Thursday, June 16, 2016

As If Skateboarding Orphans Don't Have Enough To Worry About

I picked up this hardcover collection of Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca's Street Angel a couple of months ago, because I'd seen some panels from some the current issues they're releasing online, and it looked interesting. I'm ten years behind the curve, but that isn't anything new. I was pretty sure I was going to like this a half-dozen pages in, as the title character kicks in the door of the mayor's office, then delivers her half of the conversation through a megaphone, just to be a jerk to him (he deserved it).

Street Angel stars Jesse Sanchez, a junior high aged orphan who is also an ace skateboarding, kung-fu crimefighter. None of the 5 issues in the hardcover are connected to each other, and each one seems to be playing with different tropes or common superhero comic concepts. Mad scientist threatening the city, time-travelers (who are conquistadors), spacemen, killer robots, demons trying to make the plucky female lead their bride, randomly capricious religious figures. For the most part, Jesse reacts as someone who has seen all of it before, and is just annoyed by most of it. She'll point out the stupidity of some of it, but for the most part, it's just one more problem to deal with, like homework, or food..It feels a bit like Rugg and Maruca are pointing out how ridiculous this gets, while also gleefully embracing it for the sake of having cool stuff in their stories.

It reminds me of other comics from the mid-2000s where everyone was adding whatever random weird stuff they thought of because it would be cool or awesome. A lot of times it involved Tesla, I think. I did it in some of the stuff I wrote, in my own limited way, so this isn't a complaint. I love that Rugg and Maruca will decide that time-traveling conquistadors invading Wilkesborough isn't enough, they should hate and fight ninjas they find there, and also, an Irish astronaut should show up. And Jesse's plunked unwillingly in the middle of this, wondering how the hell to get all these idiots out of her neighborhood.

Rugg's art works well for both the more action-oriented and quieter parts of his and Maruca's stories. He has a good sense of pacing in the fight scenes, and he can vary it up. Go with the full-page splash that shows a sequence of events, or a bunch of small panels focusing on different moments in the progression of the fight, or a combination of both. Sometimes the violence is graphic, other times it's over-the-top to be funny (in a sort of dark way), but it works whichever way. Rugg also likes having the sound effects react similarly to the objects they're related to. Door gets kicked in, the sound goes flying along with the pieces. Jesse gets hit by an ambulance, the sound is going to get scattered all over by that same front bumper. He doesn't do it all the time, and it doesn't distract from the story, it's just a nice touch he throws in.

Since the whole thing is in black and white, he does the same thing with using negative space, scenes where Jesse's in a dark place, and an object of person is indicated by the absence of more shadows. Again, not all the time, but occasionally, and effectively. Although it frustrates me since I always find that kind of thing very cool (it's something I like about Joe Quesada's artwork too, maybe the only thing), but I can't quite get right myself.

I like that transition in the panels above. From the white to black background in an instant, even as the guy is finishing his sentence, and helps draw the eye to the fist. And the unfinished sentence's placement carries over to the actual violence, which is why that schmuck didn't finish that sentence.

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