Sunday, October 21, 2007

Occasional Reviews: Minx

Thanks in part to OS reader and friend Chris, I've managed to get my hands on five Minx titles to review: Re-Gifters, Confessions of a Blabbermouth, Clubbing, Plain Janes, and As Good As Lily.

It should be fair to note that I have also been reading large piles of teen manga from my local library, which has informed my opinion on these Minx books somewhat. For the most part, I found the manga I read to be fast-moving, emotionally punctuated, and engaging for the targeted audience.

Also, I have debated whether or not I should push through reading books or comics that I find boring/bad in order to give a proper review. I have decided to stop reading any text that I find so disengaging that I want to quit it; such a reaction would match that of the potential consumer, and says a lot.

So, in order of how much I enjoyed them, here are my brief reviews for the Minx line.

Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel
Grade: A+

This book has all the qualities requisite for a good teen graphic novel. Engaging heroine, quality supporting cast, intriguing romantic conflict, lack of cliche, no easy answers. But above all that: story and art that moooooooooooooves. Let me repeat this: moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooves. This point is crucial. It has to move. You have to hook the reader. And when we're talking about teens, maybe that need to hook immediately is even more important.

And I know there has been a lot of criticism regarding the Minx books and the fact that most of the creative talent involved don't have vaginas. But I think Mike Carey nails this. And the art is dynamic, open, and endearing. Of all the Minx books I've read, this one is closest to possessing manga energy.

The Plain Janes
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artists: Jim Rugg
Grade: B+

Plain Janes is very much Minx's "signature" book, and the one with the biggest commercial potential. I enjoyed it but felt it skewed a little older than the target audience. It felt a lot more like a graphic novel from Top Shelf or Fantagraphics than a teen book. But the pace moves very well, and the art is excellent.

Like some reviewers noted, there are a few characters in the novel that get a little cliche. The "evil sheriff." The gay boy with the big gimlet eyes and barrels of school spirit. The Sporty Spice girl. But the protagonist, "Main Jane," had some nice layers to her personality.

Good As Lily
Writer: Derek Kirk Kim
Artist: Jesse Hamm
Grade: B

This book was great but needed editing. There is just too much text, too many big word balloons, and too many panels on each page. Had some of this been cut out, allowing the story and art to "breathe," it could have very well have been a far more successful book.

Also, the Korean-American protagonist is very similar to the Korean-American protagonist in "Re-Gifters." Nothing wrong with having multiple books with Asian protagonists. But the girls look too much alike and have similar frustrations/personality for volumes coming out so close to one another.

How about some African-American girls? They go to my local library and take out manga all the time.

Confessions Of A Blabbermouth
Writers: Mike & Louise Carey
Artist: Aaron Alexovich
Grade: C

I liked the frenetic, fast-paced quality of the art but the book suffered from being one of the last I read. The short, big-headed, huge-eyed spunky protagonist with the bobbed hair. Where have I read this before? Just about in every Minx book I read.

I made it through nearly half the book before I put it down. To be fair, I read "Re-Gifters" after this and loved it. But I just had Minx burnout with "Blabbermouth."

Writer: Andi Watson
Artist: Josh Howard
Grade: C-

The first several pages of "Clubbing," with its open, engaging art, seemed promising. But I quit at page 29. I just couldn't care less about this girl. And where were the clubs? The book is called "Clubbing." I don't want a Merchant Ivory movie. I'm a prole, I know. But I'm just recording my thought process as I read it.

An update: the BF said that the title is a pun because it really refers to golf. Oh, now I really want to read this.

PS: I really liked Andi Watson's "Glister." Okay?

And there you go, my thoughts on the first five Minx books. Some were enjoyable. Some were not.

Also, as I said before, the protagonists were all a little bit similar. Petite black-haired beauties with large expressive eyes, a punky attitude, and bobbed hair. I have no idea where such an archetype came from.

Okay, I'm going now.


  1. The problem with Clubbing is that I find it hard to have a lot of sympathy for whiny city girls who spend hundreds of dollars on boots and complain all the time. I read the whole book and it REALLY need a lot of the first third chopped. The reader has to spend forever getting to know an unlikable character with no depth to her. The plot is almost identical to Hot Fuzz, actually, and has its charm, but it's ultimately shallow - and not necessarily a good shallow. Could have been easily and better told as a regular length comic book.

    And I found the eye candy aspect to the main character to be a bit obnoxious.

    Loved Plain Janes and Re Gifters, though, and enjoyed Confessions by the end of it and Good as Lily was enjoyable was well done.

  2. Haven't read any of them and not really likely to, but... yay, Sonny Liew! Always happy to see a local boy get work in the American market.

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  4. Glad to see someone else on the "Re-Gifters" bandwagon. I wrote this lonnnng review of it a week or so ago:


    I was highly skeptical (understatement) about the whole Minx idea but the artwork for "Re-Gifters" made me want to try the book. And I'm glad I did. Glad.

  5. haven't read 'confessions of a blabbermouth' yet, but i have read the other four.

    thought your capsule reviews were pretty much spot-on across the board. i'd add: what happened to the ending of 'the plain janes'? it totally gave me that 'we've only got three pages left? oh well--' feeling.

    re-gifters was a good, good story though. i hope it finds the audience it deserves.

