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Strange Girl Vol. 2: Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
posted January 31, 2007

imageCreators: Rick Remender, Eric Nguyen, Jerome Opena, Harper Jaten
Publishing Information: Image, trade paperback soft cover, 128 pages, August 2006, $14.99
Ordering Numbers: 1582406421 (ISBN)

Rick Remender's writing tends to overpower the comics on which he's working, with scenes that turn into movie-cognizant riffs and massive direction changes that chop into his stories' momentum in such a way that they don't lose speed but just spend it sent rattling off on a brand-new path. It's almost as if he's remixing stories after writing them as opposed to merely providing a script, infusing his chosen vehicles with a madcap, disdainful energy. In that way he may remind some comics fans of the best scriptwriters of the 20th Century pre-Marvel mainstream, minus their general contempt for their vocation, and yet in the stories he chooses to explore his tastes seem locked into the honestly-observed, straight-forward genre works with a twist that dominated independent comics in the 1980s.

Strange Girl is the story of a young woman left behind after the Christian rapture, an event talked around in the Bible and enthused about by Christian ministers through which all good souls ascended into heaven and Earth is given over to demons to run according to their pleasure and ability (most versions suggest a godless rather than an occupied planet, but this version allows for a lot more visual splendor). Our protagonist Beth is a sometimes-powerful sorceress seeking a place for herself in what's left of our world. She's movie-tough, with a tendency to drink and act out violently when provoked but with no real human weaknesses or bad habits so unflattering or complex she might hinder a pitch to HBO. Beth is helped along by a wisecracking, foul and helpful demon in the classic comics naughty sidekick mode of Pip the Troll, another human named Tim (I take it he's new), and a third human that joins them later who is a believer/soldier. The trade is plot light -- kind of a road encounter that turns out so badly the current narrative ends and the lead character returns home, a couple of companions light. The enjoyment is basically watching people survive the horrible circumstance and outlive whatever demon in the vicinity they've managed to piss off. Like the Mad Max movies, with magic, hooves and horns.

Is it any good? I imagine that for some people this book is what comics are all about: the meat and potatoes thrill of a genre adventure story told with some visual flair and a bunch of wisecracks. Even on that level, there something that seems incredibly staged about these comics, something self-aware and not all that happy about it, like a project that exists to build a resume and attract attention as opposed to fulfill an desire to express something. That may not be what's going on at all, but it sure comes across that way. It feels careful, which is an odd thing for a comic book about surviving the apocalypse.