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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Lea Hernandez Indoctrination Book 1 - Killer Princesses 

Two people have told me now -- Lea Hernandez in person, and Mark Waid in the introduction -- that they are slightly taken aback by how acidic and naughty Killer Princesses is. Waid in particular can't reconcile what he reads coming out of Gail Simone's poisonous pen with her (apparently) sweet, reserved demeanor. The surprise he describes is palpable, and a good chunk of the introduction focuses specifically on this point.

Me? I'm not particularly surprised. It's no secret that just about every great comedian (and comedic storyteller, and humorist in general) holds within them an unhealthy amount of rage. The acidic kind of rage. The poisonous kind of rage. That urge to scream at the world in frustration... to really let everyone have it, once and for all.

Sometimes the humorist puts that bile right out in the open air for everyone to see; indeed, I've done a not-bad job of staying in your line of sight by that very tactic.

But, as always, it's the quiet ones you really gotta look out for. The unassuming ones. The safe ones. Like Simone.

Now, I make Killer Princesses sound pretty deadly serious; or, worse, annoyingly allegorical. It's neither. No story featuring three dim-bulb sorority sisters blithely assassinating vaguely important people after painting their fingernails in rainbow patterns can be all that serious. This Simone at the funniest I've ever seen her, a nice tonic for the increasingly serious Birds of Prey. In my professional opinion, the line "I do Kiegels when I get excited" deserves a place in the national psyche on par with "I'm Rick James, bitch."

It's funny shit. But it's funny shit with a bite.

While the high concept -- adorably clueless sorority sisters whacking the brilliant and powerful while talking like they might as well be at a frat party -- is enough of a seller, the story is considerably cleverer than that. Who better to use as killers than shallow princesses with no sense of consequence? We never know, really, who the girls are assigned to kill... and why should we? The girls don't care, so we don't either.

But there I go again, making it all sound serious and preachy, when the whole thing rarely wavers from its chaotically playful premise. But it isn't the playfulness that gives this one its aftertaste; it's the subtle bite, the sneaking suspicion that Simone pounded rather than typed some of these lines.

Lea Hernandez is the perfect choice for artist. Her style is fun, buoyant, joyful, and playful (there's that P-word again), suckering you in to the wackiness of the proceedings before that same wackiness adds dimension to the satirical elements that slowly uncover themselves as the story progresses. At first you laugh with the girls, then you begin to laugh at them, and by the end you're still laughing, but you kind of despise them. Hernandez made the observation to me that there's no one actually likable in the whole damn thing, and her understanding of that basic truth informs the illustration.

Give it a shot. This one will make you laugh your ass off first, and stick with you uneasily afterward.

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