Thursday, May 17, 2007

Street Angel #5

Street Angel #5, 2005, SLG Publishing
by Jim Rudd and Brian Marcuda

Street Angel #5 is the second best comic book I've ever read about a homesless, skateboarding, kung-fuing, pre-teen vigilantress I've ever read.

I liked Street Angel #4 just a little better.

Yesterday I eluded to the joy of remembering when or how one first experiences a favorite comic book. I remember picking up Street Angel #3 when I first frequented Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash in Westwood a few years ago. I was intrigued by its ethereal cover,


and was admittedly still relatively new to the indie comics scene. I've developed a practice of purchasing something every time I visit a comic book shop (as opposed to when I was a kid and treating the comics shop like a library), and Street Angel #3 struck me as the kind of issue I wouldn't really find anywhere else.

I enjoyed the comic and filed it, but since then Street Angel had been nagging in the back of my brain. I wanted more, and since this issue was the third with the promise of a fourth, I knew three others existed out there. Actually, there were four, and I found them all for a dollar (that's a quarter each) in the Cold Cut Distributors' back issue bins at the Alternative Press Expo last month. Needless to say, I devoured these issues quickly -- all but #5, which I've been saving for today's review. So, if you really cared, that's how I discovered Street Angel.

(So many reviewers are so stuck on that "the story this, the art that" formula that I like to provide some personal anecdotal information from time to time, since comics are still experiential art, and since one's impression of an issue may depend on how they approached it. Fortunately, in this case, I was looking for something, fun, compelling, and unique, and I got really lucky.)

Street Angel #5 is the last in the series and pits our favorite homeless, skateboarding, kung-fu pre-teen vigilantress alongside the retired Afrodisiac, a '70s blaxploitation superhero akin to Powerman (but on acid . . . okay, more acid), now old and seemingly helpless, up against dozens of vengeful cowboys. The peculiarity of this conflict is common fodder for Street Angel; in past issues, she's fought and defeated a mad scientist, a demon, an Incan god, and hunger. Life on the street is tougher than I thought, but, apparently, a skateboard is the universal weapon of choice to best domestic and diestic adversaries alike. Yes, in each case (but in no gorier an instance than in #5), Street Angel takes 'em all down. She's the most competent underdog in comics; for all the bad guys she can beat, her biggest struggle is simply finding something to eat.

Creators Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca manage to facilitate Street Angel on just this side of surreal, grounding enthusiastically diverse narratives, which mine a variety of fictional genres, in the seriousness of homelessness. Yet, since Jesse "Street Angel" Sanchez is such a competent butt-kicker, we readers struggle with feeling sorry for her. No, her real vulnerability is her age, indicative in this issue; when the cowboys reveal their disdain for Afrodisiac because he had "carnal knowledge of his mama," Angel asks Afro angrily, "Why'd you eat that guy's mom?" (She was confused with cannibalism, sickos. Get your minds out of the gutter.) This naivetee in the wiry body of a martial artist could be more dangerous than those hands or feet, you know? Thank goodness she asked the former hero before following through with her inclination to cut his head off.

Simply put, Street Angel is the perfect blend of compassionate characterization, well paced humor, high octane action, and beautifully rendered black and white visuals, layering a definitively urban environment with a veil of peculiar cosmic conflict, the kind only a kid could combat without really questioning her sanity. Like I said, these issues threaten to boast a certain tendency toward the surreal, like another of my indie favorites Pop Gun War (which also has a pre-teen hero), but manages to retain enough self-depreciating satire to keep its audience's familiarity and subsequent need for more. Honestly, I'm sorry to see this series was a meager five issues long. Man, am I are going to pick up the graphic novel for the past FCBD stories and that additional original material that I've missed?

Of course. Since all five original issues cost me less than five bucks, I'll make the financial commitment . . . if I can find it, of course. Sometimes, like the cover of Street Angel #3, you just have to wait for divine intervention.

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