

Friday, June 15, 2007

In Good Hands

Marvel has announced that Terry Moore will take up writing duties on Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

This is great news! Although I had actually resigned myself to dropping the book because of the loss of both Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa, I'm more than happy to keep reading a Moore-authored book (whoever the artist might be).

Friday, June 08, 2007

Supergirl #18

When I try to sort out how all the plot elements are supposed to fit together, things get impossibly confusing.

So let me just say that Supergirl has been put to the test, and she passed.

So spoke the Monitor: she is indeed the one true Supergirl.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Summer of Supergirl?

The online comic press brought some hopeful news regarding the direction of the Supergirl comic book, which has been going through some considerable growing pains over the past year.

Two very heartening quotes from Tony Bedard, who will soon take up duties as the writer of Supergirl, are contained in his interview with the Pulse:
I'm just sticking to the basics: Kara is from Krypton, she's insanely powerful, but she wants to be good. I also happen to think she needs to eat a sandwich and cover up a bit, but then I'm a father.

I have basic expectations about what's appropriate for a character with the "S" on her chest. I don't think that's a limitation -- it points the way toward the proper area in which to search for fresh material. She's not a dark avenger or Goth punk. She's a strange visitor from another planet who should embody all that's best in humanity and in America. That's right, America. The land of immigrants who make good.

The article is accompanied by a series of drawings by Renato Guedes, who will pencil for Bedard. As evidence of how he plans to depict the character, they point to a very nice change of direction for how Supergirl will look in her own book.

Filled with encouragement over this welcome sharpening of the character's focus, I was further heartened by this week's Action Comics #850, written by Kurt Busiek, Geoff Johns, and Fabien Nicieza, and penciled by none other than Renato Guedes.

The story, titled "Superman: Past, Present ... and Future!" provides a well-written overview of Superman's career. What gives the story added punch, for me, is that the selected portions of Superman's past are witnessed by Supergirl and some of the Legion of Superheroes.

Brainiac5 builds a chronal machine that will allow Kara to look back a thousand years into her past. However, rather than look at her own life, which seems like a daunting prospect to the teen-ager, Kara decides to take a look at her cousin's life. Although everyone else thinks Superman is a selfless hero, Supergirl informs her comrades that she actually feels he's something of a superpowered, domineering jerk.

The issue works to show the reader that Supergirl finally comes to understand why Superman has been such an over-protective, bossy, and smothering elder cousin.

In particular, I was pleased to see this panel:

Although Kara's been through moments of enlightenment like this in the past, it's very satisfying to hear her say I get it with conviction, and in a context that leads me to believe that perhaps, after all this time, she might actually be on her way towards acting like a hero who understands who she is and how she might constructively interact with those who love her.

This development can only make her a more appealing, effective superhero, and I can say, at last, that I am looking forward to future Kara-related developments.

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