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I realize it’s a little moot to review Water Baby at this point, one of the titles in the defunct Minx line from DC Comics, but it’s still worthy of a discussion.
Out of the Minx titles, I wasn’t particularly interested in Ross Campbell‘s Water Baby at first. I passed up picking up an advance copy at the MoCCA Art Festival last year. Then I started reading Campbell’s Wet Moon and I kicked myself. Campbell has an uncanny understanding of what it’s like to be a late adolescent teenage girl. I really have no idea how he’s been gifted with this knowledge, but I am in awe of it.
Water Baby follows surfer girl Brody, who has had her leg bit off by a shark. After the stunning and graphic initial sequence, the story picks up a year later when Brody’s ex-boyfriend Jake returns to her life. After some ups and downs, she drags him and her friend Louisa on a road trip to take Jake back to New York state.
The story ends a little abruptly, but I like where Campbell finishes things. Brody’s allowed to be a strong, young woman on her own. That seems like a rare thing in a lot of young adult literature.
Brody is surprisingly physical — I almost want to use the word “vulgar” here, but I think it implies the wrong things. She’s tattooed with a shaved head, bisexual (or at least, her sexuality is fluid). She doesn’t like to shower and she enjoys belching and picking her nose. Brody likes to control her physicality — even before she lost her leg to the shark — and I think that’s refreshing. She’s delightfully earthy, even if she’s sometimes off-putting. She doesn’t care much of what anyone thinks of her.
The sequences of her nightmares are amazing. Campbell renders them wordlessly and Brody sometimes morphs into a shark, or a shark morphs into a man. It’s a revealing insight to Brody, who, for all her matter-of-factness, is still haunted by her accident, but also seems to understand her own power.
I love the way Campbell draws women. He certainly has a fetishistic love for tattooed and pierced women, but his girls have curves and weight in the way real women do. He draws them in all shapes, sizes and colors, something that’s incredibly refreshing.
Water Baby is what I always wanted the Minx line to be — something that teenage girls could see themselves in. This title, along with The New York Four, shows what the line was capable of, even when I had problems with it. I’m still sad that the line wasn’t given enough of a chance to succeed.