by Matthew Peckham
Street Angel is an out of nowhere inexplicable burst of hilarity, an offbeat mélange
of Kill Bill, Pinky and the Brain, Austin Powers, alternate conquistador history,
ninja lore, street brawling, restaurant kitchen repartee, basketball court kung fu, and just in case you're afraid it's missing
anything -- instructions on how to wield a bo staff.
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Street Angel explores the existentially tortured universe of a homeless street urchin inspired to rise above her disenfranchisement... wait, wait, no; Street Angel is a sobering work of dramatic intensity which exposes the interstices of two-dimensional sequential simulacra and simulation... gah, no no no; okay, Street Angel is about a smack-cracking skateboarder kung-fu-master skinny ninja-thrashing homeless girl-superhero-without-a-costume who kicks ass, washes dishes, wields a lethal skateboard, and thwarts evil plots by crazed geologists and time-traveling conquistadors. Eureka!
What the heck am I talking about? You'll have to wait for my review of some issue down the road when the madness has passed, but in the meantime, meet Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca's stream-of-nonsense contribution to the ranks of ballsy independent comic rags. It's good, it's great, it's weird, it's awkward, it's funny, it's droll, it has hits, and it has misses, but above all, this is a stripe of cornball that will utterly defeat the smugly clairvoyant, and that is what makes this book the joy it is to read.
The thing that initially grabbed me about Street Angel was the first issue's cover, which depicts only the bottom half of the unlikely heroine. A frocked, bespectacled, balding scientist-type with unkempt wisps of white hair trailing behind him is looking up as the lower half of some unidentified individual skates by overhead like an airborne Tony Hawk wannabee; the board is tilted toward us, the body is leaning back, arm extended, fingers fanning, entire body half-sprung, looking like a high wave surfer, about to fall but somehow never falling. From the scientist, the words "Oh no. Not her!" Then you open the book, and learn that "the deadly geologist Dr. Pangaea has escaped," the same Doctor Pangaea who "tried to flatten the earth using proprietary semiconductor technology in conjunction with the magnetic resonance of the north and south poles." His current angle? Reunite the continents of the world so that "all of earth's power will flow through [him]." Yep, it's that kind of book.
The kinetic skateboard-arrowing super-heroine Street Angel on the cover is Jesse Sanchez, a homeless girl from the hard knocks school of life who uses her supernormal martial arts and skateboarding skills to right wrongs, defeat evil -- the usual do-gooder stuff -- while trying to pass 8th grade, work a dishwashing gig, and keep herself in meals (read: fed). The first issue actually does pit her against a crazed scientist named Dr. Pangaea (you thought I was kidding?), school, the police, ninjas, basketball-playing ninjas, dark and sinister ninjas, and last but not least, the stuck up mayor's daughter (you thought I was going to say ninjas?). The second issue tosses in Incas, virgin sacrifices, conquistadors, pirates, Inti the sun god, time travel, Charlotte's Web, astronauts, a rocket crash, and multitudes of happy-to-die-for-our-amusement ninjas. Is it mostly ridiculous? And how. Is the writing occasionally uneven? Sure, but will it make you smile? Indubitably.
And that's because Street Angel is an out of nowhere inexplicable burst of hilarity, an offbeat mélange of Kill Bill, Pinky and the Brain, Austin Powers, alternate conquistador history, ninja lore, street brawling, restaurant kitchen repartee, basketball court kung fu, and just in case you're afraid it's missing anything -- instructions on how to wield a bo staff. Try to take this book seriously and you deserve to be laughed at, scorned, forced to wear a ninja suit, and beaten senseless by a hyper skinny skateboarding martial-artist with nappy hair and fists of death.
Visit their web site where you can read more about Street Angel or order copies.
Matt Peckham lives in Nebraska and Iowa. His first book, a guide to Mike's Carey's Lucifer, will be published by Wildside Press. For more about Matt, check out mattpeckham.com
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