Sunday, August 12, 2012

Review: It Girl! and the Atomics

Care to Batusi?
It Girl! and the Atomics wants to play. To rap. To jam. The creative team of writer Jamie S. Rich, illustrator, Mike Norton, colorist Allen Passalaqua and letterer Crank! know how to noodle through, how to keep the beat and how to sit back in the groove when one of them steps up to take a solo.

It Girl and the rest of the Atomics are a side project -- what Rich refers to in an editor's note as, ''the Madman version of BPRD'' -- and no knowledge of Madman is needed to catch what these creators are laying down. Think of it this way: you don't need to know all the lyrics backwards and forwards to The Shins Oh, Inverted World in order to get Broken Bells Broken Bells. To stretch this metaphor even further, Rich et al. aren't some second-rate two-drink minimum cover band either; they’re their own thing. You dig?

And so our adventure begins with an idealized It Girl patrolling ''Dark Streets'' in Snap City. Passalaqua and Norton know how to cop a 'house style' (see Battle Pug) and so It Girl's turnout comes complete with collar-cum-Queen-Victoria, vital pouches, banana-yellow gloves, skin-tight pink bodice, a matching purple trench coat scrunched up to the elbows that also doubles as a cape and to cap it off, a medusa mop of blond hair; a real horror show of superhero costume tics and clich├ęs.

Rich's dialogue in the opening scene is lousy with silliness and non- sequiturs. When It Girl slams two gooney guys head-to-head, she says: ''Get it together!'' Classic. And unless you're six and about to hop on pop, there's no reason to yell ''Dogpile!'' even when dispatching with a baddie wearing sunglasses (at night!). Only someone like Rich who is steeped in comic book cants could ape superhero style and still be sincere.

Like PBR and past date pimento olives, boredom and the internet are a bad combination. Rich and the gang have been playing a game and so (so it appears) has It Girl. 'Dark Streets' is the game -- and an imaginary one at that that adds another layer of levity and meta-ness to the whole -- that an irked It Girl has been using to pass the time instead of being ''a superhero for real.''
In a single page that goes against the baggy and bloated typical superhero origin exegesis, Rich and Norton explain what it takes to make It Girl It Girl. She touches a (convenient) convenience store two-handled plastic shopping bag, absorbs its polyethylene qualities and floats off the building to the ground below. Norton's panels too take on It Girl's properties as they curl and flounce to the bottom of the page. It Girl's narration is set within Hubba Bubba pink boxes and accented with the yellow letters courtesy of Crank!.

This second-act follows It Girl on a series of feints and well-meaning, but misplaced intentions. It Girl bungles a non-stickup stick-up and ends up lending money to the non-perp, ex-con, ex-villian named Skunk who's fallen on hard times. Rich maintains the louds and softs and manages to slip in jokes about combustible skunk gas and a guy named 'Hedgehog' who calls out 'Skunk' for being a ''rat.'' Her spirit defeated, It Girl's adventures get her no closer to stopping her greatest enemy, ennui.


It Girl's shag comes into its Silver Age glory in the issue's final third; there's science stuff that requires complicated headgear, straps, a contraption with an inclined plane, a glowing blue something-or-other, an underground layer, talk of Tesla, ''electrical transference'' and a froggy-looking dude holding a transponder in the requisite remote location. It's like its right out of a comic book. I love the design of the other Atomics: Bonnie's bouffant, Dr. Flem's billy goat beard and Gale Gail's bandaged head. I'll assume that the character designs (and It Girl's punny name) are all Allred. I say this as an educated guess to 1. name check the It Girl! and the Atomics creator (and cover artist) and 2. to write 'all Allred,' twice.

You can almost hear the 4/4 tempo of that 'wet' surf guitar sound in the pages of It Girl! and the Atomics as it shimmies, shakes and Batusies itself off the page and into your heart. Satire this swift takes a great deal of effort. The fact that Rich, Norton, Passalaqua and Crank! play it straight, says as much about their craft and how much they care about the source material as it does about the comic books that inspired them. It Girl! and the Atomics is what it is go go boots, ''kinetic ectoplasmic excitement'' and all.

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