Monday, March 21, 2005

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe oddest thing happened to me the other day. I was at home, my doorbell rang, and when I looked out the door there was a white box on my front porch. And the strangest thing was that I could swear I caught a brief glimpse of a transparent fella with a head shaped like a heart out of the corner of my eye...

Anyway, all seriousness aside, I just finished reading the contents of that white box: both volumes of AiT/PlanetLar's ELECTRIC GIRL, by Michael Brennan- thanks to the well-known and justifiably celebrated generosity of Larry Young, whose head is not shaped like a heart, at least not to my knowledge. And despite my complaints a while back about how nobody seems to be writing anything for adults and so on, I gotta admit that I got a, well, (if you'll excuse the expression) charge out of them both.

Electric Girl is an account of a, well, girl...who was born with the ability to conduct electricity with her bare hands. She also has a companion, an invisible gremlin (with the aforementioned heart-shaped head) named Oogleeoog, who gave her this ability and has made her his pet mischief-making project, which is the chief concern of all gremlins, we're told. Mischief-making. In these volumes, we meet Virginia (our E-Girl), her professor Dad and her businesswoman Mom, who's always traveling, it seems; her cute, impetuous dog Blammo, her friends, including Abby, who is an intern for uptight, egotistical control-freak college Professor Flosznik, who is head of a team that is trying to create artificial intelligence, and succeeds at least twice- once with a big robot that develops an attraction to Virginia, which of course leads to complications, and the other, which would be a big fat spoiler so I won't elaborate further. An so on and so on. There are a lot of characters that weave their way in and out of these deceptively short stories, and they're all interesting and well-thought-out. We also get many looks at Virginia through random instances in her life- sometimes the story deals with her as a young girl, sometimes as college-age, and so on. Of course, Oogleeoog has his gremlin peers as well, and they make the occasional fun appearance, including an odd-looking little gremlin fella with a cat-like head who functions as a gremlin referee of sorts.

Brennan does his best not to let this go into typical super-hero territory; although he does set up adversaries of sorts for Virginia, she never dons a costume and fights evil or that sort of thing (except for one fun episode where, as a young girl and at Oog's urging, draws lightning bolts on all her clothes and considers a life of crimefighting)...instead, her conflicts with people work themselves out in often clever ways, as in the case of Timmy, a child super-genius who goes through more babysitters than Calvin and Dennis the Menace put together and has a penchant for creating deadly robots- she accidentally encounters him early on, but in a later story gets hired to baby-sit him! Once in a while Brennan gets all surreal on us- a highlight of the first trade is a dream story towards the end (I suppose it first appeared in #4) in which Ginny realizes her worst fears and gets put on trial for electrocuting people; Brennan pulls it off nicely, with a lot of imagination. Another story which really stood out to me was one in which Virginia is almost abducted by a child molester, and Oog tries his best to protect her without interfering, a gremlin no-no. It was tense and very involving.

Brennan's art is a little problematic for me- it goes down easy, but is sometimes a little awkward and underdrawn in places, and he apparently uses one, and one only, ink line which gives his early stories a very samey look. Around issue #5, though, he begins to incorporate grey tones in his art, and it makes a lot of difference, giving it a more finished look. Style-wise, he's an amalgam of Scott McCloud, Richard Sala, and Andi Watson...he utilizes Watson's simplism, shares McCloud's penchant for stiffness in his figure drawings, and reminds me a lot of Sala in his faces, especially his females. Still, he's fine, and conveys the charm of the whole concept very well.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usBesides this, the only real complaint I have is that some of the stories don't always follow a strict cause-and-effect logic, and seem to be held together by coincidence and duck tape...but the overall feel is so breezy and genial that I can easily overlook this. Sometimes it's a bit disorienting when he skips around from young-girl-Virginia to older-girl Virginia stories, but it's not a major problem. If you're looking for a fun read that can be appreciated by all ages, then I highly recommend Electric Girl. If you're interested, has a whole page devoted to the book. If I understand it correctly, there will soon be a volume three, and I plan to pick that up as soon as humanly possible.

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