Thursday, November 15, 2007

more on graphic novels

Re-Gifters is one of the new graphic novels, though one can as easily refer to it as a mass market—which includes literary work—comic book, geared to Middle-Grade or High School readers, but appealing to some of us adults, too. Re-Gifters, like some of the early comic books, has an authors' team, Mike Carey, writer, and Mark Hempel and Sonny Liew, illustrators. Read more about comic book author teams in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon.

The Re-Gifters story is about a Korean girl, Dixie, who would like to gain the romantic interest of her top competitor, an Anglo boy, who is in her training club, or dojo. Dixie lives in a rough section of Los Angeles, and in an early scene she's confronted by a group of toughs. She's on her way to being nailed, but is rescued by a cool-talking Hispanic boy with attitude, who's also a loan shark. The gang looks up to him and Dixie now has a useful friend. Later, she uses money her father had given her to enter a big martial arts competition, and instead, buys a statue of an ancient Korean warrior to give as a present to the Anglo boy. It's a futile gesture, and now she's lost her chance to compete in the tournament. In a series of misadventures, the statue comes back to her as a gift from the Hispanic boy (hence, Re-Gifters), and she is given a free 'wild card' chance to enter the tournament. The Hispanic boy provides her with a dilapidated 'gym' at his home for training. As Dixie advances in the tournament, the Anglo boy, also moving up, gets concerned about her potential, and tries to sweet-talk Dixie into throwing her semi-finals match. She disdains his attempt, and goes on to defeat him in the finals. In the closing, the Hispanic boy is a dinner guest in Dixie's traditional Korean household, and the future, at least for a while, seems rosy.

The graphics are dynamic and nicely drawn, and the story has some appealing multi-cultural aspects, though it's a little worrisome to contemplate that Dixie's new boyfriend is, after all, a loan shark, though with a seemingly good heart. Graphic novels will never replace the deep immersion and imaginative world of prose novels, but they have an appeal all their own.

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