From the stack: Re-Gifters

June 23, 2007

A lot of Re-Gifters (Minx) feels like dominoes being set up to fall in an elegant and dramatic fashion. You can see what’s coming without too much difficulty, but the character work is persuasive enough and the art so appealing that it doesn’t really detract. Incredibly charming art helps too.

Mike Carey’s script follows Dik Seong Jen, nicknamed Dixie, as she manages the competing distractions of an upcoming hapkido tournament (she has a black belt in the martial art) and her first serious crush. The object of her affections is WASP-y classmate and fellow hapkido student Adam, who can best be described as Chad Michael Murray as rendered by artists Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel.

Dixie doesn’t do anything by halves, and she decides that the best way to get Adam’s attention is with an extravagant gift that she thinks will speak to their shared interest. It isn’t as meaningful to Andy as it is to Dixie, and she blows her savings and her entry fee to the tournament in the process. She’s got to fix the jam she’s created, getting into the competition and resolving her unrequited feelings in the process.

That she’ll do so is never really in doubt, though Carey throws some additional complications in the mix. Some of them feel like they’re too much. Dixie’s gift to Adam changes hands in an amusingly screwball fashion, but her efforts to get into the tournament take on a deus ex machine quality. And competing isn’t just a matter of personal pride; it could make a big difference for her middle-class family. They’re an appealing group, but the subplot feels superfluous.

What sells Re-Gifters ultimately are the characters and their world. Dixie is an appealing protagonist – impulsive but likable and formidable in her own way. Carey also creates a rich, largely believable world for her, reflecting the challenging mix of race and class of urban Los Angeles and peopling it with engaging characters. It doesn’t even matter so much that the least involving is Adam, who never really rises above the level of an objective.

I’m also crazy about Liew and Hempel’s visuals. The pages are faultlessly lively and expressive, and they stage all of the action with precision and imagination. They keep things moving at a happy clip, glossing over the narrative stumbles that arise.