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Street Angel #1-2
By Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca
Published by Slave Labor Graphics; $2.95 USD per issue

In just two issues, Street Angel has proven itself a scrappy and sardonic action comic about an eighth-grade girl who fights crime on the streets. Jesse Sanchez is a refreshingly blunt protagonist, imbued by Rugg and Maruca with a dry wit and a resigned dedication to battling whatever evil gets in her way. While Street Angel has a sharp sense of its own unique identity, fans of The Goon, Hellboy, or the Brubaker/Cooke Catwoman will be extremely comfortable here.

There's a hint of the post-ironic surrounding Street Angel. While Ninjas, pirates, a mad scientist and an Incan god play into the plots, the book never takes them seriously -- in fact, some key action sequences are disposed of off-screen, with tongue-in-cheek captions describing the action and quickly allowing the plot to move on. It's an unusual and flashy technique that works better than you might think. If nothing else, it serves notice that the core concerns of the creators are the characters, not the wild goings-on. Rugg and Maruca have fun with some worn-out comics cliches, for example the ninjas are anything but cool, with one of them getting his pants stolen by Jesse and being forced to confront his fellow ninjas in his tighty-whities. Funny stuff, and about as far from 1980s Frank Miller as you can get and still have ninjas in the book.

The plot of #2 ably demonstrates the creative team's intentions and abilities; it begins centuries ago during the fall of the Incan empire, and explodes onto the streets of Jesse Sanchez's Wilkesborough, forcing her into action. So much story is packed into this issue that I was amazed at how well the creators managed to pull it together and wrap it up in one issue. The artwork is even more appealing than that seen in the debut issue, with Rugg showing a welcome Farel Dalrymple influence in the street scenes, including an impressive full-page shot of Jesse looking down upon the disaster that has struck her city.

The center of the series, Jesse Sanchez is thoroughly engaging and an utter delight. Bright, inventive and a master strategist, she's essentially Mike Baron and Steve Rude's Nexus in the body of an eighth-grade girl. Her self-confidence and uber-competence should serve as a terrific role model for girls and an eye-opening revelation to guys. And in case you think she's being exploited for any possible sex appeal, in #1 she repeatedly calls a middle-aged ogler "PERVERT!" with a bullhorn in one of the funniest sequences I've seen in a comic in years.

The story and art in Street Angel share equal responsibility for the delight I took in reading these issues -- there's a generous use of black ink to define space that echoes artists like Adrian Tomine, Dan Clowes and even Charles Burns, but the basics of solid cartooning are there as well, with unusual angles, fully-drawn backgrounds and a wonderful sense of movement combining to create a complete world for Jesse to skateboard through.

After only two issues, Street Angel has become one of my favourite titles. It's bound to be one of the most talked-about books of the year, and I hope it finds the wide audience it deserves. Grade: 5/5

-- Alan David Doane

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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