Friday, 31 May 2013

Minx Reviews: Water Baby

This week's Minx review is the graphic novel Water Baby by Ross Campbell. I think Ross Campbell is epic however I promise to be subjective with this review (mostly).

Water Baby is a story of two halves. The first part focuses on surfer chick Brody's recovery from having her leg bitten off by a shark. She is plagued with nightmares of a mutant version of the shark which attacks not only her but also her best friend Louisa. Just as Brody starts to get used to her loss another shark enters her life: ex-boyfriend Jake. Jake is a total douchebag and is ruining Brody and Louisa's peaceful existence. When he trashes their apartment Brody decides it's time to send Jake packing. This is where Water Baby enters phase two and becomes a road story. Instead of just ejecting Jake, Brody takes it upon herself to drive Jake back. At a service station he meets Chrissie. They say bad people attract each other and this is very much the case and before Brody and Louisa know what is happening Jake has invited Chrissie along with them. Chrissie's boyfriend apparently abandoned her and it becomes obvious why as she systematically tries to destroy the trio's already strained relationship.

As far as I remember Water Baby was my first Minx graphic novel and though, by no means perfect, it was enough to get me hooked on not only on the Minx imprint but also Ross Campbell.

I'll talk about the art first. It's faultless. If you like the slightly moody and decaying style of Wet Moon then you will be at home with Water Baby. When Brody shaves off her hair she very much looks like Mara. The story too has a very Wet Moon-ish feel to it (it was written between volumes 2 and 3). It is definitely the most grown up of the Minx stories. Brody's accident and nightmares are very graphic and the characters have very mature relationships with sex and sexual fluidity.

The first part of the story is very much the strongest. Because you start with Brody and Louisa a few minutes before the accident you already feel like you know them and their relationship when it happens. You are much more invested in Brody's recovery than if you had started a few seconds before the attack or just after. Louisa takes a lot of crap from Brody but because you know how close they were you want to see their relationship recover too. Then there's Jake. He is a trigger for the nightmares and causes some good extra tension but he is such a selfish, ignorant, douchebag that whenever he pops up he really sticks out. Everything is so nuanced and subtle and inferred then Jake comes along and does something dumb because he is an irredeemable idiot. You could say that maybe his stupidity is cute but he is also a chauvinist so unless you like guys who treat women as little more than put on the earth for their gratification he is not cute. I guess what I'm saying is he's a little bit too much of a jerk. I most definitely would not have offered to drive him home - but then that is also part of the story - Brody realising that you don't have to tolerate or pander to jerky exes.

The second part of the story is the road trip. It is very standard fare. It is here we meet Chrissie. Chrissie is cute but poisonous. I knew a girl exactly like her at university and maybe we all know girls like Chrissie but if you don't you'll probably find her a bit of an evil seducer stereotype in a book that is otherwise very liberal. I think because the book is so open to all sorts of ways of life if feels strange to have such an obvious 'villain' but like I said...girls who look cute and use their cuteness to do incredibly destructive things do exist. I suppose it doesn't help that Jake really is such an idiot and falls for her sly ways so easily whilst Brody and Louisa know there is something up and want as little to do with her as possible. I think because the books is a single volume and a big chunk is devoted to Brody's recovery there is not much space to develop Chrissie as much as the other characters. Though it is not intended she has a tendency to come across as bad because she sleeps around rather than bad because she is generally out to cause trouble.

Water Baby desperately wants to be two different stories but if you're willing to overlook the meandering plot there is a lot still to enjoy, notably the naturalistic dialogue, Brody and Louisa's relationship and Ross' beautiful art. It is also refreshing to find a male writer who can actually write good female characters and isn't afraid to write a less than perfect male. It gets very tiring seeing male writers mouth off about how great they are at writing strong females when in reality though their characters are not the 1950s housewife stereotype they are still no way near dimensional enough to be 'real' (yes there is a difference between 'strong' and 'real'). Long live Ross Campbell's obsession with deep, gutsy girls!

You'll like Water Baby if you like:
Wet Moon, Ghost World, Kakera: A Piece of Our Life, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, female road trip movies such as Boys on the Side and grungy surfer stuff.

Also by Ross Campbell (writer and artist):
Too Much Hopeless Savages!, Wet Moon, The Abandoned, Resurrection (v2), Shadoweyes and Shadoweyes in Love

Also by Ross Campbell (artist only):
Spooked, House of Mystery #1: "The Hollows", Hack/Slash, Fraggle Rock (v2 #2), Glory (#23-34) plus a load of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle stuff.

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