Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Review: Scooter Girl

Scooter Girl
by Chynna Clugston-Major
Oni Press, $14.95

Based on the feedback I received, I selected Scooter Girl as the book to read for Which Oni GN Should Dave Read Next 2 over the weekend. My reactions are quite mixed.

I have always loved Chynna Clugston-Major's work, from her early days as a contributor to Action Girl Comics to her many Blue Monday minis. Her comics have an attractive East-meets-West aesthetic: her character designs are clearly manga-inspired, as are the style and types of her stories, characters and plots; but her layouts and storytelling techniques are much denser than typical manga. I think that she is one of the more interesting and enjoyable cartoonists working today.

The premise of Scooter Girl is fairly straight-forward: Ashton Archer is a young lothario, the latest in a long line of successful womanizers. As the cliche goes, men want to be him, and women want to be with him. His life is charmed and easy, and things are going well until Margaret Sheldon comes into his life. Ashton is completely smitten by Margaret, but whenever she is around Ashton's suaveness disappears and he becomes a tongue-tied, clumsy oaf. As the story progresses, Ashton alternately tries to avoid and bed Margaret, both to no avail. Enough variations abound to make Rumiko Takahashi proud.

All of Clugston-Major's strengths are on display here. She immerses her characters and we readers into a world of Mod culture, where it's perfectly natural and cool for young adults to dress in 60s clothing and motor around on scooters; it's an affectation that gives the book a unique look. Her plotting is impeccible, and her charcterizations are very strong; when introduced to a character we very quickly get to know him or her, yet the characters often have depths that are slowly revealed.

Clugston-Major does so many things right with Scooter Girl that I'm sad to say there was one glaring probem that kept me from enjoying it outright: I really, really hated the protagonist, Ashton Archer. He's a total prick. He uses women, treats them like dirt, and yet they all flock to him. (I wish this were a crazy, comics-only characterization, but I've seen such things in real life too--what is it about women-hating men that attracts some women?) I realize that by the end of the story we're supposed to believe that Ashton has changed, but he really hasn't; he thinks he's in love with Margaret, but he's really just learned the words to say and the actions to do to get what he wants. We're supposed to be rooting for Ashton to get the girl in the end, but all I was really rooting for was for Ashton to die in the most horrible and painful way possible. It's hard to really enjoy a romantic comedy when the lead is an irredeamable jack-ass who you want to see dropped off a twenty-story building.

I suppose that it's to Clugston-Major's credit that she has created characters so real that I have such a strong reaction to, even if that reaction is negative. It's a testimony to her considerable skills, which as I noted are all on display here. So a very mixed reaction from me, and hopefully I'll enjoy her next work more.

Rating: 3 (of 5)

1 comment:

Lyle said...

It's hard to really enjoy a romantic comedy when the lead is an irredeamable jack-ass who you want to see dropped off a twenty-story building.

That was my problem with Three Days in Europe, except I hated both of the leads. (So maybe they deserved each other.)

OTOH, for me and Scooter Girl I liked that a good portion of the story was getting to see the creep suffer. You've got me wanting to take another look at Ashton, see if his "tranformation" was convincing for me. I found myself focusing more on Margaret in the story, so when she decided he's suffered enough I just went along.