Cold Cut Distribution's Feature Spotlight #22 - March 1997
Publisher: A.M. Works
Story & Art: Will Allison
Cover Price: $2.95
Malcolm Davis is not just a typical high school student.
Tall, gangly, awkward, not very good at sports, he gets good grades and has
been labelled a nerd. He deals with the daily pressures of school, and
especially deals with the peer pressure to conform, which makes it all the
more remarkable when a meeting with an odd girl named Julia leads him to
reveal to everyone his secret love: cross-dressing. The school naturally
has no idea how to take this - classmates ostracize him, the principal
considers transferring him to a school where he can "get some help," and his
own sister hates his guts. Not to mention the confusion he's caused to his
best friend, April -- she has a crush on him, though he's never really
noticed. Meanwhile Julia, the scheming head of the high school's
self-proclaimed secret "Pervert Club", makes Malcolm a key member of her
formerly all-girl group, dreaming of making her club all-powerful.
Pervert Club captures the feeling of alienation
many teens feel in high school and turns it on its head as it explores: can
you imagine feeling alienated and alone because you're a cross-dresser?
What if there was a club of other people like you? Now, add in the manga
convention of the "nebbishy boy surrounded by cute girls" (Will says he was
striving for something in the lines of Tenchi Muyo or Oh My Goddess). Will
throws a few relatively "normal" people in as foils for the stars, but
basically this is a well-written and funny sex-comedy with wacky characters.
A cool, quirky manga style catches your eye and draws
you into Will's odd little world. With stark blacks, streaks of white, and
angles, angles everywhere from hair to clothing, Will brings a distinctly
unique offbeat American flavor to his based-in-Japanese art style. Making
frequent use of manga conventions like anxiety-teardrops, streaming tears,
and "ellipsis balloons" (putting "..." inside a balloon alone to indicate
speechlessness), Pervert Club should be popular with fans of manga and
offbeat art (like Paul Pope's stuff)
Pervert Club is not an adult book, despite its title.
It's R-rated, but is properly designated as a "Mature Readers" book, not
"adults only". That said, Pervert Club reminds me most of Ninja High
School: high school angst with bizarre comic plot turns and over-the-top
supporting characters, not to mention the manga art style (though Will's
style is much more true-to-manga than Ben Dunn's NHS). Readers of Ranma
1/2, No Need For Tenchi and Strangers in Paradise should
also check it out.
If you like Pervert Club, take a look at:
Publisher: A.M. Works
Story & Art: Dean Hsieh
Cover Price: $2.95
Frequency: monthly starting with issue 7 (March)
In the year 2047, after being forceably "retired" from
the pantheon of gods by the brash new modern deities, the Goddess Athena
elects to spend her retirement on Earth. Who would have guessed that she
finds solace from her pain by playing loud punk thrash music? As new lead
singer for "Serpenteena", Athena ends up hooking up with bandmates who may
or may not believe her former divinity - but definitely believe that Athena
is something else. For that matter, so is Dionysus, who has retired to come
down to Earth and run a club; Hermaphrodite, who dances in the club; and
poor lovestruck Hephaestus, who's had a crush on Athena literally for
centuries. As Athena and her band deal with everything from family intrigue
to barroom brawls, her friend Kallie begins to pry into Athena's past,
wondering exactly how and why Athena retired, and what is the deal with her
cybernetic arm, anyway?
Sparsely and lightly written, this book is clearly
plotted and solidly dialogued - though with a number of characters being
drunk bar denizens, some of that dialogue tends towards the "huh?" and
"whu?" Dean clearly has fun with the variety of characters he's introduced
and the backstory of his world, and just as clearly enjoys the touches of
comedic relief he drops in every few pages or so. Often playing on the
dramatic interactions between gods and humans, Dean moves the story along
through humor and pathos, never going too far one way or the other. He's
also willing to take some startling chances in his writing - having a man
falling in love with a hermaphrodite, for instance. Athena is full of
intriguing situations and neat near-future science fiction (cybernetic arms,
robotic - though clumsy - security robots, etc) but it's all just a colorful
backdrop against which Dean lets the characters play.
One thing the "A.M." in the company name stands for is "American
Manga" - and Dean's art is manga all the way. If you didn't know otherwise,
you'd swear this was translated stuff from Japan. From the
"anxiety-teardrop" symbolism to the characters suddenly breaking into
"super-deformed mode" when they fly into a comical rage, this reads just
like a really good manga series with some American sensibilities thrown in.
If Dean hasn't tried marketing this to Kodansha, I don't know why...
The drama of this series and the colorful interaction of
its characters reminds me most of Strangers in Paradise - any readers
of Terry Moore's touching melodrama should definitely pick up Athena
if they're at all interested in manga. Manga fans of Shirow's work like
Appleseed and Black Magic should also check it out, as should
readers of Silbuster, Oh My Goddess, and Sandman.
If you like Athena, take a look at:
Cold Cut Distribution
220 N Main St. - Salinas, CA 93901 - (831) 751-7300