Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It Came From Kickstarter: Gamer Girl & Vixen #1

I'm a hopeless romantic at heart. I'm the one who's always rooting for those crazy kids in  to finally get it together and make it work. So, when I saw a Kickstarter for a series about two star-crossed young people in a fantastic world falling in love, well, it seemed too cute to pass up. It's a romantic comic without being a "romance comic," with action, derring do, and the adorable blushes of first love. Oh, and did I mention that they're both women and they're both supervillains? Yeah, that's what makes Gamer Girl & Vixen unique and fun.

In recent years, I'd like to think comics have grown more inclusive of female creators, as well as characters that aren't hetero, white, and male. Not saying there isn't a long way to go still, but we're starting to move in the right direction. And Kickstarter helps new creators, or creators with ideas that don't work at the big companies, with new ideas get their work in front of a new audience, and that's why it's the perfect place for a title like this. It's LGBT themed and friendly, but easily accessible to anyone who's ever felt the thrill of falling head over heels with someone. The initial Kickstarter raised enough funds to publish hard copies of the first two issues, and a digital copy of issue three; today, I'll be focusing on issue one, with a little talk about issue two, just to give you a taste of what I found so charming about the series.

 The first issue of Gamer Girl & Vixen is an extended meet cute, the romantic comedy trope where two characters meet in a way that is funny, befitting their characters, and usually hard to imagine would happen in real life. This issue is a great example of exactly how a first issue should be done. It tells a complete story, it does some world building, but most importantly, it builds the characters and makes you want to come back for future stories with them. Finding the right balance between character, action, and set up is tricky, especially in the, "write for the trade" era, but I always feel like when it hits, it's a good indication of the strength of a series.

Right out of the gate, we get a good feeling for Vixen. Even though she's not wearing a costume, you see she has the flair of great comic book cat burglars. As a matter of fact, she looks down on superheroes, thinking back on the days when her dad was a burglar and it was only thieves and gangsters with cool nicknames; it's a nice way of establishing that this is a world with superheroes without having tons of exposition about how there are superheroes. As she breaks into the offices of Stowe University to steal records for an as yet unrevealed reason, her caper is interrupted not just by campus security, though, but by a call from her mother. As she ducks her way past the guards we learn that Vixen is still in the closet and has a boyfriend because shehas a hard time with the expectations of her overbearing mother, and the fear of being hurt. It's a common theme in LGBT literature focusing on people in their teens and early 20s, dealing with the expectations of society and parents, and while it's an important character beat, it doesn't slow down the story, which it easily could have. Instead it enriches a character, tugs at the heartstrings, and provides motivation while still moving at a brisk clip.

Cut next to Gamer Girl, fully decked out in her costume as she prepares to test out her gauntlets, which create hard light holograms. She has a different problem than Vixen; she is clearly out, but has a clingy girlfriend. Once she's off the phone, she simply wants to try rappelling down a building, when she sees Vixen being chased by public safety, she instead swoops down on a rope to save her... only for the rope to be not quite long enough and for them to wind up on the street just a bit farther along then Vixen was before, firmly in campus security's sights. The remainder of the issue is a chase and a lot of banter, that further establishes the characters' wit and abilities, and ends with the two of them exchanging phone numbers and setting a costumed date for that Friday. The way our leads click is almost audible, with them trading quips the entire time, in the fashion of fast talking 1940s screwball comedies. 

Gemma Moody's art is cartoony, with exaggerated expressions, but not pushed so far into that cartoonyness as to be caricature. She has a great sense of panel layout; while most of the pages have a number of smaller panels, keeping the story flowing, she reserves the pages with big panels for moments that are deserving of them. It's also a nice touch that the first time each of our protagonists see each other, those panels shift to a more photo-realistic style, clearly differentiating them from everything around them.

Issue two gives readers a better feel for the lives of Liz (Gamer Girl) and Bianca (Vixen). You get to see their friends and significant others, and you get to see their first date, which includes a robbery. You also learn a little more about Gamer Girl's background, about where the tech that she's using and improving comes from. And at issue's end? Our leads meet their first superhero, Jumpshot, whose basketball-pun ladened dialogue makes me just shake my head; if this is what the heroes sound like, sign me up to be a villain. Also, points for having Gamer Girl say, "Random encounter," a nod to her game themed costume.

I'm choosing this week to discuss Gamer Girl & Vixen because the team behind the book has just launched a second Kickstarter, this one to fund a complete graphic novel of the first six issues of the series. Here's a little copy from the creators:

"Love has a way of working itself out, especially if you don't care who gets hurt or what laws get broken along the way.

Gamer Girl & Vixen is a love story for modern audiences, where two potential lovers realize they can only really be themselves in the capes and costumes world of heroes and villains.

Bianca Crowley has spent her whole life pretending to be straight, because that's what her mother and society expect of the beautiful redhead. But when she meets the out and proud Gamer Girl- who already has the kickass costume and awesome super-powers- Bianca finally finds an outlet for the feelings she's been suppressing her entire life.

Surfing the current wave of  female-focused comics - like Marvel's Captain Marvel, Image's Sex Criminals, and DC's Batgirl - this is a mature love story with all the sex, hijinks, broken hearts and inappropriate cell phone pics that entails

The series is co-written by Kristi McDowell and Sean Ian Mills, with art by Gemma Moody and lettering by Taylor Esposito.

If you want to check out more, you can go look at the new Kickstarter campaign, where you can get a link to read the entire first issue digitally, and if you simply can't wait to see what's next, you can pick up a digital or hard copy of issue two and a digital issue three at the Joy Cat Comics website.

A series that is flirty and fun, smartly written with engaging character right out of the gate, Gamer Girl and Vixen is the kind of comic I love to talk about. There's not much like it on the market, and it speaks to its themes in a way that everyone can relate to. I've only read three issues, and the minute the Kickstarter came up for the complete six, I placed my pledge immediately, because I want to see what happens next, and I have a feeling if you read them, you will too.

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