Monday, October 03, 2005
SPX Reviews-3 Street Angel
After a lovely weekend here in Philly, I am back with another review from the haul of comics I got at the SPX con.
Todays review is of Street Angle by Jim Rugg (artist) and Brian Maruca (writer) and published by Slave Labor Graphics, the publisher of such fine fare as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and more.
I admit, Street Angel slipped right past me, I think I had read about SA here or there, but with my visits to the comic shop infrequent, sometimes a couple of months between visits, a lot may slip past or go unseen, or be sold out by the time I get to the store. I missed the first two issue of Rocketo this way, and I guess I need to have them pull stuff for me, but frankly I get lazy about it. My retailer, Showcase Comics is a good one, and they do try and get anything I ask for and have a very well stocked shop. But still SA isn't a book that unfortunately will pull X-men numbers, so it would be easy to not have a copy on the shelf when I stroll in every 40 days or so. It was Mike Hawthorne who clued me into this great fun comic, even going so far as to say he'd buy it back from me if I didn't like it. So I'm thinking, well this better be good!
When I attended the SPX con Jim Rugg was one of the artists I put down to seek out and find a copy of Street Angle. Jim was a super nice guy and we chatted for a spell, it turns out he's another Darkhawk fan...who knew?...and when I wanted to buy the trade he said he couldn't sell it to me, as it was the last one he had at the show, so I asked if he could save it and sell it to me at the end of the con, which he did. Jim also had some swell looking prints of Street Angel and his other character Afrodisiac for sale. When I saw the print of Afrodisiac I knew I had seen Jim's art before and dug it in the Project: Superior Anthology put out by Ad House, which I picked up several months back.
Anyway SA is an awesome fun ride with her tung firmly planted in her cheek, fist in some ninja's jaw and her feet on her board. Rugg and Maruca give love props and poke fun of Kung-fu action and Blacksploitation and Marvel comics from the 70's without resorting to cliche and also without being limited by trying to be "retro", something many comics who derive direct inspiration from past eras do. They seem to smartly cherry-pick or add the spice of past eras where they need to. The name Street Angel even sounds like something Kirby would have coined. So while the trappings may seem retro, SA is truly modern. Maruca and Rugg also draw upon one the chief strengths of comics, the ability to make the absurd work. In a movie it would be very hard to pull off time traveling pirates, Ican gods, ninjas and the Son of God all in 90 minutes and have it make any sense, not seem like a fever dream, a cluster fuck of 12 screen writers. The strength of comics is that drawings can make make the unreal, real, the fantastic all blend and seem logical, fun, seem natural, make it work.
The Scene with Street Angle and Christ in the church had me physically laughing, something that few comics do, humor or otherwise, and when I am laughing while holding a comic I am usually laughing at a bad drawing instead of laughing with the artist. Rugg's work veers between a certain brushy-pulpy lushness, especially effective on the rundown back streets of the city, at times it reminds me of a bit of Joe Sinnott's lush lines, Romita Senior or even Mike Allred, sometimes even a pulpy Dan Clowes, the art being far more lush towards the end of the series. Here and there through the series he'll do a really close-up, lovely rendering of SA, which really gives us readers a real portrait of her a personality, unlike the cracked hip, broken-backed, balloon boobed soft-core porn most heroines are today. She got moxie and she's 12 years old, maybe the averegae babyman can only relate to the love-doll looking herione, SA seems real, not a babyman whack fantasy. She's underage anyway.
I imagine this book could appeal to girls and fans of Tank Girl. Maruca's dialog captures the same snappy appeal Stan Lee's had without trying to hit you over the head with it like so many who also tread in that vein. It's a fine line to be sure, I have to say the dialog also reminded me much of the approach used on The Venture Brothers, another successful use of the retro as modern. The characters are hip enough without crossing the line, so there's a more urban, modern awareness to the writing and the characters, who at times seem to almost acknowledge they are indeed in a comic without breaking the 4th wall the way they do in Scott Pilgrim. So we know we are in the now, or almost now, alternate now and not running down the alleys with Street Angel in some weird 70's action comic. I have to say more super hero comics should be as clearly told as SA is, you know who she is, what's she's about in every story, something I can't say I feel when reading most modern comics, I always feel like the glass is half empty most of the time. I have to say I probably also liked it more by reading it in the collection than I would as single issues. The collection is a pretty quick yet satisfying read, and like any good meal leaves you wanting some more when the plate is empty. There are a few weak spots, I would have liked to see a bit more authenticity with the pirates and ships, an better focus/eye contact between the characters in the compositions, and sometimes figures seemed a bit rubbery, Rugg definitely improved as the issues progressed, and his style congealed more. I don't know what the future holds for SA, Rugg told me he is planning more stories with Street Angel in the future as well as Afrodisiac. I hope those comics are coming soon as I really enjoyed this romp. So Street Angle gets 4 Stars from me.