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Smoke and Guns: Gender Yap!
Column by Kerry Garvin & James W. Powell
Posted September 22, 2005

Smoke and Guns CoverWelcome to the third edition of Gender Yap! the review column that pits the opinions of one male reviewer against the opinions of a female reviewer to determine a graphic novel's worth for comic fans and non-comic fans of both sexes. This week's reviewers tackle Smoke and Guns, the new original graphic novel by Kirsten Baldock and Fabio Moon. It's all out action in this one, as District 5 cigarette girls rumble with their warring neighbors....

Kerry Garvin: Smoke and Guns, by Kirsten Baldock and Fabio Moon, pulls readers into the shady world of cigarette girl gangs where gun fights over territory are the norm. Scarlett, a sexy, feisty District 5 girl, has the bad habit of roaming into other districts and stealing their customers. The girls in other districts, including the China Town girls and even a group of cigarette selling cheerleaders, won't stand for it and Scarlett and her friend Annie run into a lot of trouble over it. Soon Scarlett and Annie start an all-out gang war to challenge the girls in other districts.

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be 'sexy." Moon's depiction of Scarlett and Annie is perfect. He's got everything from their outfits and facial expressions down to their walk and how they stand oozing sex appeal. Baldock's dialog has a noirish bend to it that also makes the girls sexy. Now normally I don't think smoking and packing heat is sexy or even healthy, but it works here.

James W. Powell: [laughs] I agree. Smoking and shooting guns has never really done anything for me either, but like you said, these creators have managed to make these girls very sexy indeed. Sexy and dangerous. Talk about girl power. This ones got it in spades.

What it's lacking, however, is a lot of story. And I'll be honest, I'm torn on whether or not that's a bad thing. On the one hand, it's all action and adventure, so seeing girls in sexy getups and making wise cracks and blowing shit up is about all a guy could ask for. But for $13, I wanted a little more meat. No, I didn't want to see more men and muscles involved in the story, but I wanted a little more story just the same.

Now, before I start getting hate mail about how I just don't get it and that I should stick to romance novels or whatever, let me make it clear that this was a fun, exciting read, and I enjoyed that aspect of it. But let's face it, the book reads at a very fast clip...perhaps too fast for it's own good. I wanted to slow down and enjoy it. I wanted to get to know Scarlett and Annie a little more. I don't want to know their life's story by any means, but I would've liked a hint at some of their motivations for the things they do.

Smoke and Guns

Kerry Garvin: While I do think the book is a bit over-priced for its 104 short pages, I feel like they packed a lot of action into those pages. We aren't given a chance to know Scarlett or Annie more and that's okay because this is just one very long and exciting day for them. They don't have time to tell us their history because they've got gun battles to fight and life threatening situations to escape. More detail would have bogged down the fast-paced story and killed the adrenalin rush. It looks like we've got ourselves our first Gender Yap disagreement, James. I've got to admit I expected it to come over a cute all-ages story with furry animals.

I do admit there are unanswered questions like why does Scarlett feel the need to go outside her district and why is Annie so loyal to Scarlett, but I enjoyed the ride so much that the answers just don't matter. I'm not sure if there are plans for it, but this book would make a great series.

James W. Powell: If there's a series, I'd need to know that there were more than just a few bullets and explosions to get me on the bandwagon. I think the problem for me is that there isn't a full story in Smoke and Guns. I'm with you, it's fun and exciting, and let's face it, the action kicks ass. But there doesn't feel like a true beginning, middle, and end. What it felt like, actually, was the exciting action scene of a longer story, or as you put it, a very long day for these ladies. But it's like getting the dessert without first eating dinner. Which is to say, it's not a bad thing at all, it just doesn't leave me satisfied.

With all that said, however, I have to tell you that some of these scenes were damn fun to experience. My favorite sequence is watching Scarlett battle out from behind enemy lines. There was some great action and humor in there.

Kerry Garvin: The book definitely left me wanting more and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. That's what made it so tasty. I like Scarlett's nonchalance toward her situation and how she makes it through the cheerleader gang.

Overall, I thought the book is more suited for male readers, but ladies in the mood for fast-paced and fun action and hardcore cat fights would surely dig it too.

James W. Powell: Can't argue with you there. Anyone who likes action should enjoy this one, although I think it's a bit more appealing to the guys. I'd recommend this one to friends looking for a fun, quick read, but for those looking for something a bit deeper, I'd steer them elsewhere.

Kerry Garvin: Guys will definitely like this book. I’d also recommend it for female comic readers who dig a ton of action. It’s a whole lot of fun.

For another take on Smoke and Guns, check out Sean Maher's review.
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