*Re-Gifters — Best of 2007

Re-Gifters is an involving coming-of-age story with a distinct sense of place. Writer Mike Carey introduces the elements of his story quickly, beginning with a sparring match. Dik Seong Jen — better known as “Dixie” — is a promising hapkido student preparing for an upcoming tournament, but she’s distracted by her crush on classmate Adam, which leads her to make stupid decisions, both financially and emotionally.

Re-Gifters cover
Re-Gifters
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The art is by Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel. With Carey, the three previously worked together on My Faith in Frankie, and their whimsical-yet-grounded approach also fits well here. The story’s packed with events and characterization, making the time spent on it feel worthwhile and fulfilling, and their quirky style makes the book distinctive while keeping it easy to read. The book’s inhabitants radiate their emotions, drawing the reader in, especially when help comes from unexpected places.

The short chapters focus on key ideas and incidents. Get in, be amusing, get out and move on. Often, as the quickest way to get to the point, Dixie narrates to the reader. Her best friend Avril calls her “spiky”, and so she is, making her much more interesting than the typical generic teen protagonist. Dixie feels things deeply, has a temper, and acts out when she can’t help it; she’s a realistic girl, and a likable one. (Avril is pretty cool, too, especially when she quotes Dorothy Parker on LA: “thirty-two suburbs in search of a city.”)

The cultures Dixie navigates likely won’t be familiar to many readers, between her Korean family interested in maintaining their traditions while being successful in America; the expectations of the martial art she practices; and the urban LA neighborhood she lives in. That’s a bonus, that the settings are unusual. It helps the reader feel informed as well as entertained. What’s the point of experiencing key events in a life just like yours? Someone different but relatable is much more of a stretch for both reader and creator.

The best part of the story is the way Dixie’s biggest reward comes after she finds and becomes comfortable with herself and her strength. Romantic success isn’t shown as fulfilling in itself, but a reward that comes after you know what you want and can do. That’s a refreshing take on teen crushes and a healthier message than many other stories aimed at and featuring that age group.

But the book isn’t some kind of disguised medicine, a moral lesson learned, or travelogue to say “why can’t we all get along?” It’s quite funny and deeply entertaining. Dixie puts the emotions she can’t express into her martial art, as well as enjoying beating people up. (She’s quite good at it.) She’s a tough girl with a family who loves her and drives her crazy (especially the younger twin brothers), learning what matters to her.

There’s 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.


13 Responses to “*Re-Gifters — Best of 2007”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Sept. 6, 2007: Heidi in the bubble Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson on Mike Carey, Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel’s Re-Gifters. (Above: sequence from the book; [...]

  2. Matt Brady Says:

    Well said, Johanna. While I liked Plain Janes, I think this was a better book. I skipped Clubbing, and I’m reading Good as Lily right now. We’ll see how it goes, but right now this one is at the top of the heap.

  3. Johnny Bacardi Says:

    I agree- so far Re-Gifters has been the best of the bunch as far as I’m concerned.

  4. Tommy Says:

    I know I said this already but I really liked Plain Janes (ironically the only Minx book I didn’t pre order)the best. I’ll give Re-Gifters another look. Maybe I read it too fast.

  5. Sarah Says:

    I liked Plain Janes, but I preferred Re-Gifters. I did find the plot a bit stretched at certain points (what, everyone she knows either studies hapkido formally or else tries to do it street-style?), though.

    Either way, the Minx line is turning out better than I’d anticipated.

  6. Dani Atkinson Says:

    Meh. I’m reading what comes into my public library, which so far means I’ve only read Plain Janes. I didn’t much care for it. The characters seemed like flat stereotypes and the whole thing felt rushed and unsatisfying. But Re-Gifters sounds neat. I look forward to it.

  7. Good as Lily » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Minx pattern continues. It’s not the best book in the line (that would be Re-Gifters), but it’s a close second. Derek Kirk Kim (Same Difference and Other Stories) writes and [...]

  8. Kimmie66 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] so from an intellectual perspective, it attracted me more than the other books. I still like Re-Gifters best, though, because I like that girl the most of all the [...]

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

    [...] Re-Gifters [...]

  10. Best of 2007 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Re-Gifters by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, and Marc HempelThe best of DC Comics’ Minx line, aimed at teenage girls, follows the same “young woman finding herself” formula, but it does it so well. [...]

  11. Joy Kim — Carey, Liew, and Hempel: Re-Gifters Says:

    [...] hailed as the best offering in the first round of Minx comics, Re-Gifters is the story of Los Angeles teen Dik Seong Jen–“Dixie” to her friends–a hapkido [...]

  12. Concetta Says:

    I loved this graphic novel. The art is simple and engaging in it’s sketchiness. The story and the storytelling is fun and clear. It’s good for a second read and a third and a fourth . . .

  13. Cziplee - Meeting your needs Says:

    [...] Check out her list here and you can read more about Re-Gifters here. [...]

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