May 10, 2009

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Re-Gifters

Written by Mike Carey
Illustrated by SonnyLiew and Marc Hempel
Minx

DC comics gets into the teen girl business with these series of comics, which are rather ghettoed into a Minx Line, which seems a bit odd, but there you go. This one's written by Mike Carey, who you may know best from Hellblazer, and two others I've not heard of before.

The plot is textbook shojo manga (and might have been a better fit for DC's CMX line, perhaps)--a young, hip girl has rather stern parents, one cool friend, and a very big hangup on a boy that's no good for her. She's Korean-American, fights in the traditional Hapkido style, and likes to talk to the camera, even noting once that it's her dialog balloon. Her boy crush is hurting her fighting style, and she'll do anything to get him to her side--even if that means risking her place in the tournament to get him a prize gift.

Things go sour when the gift isn't exactly wanted (hence our title), and Dixie is stuck with no tournament, no boyfriend, and no quirky friend, either. All looks lost when she meets up with the local toughie who takes a fancy to her style. Thanks partly to him and partly to the fact that her friend is far better than she deserves, Dixie gets to fight again.

Of course, this leads to her facing her crush, who tries to use it as a way to win the match. Dixie wavers, but fate intervenes just before the final match. Can Dixie get her "ki" back in time to show this ungrateful wretch what for?

Of course she can!

This is a rather good American version of the shojo style. Unlike other creators who've tried to adapt, Mike Carey writes as though he's actually read shojo manga, so the dialog sounds right and the characters act as I'd expect them to. Though this is a strength, it's also a weakness--there were times when I felt a little too much like Carey was playing by the numbers, such as when her friend forgives her without much prompting or when the tough guy kid falls for Dixie. Still, I'd rather see the tropes nodded to rather than abused, and Carey does a good job of it. (Though I do wonder why nothing comes of the fact that the tough guy is actually a minor criminal, which Dixie seems not to care about overly much.)

Liew's artwork for this works well--he gives us the characters without a lot of flash, and he makes it possible for me to tell everyone apart, which is really all I ask on a manga. Dixie gets a lot of descriptive looks while still maintaining structural integrity.

I like the idea of the Minx line, even if I wish it were a bit less stereotypical in its naming. I'd definitely read more books from this niche of DC in the future.