Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hopeless Savages by Jen Van Meter, Christine Norrie and Chynna Clugston-Major

Hopless Savages is a graphic novel written by Jen Van Meter, illustrated by Christine Norrie (with some flashback sequences illustrated by Chynna Clugston-Major), with original covers by Andi Watson. I really wanted to like this, partially because I went to college with Van Meter and partially because I want to enjoy the books I read. But it ended up being a bit too "comic-booky" for me in the end.

What do I mean by that? Well, in mainstream American comics, the way to solve a problem -- any problem -- is to hit somebody in the face. Fifty years of the increasing domination of superheroes has ground in the idea "comics = fight scenes" so deeply into our mental fabric that no detergent can get it out. (Forgive me, I'm doing laundry as I type this.) Hopeless Savages started out like a story about people with real lives, and ended up being about punching The Bad Guys in the face to solve all of the protagonists' problems.

Hopeless Savages is the story of the four children of punk superstars turned suburban middle-class homeowners Dirk Hopeless and Nikki Savage. The kids have the names Rat, Arsenal, Twitch, and Skank Zero. (The last engages in made-up pseudo-curses all of the time, as well.) So far, the self-indulgence level is high, but tolerable. But the plot is kicked off by the parents being kidnapped (for what turns out to be an utterly inadequate reason), and so the three younger children have to "re-program" Rat to be A Punk, so that they can go and beat up the people who took Dad and Mum. Oy. The plot is pretty generic "regroup the team and investigate the Deep Dark Secret in the Past that we allude to but never explain," with added punkitude for flavor.

The punk-ness of the protagonists strikes me as entirely being on the level of a pose -- they seem to be serious about their music, don't do drugs or engage in other self-destructive acts, live in what looks like a very comfortable suburban setting, and seem to have no discernible politics. The extent to which they are "punk" is entirely clothing and attitude -- and, yes, attitude does go a long way with punk, but I think this is a bit too far.

The short form: I didn't believe in these characters. They're supposed to be fun caricatures, yes, but they didn't work for me even on that level. And the whole face-punching thing struck me as a bad direction from the beginning, but that's my prejudices speaking. Sorry, Jen; I guess it just wasn't for me.

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