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Street Angel: Gender Yap!
Article by Kerry Garvin & James W. Powell
Posted July 21, 2005

Street Angel CoverWelcome to the first 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 Street Angel Vol. 1: The Princess of Poverty, which collects issues 1-5 of the series by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca. It's an adventure comedy about a homeless skateboarder who battles to save her neighborhood from evil thugs, ninjas, and criminal masterminds...

James W. POWELL: Let me start by saying that Street Angel is easily the funniest comic book I've ever read. I mean, violence hasn't been this fun since Pulp Fiction. The situations, the dialog, the subtle details in the art...they all support the greater good, which is the creation of a fun, seemingly random story that's not bogged down with origin clichés or forced character growth. It's just a story about a homeless skateboarder who fights ninjas, and it's downright hysterical.

What I found most surprising is that creators Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca were able to keep the high level of humor and wit circulating throughout the entire five issues collected in the first trade edition. I expected some chapters to really take off while others fell flat, and that the series would read better in small chunks. Instead, I found myself reading the entire collection in one sitting and laughing out loud the entire way through. It never got old. And it never felt like it was repeating itself.

Street Angel falls repidlyKerry GARVIN: I agree, James. Rugg and Maruca take a very serious subject — a young teen girl making her way on the streets on her own — and turn it into a madhouse fun adventure. Ninjas and gansters pop out from everywhere and Street Angel whips them all. There's no question about if she'll win; it's just a matter of time until she does. For being such a small skinny girl with only a skateboard and a backpack she sure does have some supernatural strength. I guess growing up on the streets would make you buff, but an explanation for her enhanced strength would’ve been good. Perhaps this would bog the book down and make it less fun? I don't know.

What did you think about the last two issues in the series? I felt they were a bit of a departure from the first three issues. They seemed less fun and more serious to me. The fourth issue especially, where Street Angel is dumpster diving for food and worrying about what her classmates think of her. The issue tackles real and serious issues rather than the ninjas of the first three issues. To me, this one in particular felt a lot less fun. It still has its humorous moments, but it was a departure for me.

James W. POWELL: I agree that the fourth issue stood out as being more serious and less humorous than the others. Had I read this series in the serialized, monthly format, I might have been put off by that. If I'm expecting an action-packed round of comedy, then that's what I want. But reading that issue as a part of the collected format actually worked for me because it grounded her character a bit. Made her more of a dramatic character with real issues. Plus, as with serious movies that need a bit of comedy relief to help sustain the suspense or drama of the story, I think this serious chapter helps Street Angel maintain that comedic edge. It's almost as if I needed to stop laughing for a moment to catch my breath so I could enjoy the humor of the remaining chapters.

Kerry GARVIN: Since I read the serialized versions, it definitely stood out for me. They were off to such a great story and then it just petered out over the months. While I didn't like where the story went, I did think the dialog was strong throughout. Street Angel speaks in appropriately grungy and rough words considering her situation. Rugg and Maruca still manage to infuse a little innocence into the script. This adds some needed levity to Steet Angel's situation. Both the light-hearted and serious moments are skillfully handled by Rugg’s pen. Being a fun book isn't synonymous with weak writing and that shows here.

James W. POWELL: I'm glad you mentioned Rugg's art because it would be a huge disservice to the book if we didn't discuss it. At first, I didn't think I was going to like it. The art is too "rough" for my tastes. Once I started reading the story, however, I realized the art is a perfect match to the plot. But the thing that amazed me is how often a subtle, almost unnoticed part of the panel totally brings the story together and creates the most laughs. There's a scene in which Street Angel defeats a whole mess of ninjas, and as she looks over her destruction, you can see a ninja hanging from the rafters. Perfect. It's the little stuff that really ties this all together and creates a cohesive, consistently humorous book.

Street Angel shark attack

Kerry GARVIN: Once again, I agree with you, James. The series is obviously meticulously planned. The little details, such as the ninja in the rafters you mentioned, make the series stick out. I can overlook the downturn at the end of the series, because the small elements of the book were so great. I recommend this series. Girls will identify with kick-ass Street Angel and although her problems are much worse than most teen girls, she's a tough cookie that will please older teens and young adults.

James W. POWELL: You know, I think anyone who can find humor in off the wall situations and outlandish violence will enjoy Street Angel, whether they’re male or female, young or old. It's off the beaten path and could improve anyone's bookshelf, especially anyone stuck in the superhero rut. With that said, however, I wouldn't recommend it as someone's first experience with the comic book format. I think some of the more subtle humor would get lost in translation.

Street Angel Vol. 1: The Princess of Poverty is available now from Slave Labor Graphics (ISBN: 1-59362-012-8). For another take on the collected volume, check out Christopher J. Shelton's review.

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