WRITTEN BY: Ryan Ferrier
ART BY: Devaki Neogi
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
RELEASE: February 25, 2015
It’s not clear if this is a future dystopia or a slightly warped present; the technology, if it’s different, is not accessible to our protagonists in their lower-socioeconomic-status burrough. The society is clearly different. Unlike today, where areas with a lower socioeconomic status are often some combination of a police state and a chaotic self-policed crime zone, the turf arrangements in this comic made by local gangs seem formal, the guides and codes meaningful, and the police presence nonexistent.
The story follows The Fever, an all-girl gang in Old Beach, a small and generally neglected burrough that they police themselves. These girls will kick your ass for hurting one of their own, but they function very much like a family, even to the extent that the crew members are called “aunt” by Betty’s little sister Sweet Pea. Each of the members has her own intro, all in the internal narrative of Betty Machete, the character this issue follows– but with the gang dynamic, it’s highly possible that next issue will focus on another member. We have:
Violet Volt, a young black convenience store cashier, who jumps on the stage at a punk show to scream Black Flag lyrics and kick over amps, and who cracks jokes because she thinks she’s funny and it doesn’t matter if anyone agrees with her.
Bloody Mary– not as young as Violet, but none of them seem older than 25– who talks herself up in the mirror and who’s taking care of her bedridden mother. Mary is Asian, and even though she would clearly die for the Fever, coping with her mother’s illness is something she seems to carry mostly alone.
Derby Girl, an adorable wild card who combines her slightly psychotic violent streak with cute floral dresses, who’s seen buying drugs from Nikola and who is always willing to launch an ambush on roller skates. Derby’s white, with a chip on her shoulder and a constant need to prove herself.
Daisy Chain, or “Aunt Daisy” to Sweet Pea, seems to be Sweet Pea’s secondary caregiver with Betty. She and Betty are not only raising Sweet Pea together, but they seem to be something like the parental figures to the gang, in a leadership capacity but without being controlling or condescending. Fittingly, her weapon of choice is a thick metal chain. Daisy could be Latina, or like Betty, she could be Indian– this crew is diverse but race never seems to be an issue amongst one another.
And finally, Betty, our narrator, whose family is from Bengaluru and who, despite being a maternal presence to her sister and to her crew, is not always in control of her impulses. Betty incites the narrative arc that this series will clearly jump off on by defending her turf from a rival gang, The Wrath, and getting a little carried away– and that’s where the name of the series comes in.
These characters are amazingly fleshed-out in the writing, but without the character designs, this book would not be such a shining example of comics getting it right. Devaki Neogi’s faces are crucially expressive, the women’s body types are all realistic, their body language tells as much a story of their closeness as the dialogue. A small part of the final fight scene seemed somewhat staged, wooden, but the physicality of the book overall is dynamic. The colors by Neil Lalonde create a neon bright punk-era atmosphere, shifting only slightly from the club scene to the beach. The art combines some traditional ink outlining with very stylistic splashes and cutouts, creating a fresh experience for a comic fan without distracting from the story.
This book is good. It’s not like nothing you’ve ever read before– what is, really?– but it’s new and fresh enough that people will be standing up and taking notice of this series, which it richly deserves.