Clubbing

Wow. The first-ever Andi Watson book I’ve been disappointed in.1

I thought the premise — London goth gets sent to stay with her grandparents in the country; she sees it as punishment, we know it’s a chance for her to grow up and learn core values — had potential. Goodness knows it’s well-worn and -loved in a certain kind of teen novel. But both the plotting and the art are mediocre.

Artist Josh Howard is apparently only capable of drawing one teen girl. The lead here, Lottie, looks just like the girl from his previous book, Dead@17. Both are designed to be suitable for posing, but when it comes to sequential art, Howard’s work is static, with no sense of movement or flow. He’s thus best suited for postcards, not comics, or some other format that consists of pinups on a small scale, especially if they require closeups of large, round heads.

As for the story… it goes through several phases, as though the writer was thinking “hang on, that’s not working, let’s try this”. First is the cool socialite introduction: Lottie lives in London, goes to hot clubs, buys the latest, hippest fashions. Much of this is told, not shown (see above for why). From her first page, she’s full of herself, describing herself in first-person narration as looking “like a silent movie star wearing dissolution lip gloss”. Watson seems to have the idea that introducing something — a place, a brand name — to those perhaps unfamiliar with it is equivalent to doing something interesting, a problem that extends to the country travelogue that makes up the next section of the book.

Lottie is sent to her grandparents, misses her internet, and wanders around narrating. Perhaps if I was younger and less familiar with both human nature and England I’d be more intrigued by this. However, although the book makes a big deal out of its foreignness, to the extent of including a translation lexicon of British phrases, I found it all comprehensible. Perhaps I’ve seen enough Britcoms where none of this is unusual or exotic to me. The book seems to be counting on fascination-based-on-unfamiliarity to carry over the rough patches where characters wander in and out with a distinct lack of three dimensions. That’s especially a problem when it comes to the young love portion.

I think Lottie’s self-centeredness is supposed to be charming, or at least have potential, but I found her boring. (If you like this sort of thing, you can find it free on livejournal any time.) And then there’s the ending, in which things take a definite, non-foreshadowed turn into the kind of plot that fueled tons of Scooby Doo cartoons, only here, the monster is real. With more charm, it could have been Buffy-like, but it falls short.

David Welsh, in his review of this title, sees similar problems but is kinder about them. I’m probably being too harsh, just because I had such high hopes given the writer (a favorite), the setting (I’m an Anglophile, too), and the fish-out-of-water premise. Instead of being influenced by her surroundings, at the end, Lottie is the same character. It’s as though she brought her urban goth fantasies with her and forced them on a place they’re not suited to.

(If you want more detail about how the ending goes wrong, read Paul O’Brien’s review.)

The pattern so far with new publishing imprint Minx (although with only three releases, trying to see a pattern isn’t really valid) appears to be that of the Star Trek movies: look for the even-numbered ones. The Plain Janes was ok, Re-Gifters (review coming) was great, this was disappointing. Based on this, I do have hope for the next one in the series, Good as Lily.

1Caveats: I couldn’t make it through Samurai Jam, but I knew that was historical, early work. His Buffy the Vampire Slayer writing wasn’t great, but it was ok, and I haven’t yet read Paris.


12 Responses to “Clubbing”

  1. Randy Lander Says:

    I *love* your Star Trek analogy for Minx, Johanna. You’re right, it bears out so far. Despite involving favorites of mine (Jim Rugg & Andi Watson), Plain Janes and Clubbing were, as you say, okay and disappointing in turn, but Re-Gifters was one of my favorite reads of the year.

    Good As Lily was the one I was most anticipating, so hopefully the pattern will hold true… hmm… but which one comes after that? It’s not Kimmie66, is it? That one sounded like fun. :)

  2. James Schee Says:

    Crap, I ordered Plain Janes and Clubbing, but didn’t get Re-Gifters!:)

    I sort of wondered how Andi would do just writing something. I found his Buffy work poor when he only wrote it and this sounds like it took a similiar path. Perhaps he’s one of those who has to put his ideas to work himself rather than to others who may not be able to make them work as he does.

  3. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » July 23, 2007: Surviving the Plastic Age Says:

    [...] three books from Minx, DC Comics’ teen-girl initiative, for the Chicago Sun-Times. Related: Johanna Draper Carlson examines Andi Watson and Josh Howard’s [...]

  4. Josh Elder Says:

    See, I thought “Plain Janes” was the best of the lot so far. I enjoyed “Re-Gifters” a lot, but in the end it was an extremely conventional teen girl story in terms of plot, character and resolution: just very told. While “Plain Janes” really seemed to me to be about something more.

    But I also thought “Clubbing” was a complete misfire. If I hadn’t been getting paid to review it, I doubt I would have finished the thing.

    Also, I’ve read “Good as Lily” and it’s excellent. Extremely clever and Jesse Hamm does some terrific cartooning.

  5. Tommy Says:

    I had the same problem with the straight outta nowhere plot twist at the end. I didn’t mind the Brit slang to American glossery in the back as these books are aimed at folks a little younger than we are. I was hoping this book would feel more like the Georgia Nicholson books by Louise Rennison but its just not that clever.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Plain Janes wanted to be about something more, but it falls down in the execution, I think, Josh. And I don’t knock entertaining stories, well-told, like Re-Gifters. Glad to hear the next one is better.

  7. Tina Says:

    i love the book it was so cool and a really grate read

  8. James Schee Says:

    I read it last night finally, being unemployed gives me some free time, and I actually liked it. At least until the big sci-fi/horror thing popped out of nowhere.

    I don’t mind that the character didn’t change her vision. I think today being true to yourself even if you do come off as a prickly at times mean loudmouth. Is just fine if that is who you are comfortable with being

  9. Re-Gifters » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] a Minx website. Compared to the other titles released so far (The Plain Janes and Clubbing), Re-Gifters is clearly the stand-out of the line. Mike Carey has been interviewed at CBR. [...]

  10. Minx Now and Future » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Clubbing [...]

  11. Edan Says:

    This book is so good it is really interesting… I loved it i reccomend read it it is far from boring… well done to the author keep publishing lol but ur awesome at these books keep it up lol

  12. kioko fuji Says:

    how dreadful to say that! it is not mediocore.To those without a sense of direction.The art is perfect for this novel.the herione is cheeky and a self centered goth with a conscious.And rumor has it theres a sequel when shes in tokyo.just a rumor.

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