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Near Miss: Minx

minxLast year, I read Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe. The graphic novel is about a teenage girl, in attempt to make herself seem intriguing, fakes having a peanut allergy. It’s a lovely book that I feel deserved more attention.

But my one thought after reading it was “That could’ve been a Minx book.”

An imprint of DC, Minx launched in 2007 and was dead by 2008, but there were problems as soon as it was announced. The name Minx never bugged me — it was cute and just salacious enough — but the lack of female creators was an issue. Minx had too much to prove and had to do it too quickly.

But Minx ultimately faced a bigger problem than just skepticism: The books just weren’t very good.

The majority of the 12 titles follow this extremely set format: An introspective, outcast teenage girl flirts with danger and boys before learning some very important life lesson, delivered with some moralistic overtones. They play a bit too safely, shying away from any real issues. For a moment in Confessions of a Blabbermouth, there was an implication of possible sexual abuse before it was quickly resolved into a “twist” that had been obviously almost from the beginning. Emiko Superstar isn’t the worst of the bunch, but when compared to the devastating and beautiful Skim, also written by Mariko Tamaki, it feels obvious the Minx editors didn’t trust their audience’s ability to handle anything that could be perceived as “dark.”

If this was just one or two of the titles, it could be forgiven. But when faced with about seven titles that all share what is more or less the same character and the same plot dressed up in different ways, it begins to feel a bit paternalistic and tiresome.

Not every one is like this, though. Ross Campbell‘s Water Baby is refreshingly crude and physical and has teenagers that actually act and talk like teenagers. The New York Four, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, has its issues, but at least felt like something teenage girls would want to read. I don’t know where Aaron Alexovich‘s Kimmie66 was originally pitched to, but with its twisty sci-fi story about identity, it’s definitely the oddball of the bunch (and is perhaps the most interesting because of it).

But I think beyond issue of repetitive plot structure, what bothered me the most about the Minx books is that they’re all basically a waste of good talent.

The editors had a good eye at hiring creators who appealed to young women but then buried the exact things that made them appealing to that audience.

Jim Rugg is a phenomenal artist, and while his work on both of the Plain Janes books is attractive enough, it lacks the kinetic, playful energy of his Street Angel. Both Andi Watson and Derek Kirk Kim are poetic, thoughtful writers, but Clubbing and Good As Lily suffer from the lack of their art. For the most part, there’s very little chemistry between the writers and the artists. These books feel like work for hire and it shows.

Still, there’s a part of me that admires Minx not for what it ended up as, but for what it wanted to be. Minx was definitely an attempt to capture the young female readers of manga, but I think it provided a point of transition for publishers to realize this was an audience worth catering to. I can’t think of too many graphic novels aimed specifically at teenage girls before Minx. I can think of way too many that have come out since then.

I don’t think it’s quite right to say that Minx opened the door for those graphic novels. But, at the very least, I think Minx deserves some credit for making publishers realize that there was a door worth opening.

Near Miss is a semi-regular feature that will be appearing on Comicsgirl throughout 2013-2014. This project is sponsored by Big Planet Comics.

Review: The New York Five


The New York Five

Buy on Amazon.com

I was prepared to write off all of the Minx line before I read The New York Four — finally, there was a book in this imprint I felt like teenage girls would actually want to read. Of course, ultimately, it didn’t matter since DC Comics dropped the Minx imprint.

But I was happy to see that The New York Five found a home in the Vertigo line. Sure, it was maybe a little outside of the typical Vertigo title — there isn’t an abundance of sex or violence here — but as far as comics that are for more than usual audiences, it fit right in.

I bought The New York Five happily. I want more comics like this, after all.

Well, maybe not exactly like this.

Picking up where The New York Four left off, our heroines Lona, Merissa, Ren and Riley are still dealing with the repercussions of their first semester, and they’re now all sharing an apartment. More or less. Lona is still coping with her new reality and who she is in New York; Merissa has family to deal with; Ren is a bit too much of a free spirit; and Riley is trying to make up with her estranged sister.

It’s a lot of drama and purposefully so. But I’d say it’s almost too much drama, especially once street kid Olive (the fifth in the New York “five”) is thrown into the mix. If you haven’t read the first book, you aren’t going to get to know these girls much at all — in writer Bryan Wood’s hands, they are broadly drawn character types. I wanted to get to know them, but that the whole point of this series was that the characters withdrew from each other, it was almost impossible to do so.

Ryan Kelly’s New York still feels like a real place, however, and his art gives these character life. They are still pouty lips and tousled hair, but their fashionable glamor is part of the reason why The New York Five works when it does — it feels aspirational. Even if you don’t want to be these characters, you easily admire them.

Still, whereas I enjoyed the intimate drama of The New York Four, The New York Five just seemed to pull in too many directions at once. I feel like it tried to be too big and lost sight of the power of just telling the stories of these four young women out on their own for the first time. Maybe if it had been five issues instead of four, I would’ve been happier with it.

But for all my complaints, I’d still pick up The New York Six if that ends up happening. Even if I wasn’t 100 percent sold on this one, I still want more like it to exist. I will still buy them. Clearly, for all my complaints about The New York Five, I’m still completely sold on it.

(This review is obviously based on the four issues of the limited series — you know, since the collected version isn’t out yet. You can still, more the likely, pick up the individual issues at better comic book stores. If you want it, I encourage you to do that, but I will happily take the few cents you would send my way with the pre-order of the collection.)