‘Street Angel #1:’ Comic Book Review

Street Angel sneaks up on you in some most unexpected ways, and, by the time you’re done with this premiere issue, you very well may find yourself grinning from ear to ear.  Written and created by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca, with art and lettering by Rugg, Street Angel takes a remarkably simple conceit and takes it all the way to the comics bank.  Rugg and Maruca know comics, and here and there they slyly break the fourth wall, bringing us into the story more and making us a participant in Street Angel’s unchecked chicanery.  Thirteen-year-old orphan Jesse Sanchez is Street Angel, and Rugg and Maruca’s description of her beats anything I can try here, but, suffice it to sa,y she’s got mad skateboarding skills and tackles any challenge head on, and that challenge is often ninjas.

Yes!  This book has ninjas, and even ninjas playing basketball, as well as some of the same comedic sensibilities, or insensibilities, of The Tick, one of my benchmark comics for inspired insanity.  To talk too much about the story is to spoil a most unique and entertaining surprise, though from page one you know that Rugg and Maruca are tapping the zany vein when they introduce us to mad scientist Dr. Pangea, whose fiendish plot is all in his name.  Another scene, which could have been nothing more than talking heads, is literally amped up to hilarious effect simply by giving Street Angel a megaphone.  She is still thirteen years old, after all.  Rugg’s black-and-white art is crisp and clean, with minimal shading, off-setting Street Angel’s vigilante mischievousness and the abrupt bouts of violence with light, airy backgrounds.  The narration builds up the world of Wilkesborough around Street Angel’s actions, and you get a really solid sense of place, though there is still an enjoyable amount of randomness to the proceedings that keep everything clever and funny.

I want so badly to rattle off the best visual and narrative gags in this first issue, but I can’t, because I don’t want Street Angel coming after me next for giving away the comedic gems before you discover them for yourself.  It is obvious that Rugg and Maruca are having a blast, and the art’s natural, slightly cartoony style fits right in with the tone of the story and the forays into well-calculated absurdity.  The panel layouts are creative, no two pages looking the same, and Street Angel tears through the book, making jokes and dropping bad guys all with a real sense of motion and relaxed intensity.  The cover of this first issue, also by Rugg, is elegance defined, with an elaborate, three-dimensional title and composition and coloring that are beautiful and exciting.  You see that cover, and you want to read this book.

Street Angel is another out-of-the-box title from digital publishing wunderkind MonkeyBrain Comics, proving once again that they have an eye for tremendous talent and are more than happy to push the limits of what people expect from comics.  As Street Angel’s infamy grows in the comic book world and on the streets and in the back alleys of Wilkesborough, I can only wait with unabashed anticipation for the next outrageous adventure to skate out of Rugg and Macura’s imaginations and straight into my eyeballs.  This is a book I’ll be telling people about, and that’s no joke, because I just told you.  The world needs Street Angel!

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