- Posted by Johanna on January 19, 2006 at 9:11 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Michael Brennan
- PUBLISHER: AIT/PlanetLar; $13.95 US
Electric Girl, or as she’s better known, Virginia, has the extraordinary ability to store, conduct, and discharge electricity. Don’t be misled by the title or her powers, though, into thinking she’s a superhero; this comic revolves around humorous slice-of-life encounters. Since her childhood, Virginia has been able to see and hear a gremlin invisible to everyone else. When this gremlin starts egging on her faithful dog Blammo, adventures ensue.
The first collection contains a variety of stories: Virginia attempts to teach a young tech genius some manners while taking Blammo on a walk. The gremlin (Oogleeoog; do you blame me for not calling him by name?) and Blammo encounter a turkey dinner. Virginia and her friend Abby have a run-in with an artificially intelligent robot who decides Virginia would be a great power source. Blammo’s “origin” takes place when he joins the household as a puppy. Virginia is hassled on her way to work by an anti-animal-product protester with powers of her own. Blammo chases a fly. Virginia’s “origin” takes place when her mother gives birth.
By the end of the book, the author is dealing with deeper issues when a story flashes back to a younger Virginia facing a much greater, unknown threat — a child abuser. This tale is just another in her life, however; it’s followed by a charming change of pace, as Virginia has to deal with particularly hot, humid weather. Given her electricity, such days make for trying times for everyone. Her powers flake out during everyday interaction with her friends, which makes a wonderful symbol for the “I can’t do anything right” feelings of adolescence.
The second volume includes a story that demonstrates the dangers of convincing an electric girl that her family’s been overtaken by aliens. In other chapters, some previously seen characters return, like the annoying kid mentioned above and the inventor of the robot. Also in this book, Virginia visits a comic book convention, and in a flashback to earlier days, we see Oogleeoog trying to convince her to become a superhero (although she gets distracted by the problems of creating a costume).
Professor Flosznik, the inventor, has created a “sister” who just wants a day out at the mall, but things never seem to go the way they should. All this takes place due to Blammo, the dog, almost running away, showing us how small actions have bigger consequences. The reader also learns more about gremlin society when a friend of Oogleeoog falls in love with a human. A four-page wordless story that appeared in the Expo 2000 Anthology is included in book two as well.
Book three starts off with a set of stories focusing on Blammo. He wakes up the household (as dogs tend to do); he chases a cat sent by gremlins; he meets robot friends. That’s followed by a longer Halloween story where a younger Virginia faces off against a witch, a short piece showing how Virginia’s parents deal with her abilities, and a long adventure involving robots at a baseball game. The stories are about more than the basic premises, though; they’re really about patience and cleverness and taking care of others and learning more about the world.
By using flashbacks to younger versions of Virginia, Brennan demonstrates how earlier events in her life have shaped the young woman she is in the present-day tales. Blammo and his nemesis, Robo-Blammo, often cause trouble for their owners, but that’s part of the responsibility of pet ownership and what’s involved in taking care of another living thing.
The frequent wordless sequences are wonderful examples of pure comic storytelling. This approach shows how skilled the artist is; it’s not easy to get across everything the reader needs or wants to know without text, but Brennan manages to accomplish it story after story. I especially enjoy watching Blammo; he’s so cute in his doggy desires to chase the wildlife or beg for bacon. The “bad dog” sequence, where he drops his ears and tail, is a pure joy to read. He doesn’t ever quit being just a dog, which is what makes him so adorable.
There’s a lot of imagination on display in these books. Virginia lives in a world where anything can happen, and the author demonstrates that with a wide range of stories and moods. I should also note the excellent use of blacks and backgrounds, and he also does a great job of capturing motion and movement. Overall, there’s a very animated feel.
Mostly, the book is a lot of fun! Great characters, neat adventures that are realistic and understandable, and people I’d like to know or be. Virginia is a real teen girl — she hangs back while her father and friends drag her around, but she stands up for herself when it counts. Even though she has some exceptional abilities, she’s not a freak, she’s just different. The family- and friend-oriented stories center around what can go wrong in daily life; Virginia’s Electric Girl abilities are just a handy tool to get through the day.
More information is available at the Electric Girl web site. There, you can also order the Blammo doll, a cuddly plush version of the character that’s very faithful to the illustrations and absolutely adorable.