  6. I dug Re-Gifters and Plain Janes, and I thought Good As Lily was pretty good. I didn't read the other two, although I considered Confessions of a Blabbermouth. I suppose I could still read that one, but I have little to no interest in Clubbing (Josh Howard's art turns me off). I'll probably end up getting Kimmie66 (I like virtual reality sci-fi stuff), and the upcoming Ross Campbell one (I forget the title) looks nice. And I'm all over Brian Wood/Ryan Kelly's The New York Four.

  7. I'm glad you liked my artwork in Blabbermouth, but I have to say... I think Mike and Louise (and Andi, too) deserve to have their entire book read before you start flinging "C's" around.

    Curses on you for revealing Shelly Bond's nefarious "Doppelganger Policy!"

  8. "I think Mike and Louise (and Andi, too) deserve to have their entire book read before you start flinging "C's" around."

    The consumer potentially makes these decisions in the store based on less pages than what I have read.

    Re-Gifters, another Carey book, was read last and -- even with "Minx Burnout" -- I enjoyed it the most. It had a certain something that kept me reading.

    In the final analysis, it may come down to me getting "hooked" by the protagonist in "Re-Gifters" and not "Blabbermouth" or "Clubbing." Indeed, I didn't like the heroine in "Clubbing" at all -- or even hated her enough to want to see her get her comeuppance.

    Also, the beginning of "Blabbermouth" was *crammed* with text and panels, and in a smaller format like this -- especially in B&W -- it gets a little boring, at least for me. Maybe the script could have been edited down a bit more & it would have given the cool art more room to breathe.

    Raina Telgemeier's "Babysitters Club" GNs, though skewing slightly younger, nails this genre solid. SOLID.

  9. Re-Gifters is the only one I've tried -- but I really loved it.

  10. Aaron Alexevich also did "Serenity Rose," my favorite Goth comic of all time. So at least give him some credit for working his own tiny, spunky heroine before the Minx books came out...

  11. "The consumer potentially makes these decisions in the store based on less pages than what I have read."

    Oh, definitely. And of course it's a totally valid reaction to put in a blog post. I think I'm just hung up on the letter grade thing. It just seems to push things away from "general impressions in a blog post" into "consumer reports" territory.

    I just imagine Rogert Ebert stalking out of a film screening 40 minutes in, then posting a ZERO STARS review. You can't help but wonder if the guy wouldn't have found at least one star worth of quality in the second half. And if I was the filmmaker, I'd want the general ticket-buying public to know I'd earned at least that one star.

    In this case, of course, the letter grade could go DOWN, so I'll just keep my mouth shut now.

    (Thanks, Gloom Raider!)

  12. Aaron, go pick up your copy of "Blabbermouth" and start reading at page 10-11. See how crammed those two pages are? Do you see how your art is lost in those interminable courier-font narrative captions? Do you think your art is better served on a wider surface or smushed into teeny tiny panels and choked with words?

    Now go to page 73. You see how much better that looks? Three panels. A sparing use of balloons & captions. On page 73, I can fully appreciate your art style.

    Now go back to page 28. Suffocated with text. You are forced to shrink your art down, push it aside. Probably didn't seem like a problem when you did the actual drawings, but reduced to the size of a manga book it looks extremely cluttered.

    And I disagree with the idea that if a book or movie turns you off, you need to sit through it anyway to give it a proper review. The fact that you had to put the book down or walk out of the movie theater says a lot.

    I'm not saying that you are a bad artist, because you're not. I'm saying that this book did not show off your art in the best way it could because the script wasn't edited enough to make your art breathe. Your art style and the smaller format was not fully taken into account when editing down the text for this book. This book was edited like it was a larger comic book.

    I used to co-edit those digest-sized "Classics Illustrated" books for Acclaim Comics. We basically took took those old CI books and shrunk them down to fit this itty bitty format. It looked really crowded and was hard to read. In contrast, I also edited "Disney" comics in that size. The writers (the better ones, at any rate) wrote scripts that were mindful of the digest format. Consequently, there were less panels per page and less balloons. These books were far easier to read.

    In the case of "Re-Gifters," we also have a fair amount of panels & dialogue. In that case, Sonny Liew & Marc Hempel have composed the art across the page in a way that makes it easier on the eyes to follow. Their art is a dance of composition and varied camera angles that does its best to carry the reader's eyes through dialogue that -- now that I look back on it -- could have been edited down as well.

    "Plain Janes" succeeds best in this format. Jim Rugg's art is open & varied, and Cecil Castellucci's writing is restrained, thoughtful, and used sparingly to hit beats (rather than to hit you over the head).

    Again, your work on "Blabbermouth" wasn't bad -- it was just not used in the best way possible because the scripting was too heavy. If you do another book in this format, stick to page compositions like 73 and 77 and avoid pages like 86-87, 47, and 152.

  13. If you can't write a comic, which are generally pretty quick reads, that is engaging enough for a reviewer, who in this case is a comic book fan, to finish, I think you might have a problem that could be reflected in a low letter grade.