Sunday, May 25, 2008

Val Reviews American Dream & DC Special: Raven

Marvel's American Dream and and DC's DC Special: Raven are two superheroine solo mini-series aimed at a younger, teenage market. I hesitate to say "teenage girl market," because there is really nothing in these comics that would really be enjoyed by one gender over another. They just both skew younger; the cringeworthy use of the word "emo" on the cover of Raven #1, and the cribbed "High School Musical" blurb on the second issue, sort of testifies to that.

DC Special: Raven follows the exploits of the apparently reincarnated (or whatever) Raven as she tries to fit into high school. This gives her a chance to wear goth clothing and those cute striped leggings, thus following up on the gothic cred the character received in the late great Teen Titans cartoon series. But whereas the Raven in the cartoon was a Daria-type witty independent teen, the character in DC Special is sort of...whiny. A lot of lurching on the floor with her head in her hands going: "Oh, my psychic powers! Someone's gonna die! BUT WHO?" She alternates between this and the old standby, " just trying to fit in."

A lot has been made of Damion Scott/Robert Campanella's art and Sigmund Torre's rather stylistic and psychedelic art on this book. Some parts work better than others, but in general I don't see a serious problem with it. It's obviously geared to reach a younger, more manga-savvy audience.

That said, such an attempt to reach the teen market, possibly the female market, and maybe dare we say the new reader market, gets stymied by this maniacal insistence on shoehorning "Crisis" mentions and nods. Why is this necessary in this mini-series? The "cliffhanger" at the end of issue 1, for instance -- that mask would only be of significance to I'd say fair-to-middling DC continuity fans. It has no meaning in-and-of-itself to a new reader. Why even put it in there? I just don't get it.

American Dream, for those who don't know, is the female "version" of Captain America in the Spider-Girl universe. Written by Spider-Girl scribe Tom DeFalco, the book is in many ways a similar book, the only difference being that American Dream is older and works with a team.

The mini-series is amiable enough and the character of Shannon Carter is well-defined and multi-layered. Unlike the headstrong spunky Spider-Girl, Carter as American Dream is more straitlaced and somewhat of a workaholic. Both characters make excellent female superheroes for younger readers to enjoy.

The plot by DeFalco, involving illegal immigration, a gang of evil Avengers analogues, and these mysterious crystal men, is not as tight as that of the Spider-Girl monthly, but still enjoyable. Penciller Todd Nauck, along with inker Scott Koblish, seems to be taking a page out of Art Adams' playbook with every page, and it is a definite evolution for him as a penciller from his more angular and cartoony Young Justice days.In sum, it's great to see competing solo mini-series about young superheroines out on the stands. Will they get into the hands of the audiences they are seeming to target? Or does that happen when they are reprinted in manga-sized format?


  1. Anonymous3:14 PM

    Wow, that's so Raven.

  2. I too like Todd's art in American Dream quite a bit. I wish Rob were inking this, but I like Scott "What Color Is My Hair Today?" Koblish a lot too so I'm kind of torn. :) I love that DeFalco seems to be intimating, with the name "Shannon Carter," that, even though AD's origin actually shows her parents, it's always possible she's related to Captain America love interest Sharon Carter (and perhaps, by extension, Cap as well)...

  3. I really dug american dream its a good read, raven on the other hand, as much as i liked the character in other books was, well, "meh"s not really a word but it sums up my feelings about it. the "emo" advertising was a warning sign, but do we ever listen?

  4. You know, I never really thought about it and I definitely not the target demographic for such a thing but I think AMERICAN DREAM should be reprinted in the digest format and put by the Manga books. It's a decent series thus far and would probably do well there.

  5. I wish my daughter read more comics. I gotta get her offa of this Betty and Veronica crap.

  6. American Dream is great. I love DeFalco's old-school style, it's what makes Spider-Girl an AWESOME read every month and infinitely superior than the crap they call Spider-Man these days.

    Raven looked too goofy for my tastes, so I let it sit. I'm already picking up two Titans books, do I really need more?

  7. Anonymous5:02 PM

    Question: Why did you tag this as "Catholic Superheroines" ?