Thursday, March 06, 2008

Blitzkreig Book Reviews: The MINX Stinks Edition

I've written about DC Comics' Minx line before. I am mostly unimpressed by its offerings, but figured that I should take advantage of the Cleveland Public Library while I can to check out the rest of the line before I move.

If you haven't heard, Minx was a line pitched to teen girls, not a traditionally big audience for comic book readership, but one that's become major consumers of manga. Why will girls read manga and not comic books? Both capitalize on a love of serialized stories, the ability to pay attention to nuance and wait for a payoff, and the general push towards alternate media format for storytelling. But here's the rub--not everyone has a Carol & John's in their neighborhood. Manga gets sold at the big box bookstores, and YA librarians buy it. You don't have to brave the boy's club atmosphere at the comics shop, the often unreliable publishing schedules, and comics can be intimidating with their inner workings of artists, lines and who does what. Despite fertile areas of cross platform adaptation of intellectual property in using characters and stories in tv and film, comics themselves are suffering from a lack of readership and shrinking long term business prospects.* So Minx is an idea to serve as a gateway to comics and open up new readership to the industry. There's been criticism about the ghettoization of girls implicit in this approach, but I'm okay with that. Face it, men and women sometimes want different things in their reading material. Everyone wants a good read, it's just what may be satisfying to them that differs. Even keeping that in mind, I'm frustrated with Minx Books. I love the ideas, but the execution is mostly crap. And I fear that it may be too late to make improvements, since there's no information on 2008 releases or any information on any new titles available from Minx at the website or mentioned in any of the press releases I saw.

Here's a roundup of thoughts on the last three books published in 2007:

Good As Lily by Derek Kirk Kim & Jesse Hamm: This book is just a mess. The title refers to the protagonist's older sister, who died at the age of 6. However, this bit of information is imparted and the importance of which is resolved in approximately 4 pages, which leaves us with 140 pages of plot about something else entirely. Hint for writers--your title should be related to the plot of the book in some way. This plot is about Grace Kwon, who gets hit on the head by a stubborn pinata at her 18th birthday party, and later that night runs into her 5 year old, 29 year old and 70 year old self. So she hides them from her parents in her bedroom and proceeds to live her normal life, which involves her crush on the drama teacher, ignoring the friend with the hots for her and something about the school play. The plot's an incomprehensible mess, the characters are paper thin, there's no logic or motivation to the story, and as a reader I felt cheated and irritated.

Confessions of A Blabbermouth by Mike & Louise Carey, illustrated by Aaron Alexovich: Mike Carey wrote The Re-Gifters which is the one Minx product that I thought really knocked it out of the park. This book is less emotionally engaging and rather predictable, but a good effort. Teenage Tasha's a blogger extraordinaire, but her home life gets messy when her mom gets serious with her asshole boyfriend J.D. , who comes complete with an annoying daughter Chloe. Both seem to be weirdly threatened by Tasha's writing, and share a secret of their own. A tightly plotted story that is tissue thin on development, but Tasha's got a well-written narrative voice. Alexovich's illustrations are enjoyably energetic and spiky.

Kimmie66 by Aaron Alexovich: Set in the future, this story is a cautionary tale of where too much dependence on online personas and too little human interaction will lead us. I should be all over this, right? Except that the telling is a little ham handed. Anyway, Telly is a teenage girl who spends most of her life online in a Goth lair. She starts to question reality and online life when her best friend online, Kimmie66, commits suicide. This leads her to investigate Kimmie's offline life and seek connection to other people. I had problems getting into the story and connecting with the characters, but it's certainly a better written tale than some of the others and would provoke discussion about online life and behavior.

*So I'm thinking of writing a comic publishing industry analysis for my professional portfolio. Any interest in reading it?


Hugh Ryan said...

Have you ever looked into Scott Pilgrim? That and the Buffy comic are the two that even my non-comic-reading female friends seem to enjoy. The Buffy transference of fandom from the TV show makes sense to me, but I'm not sure why Scott Pilgrim, other than that it's a pretty great comic in general.

Kerry said...

I think I've had Scott Pilgrim on my list, but truthfully I hated Bryan O'Malley's art on one of the Hopeless Savages series, so it's not a priority for me to check it out. I couldn't tell which character was which and they all looked liked garden gnomes. I have heard the raves though. Joss Whedon...I heard about the new Buffy developments, and they don't faze me, but after Buffy Season 7, Angel Season 4, and Serenity, I concluded that the man cannot be trusted not to fuck up his creations. It's like the painter who doesn't know when to stop painting. And reliable publication is important to me, and he is not good with that (Fray and the Serenity comic prequel as evidence). I am looking forward to the next Runaways compilation with him at the helm.

I do most of my comics reading in the collections from the library--the only ones I buy monthly are Bill Willingham's Fables and his Jack of the Fables series. I'll post about them soon.

Hugh Ryan, do you have no life also? As MFA Jane told me, it's Friday night! I pointed out that there's 2 feet of snow outside but she still believes people go out under such circumstances.