Thursday, June 21, 2007
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.
— 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 ...)
— 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.