Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Evil Diva, Volumes I and II

The folks at Angry Viking Press sent me a copy of the first book in their Evil Diva series. Written by Joe Cashman and Peter Menotti, it's drawn by Stephen Hood and "Team Diva." It's fascinating, playing with tv sitcom tropes set in a middle school in the same nimble and bright way that the award winning American Born Chinese did.

Diva is a devil at a high school for angels and devils; like the four houses of Harry Potter's Hogwarts, St. Swithern's School is an impossible thing that functions for the sake of the story. It gives our devil a place where she can be too good. Luckily, she's quickly taken under the wing of the school guidance councilor, Virgil, who passes on a mysterious wand. Family friendly hijinx ensue as Diva begins a secret life as a do-gooding superhero, while also searching for a chance to "do things her own way" in her real life. The book cliff-hangs to promise many future installments as Diva works around the expectations of the other characters in the story and finds her own place in the world.

One thing I find especially attractive about this story was the development of the plot and characters through dialogue. Evil Diva doesn't follow Diva as single-mindedly as Hunger Games follows its protagonist, and so its not as limited it the way it tells its story or the development of its side characters. Unlike American Born Chinese, which had 3 or 4 central characters, Evil Diva revels in its big cast. I find that refreshing, and some of the characters who feel stock in Volume 1 begin to acquire depth in Volume 2. Diva's parents are especially important and conflicted characters, balancing their love for their daughter with their high expectations.

The colors and art are bright and kid friendly, with most of the action taking place in frames of color (as opposed to background). The characters are drawn distinctly but with the pliable faces and melodramatic motions of a Looney Tunes cartoon. In many ways, the comics read like the storyboard of a movie, with most of the details left to the imagination and the characters standing central on the page.

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