Unwrapping “Re-Gifters”

Dik Seong Jen/Dixie – is the type of heroine we are often missing in modern comic books. She is passionate, tough, intelligent, and a bit confused about herself and life.

She is the protagonist of the graphic novel Re-Gifters, which was bumped up in the queue by the recommendation of a friend. It’s yet another book from the now-cancelled DC comics Minx line of graphic novels aimed towards tween girls.

Our tween heroine, Dixie, is training in the art of Hapkido, a traditional Korean martial arts style. Of course there’s a romance between her and a fellow student, which plays a large part in the story, but the realizations brought about by this relationship ultimately end up empowering Dixie. It’s a nice change of pace from the typical romance featured in much young adult literature geared towards girls.

What struck me was how REAL the world felt. Even the side characters were full of life – Avril, Dixie’s best friend, plays a prominent role as comedic relief and helpful dispenser of advice, who is just as strong and interesting as Dixie herself. Her family are all lovable  as well – her twin brothers are written to comedic perfection, as anyone who has spent time with twins can attest to.

Dixie helps her family keep in touch with their Korean heritage through her practice of Hapkido. There’s an important passage in which her father describes immigrating to the United States, and his father telling him to embrace the new culture, but never forget where he came from.

The cultural leanings of this book honestly led me to believe that author Mike Carey himself might have some Korean heritage or background. He doesn’t – but he does pose a triple threat – a truly excellent writer who can script real females AND assume the voice of another culture while still making it feel authentic (or at least well-researched). The article referenced at the bottom, in which the author brings up some of the Korean misrepresentations, only points out a few errors, rather than finding offense with the entire book.

The chapter titles are amusing (The Battle Fart of the Korean Dwarf Fighting Frog being a personal favorite), swiftly paced and the entire book is an entertaining read. There are deep elements swirling around in here – racial tension and class disparity – but none of them seem heavy-handed or over-played. It’s a bit Karate Kid meets American Born Chinese with some Mean Girls thrown in for good measure. The message we are left with for young-women is positive without being cheesy.

And in general – there wasn’t much exceptionalism present here. No one seemed to be overly shocked at Dixie being a female Hapkido student, or bat an eyelash about her entering the National Competition. Even her Master refers to her as his best student, without giving qualification to her gender. Yay for Carey developing an amazing, clever young woman for this novel – I’m intrigued now to see how deftly he handles Rogue, one of my favorite X-Women.

The art style by Sonny Liew is manga with black, white and shades of grey, and my only real gripe is that in a few scenes we lose facial features of characters, which draws me out of the story and reality of the moment. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they’re inexplicably missing an eye or nose.

This isn’t the first pairing of Carey and Liew – they worked on My Faith in Frankie together, and individually Carey pens X-Men Legacy (the only X-Book I could currently stomach) and Liew is currently working on Marvel’s Sense and Sensibility adaptation.

Another book to add to the “Appropriate and Engaging for Young Women” category. Hell, another book that anyone could enjoy, come to that.

LINK LOVE

Mike Carey interview

Review pointing out misrepresentation of some aspects of Korean culture with commentary by Sonny Liew himself

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

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