Review: ‘Confessions of a Blabbermouth’
Mike Carey is a noted writer of both comics and prose – Lucifer, The X-Men, the “[[[Felix Castor]]]” novels – but, one might ask, what does he know about being a teenage girl? Probably not a lot…but he does have a secret weapon on his side: his daughter Louise is a teenage girl, and she’s the co-writer of this particular project.
Confessions of a Blabbermouth is the most recent publication of DC Comics’ Minx arm, which aims squarely at teenage and tween girls. (You remember: the audience that never, ever would read comics, so it was no use ever trying to get them interested – no, really, it’s just not worth it…until Sailor Moon ignited the manga boom and suddenly American comics companies were sitting on the sidelines watching those girls buy billions of dollars of Japanese comics? That audience.)
I’ve reviewed Minx comics twice before for ComicMix – Re-Gifters and Clubbing last August, and The Plain Janes and Good As Lilly in September. And the book that was most successful out of those four was Re-Gifters, written by one Mike Carey (without any assistance from anyone in the target audience), so I had high hopes for [[[Blabbermouth]]].
Blabbermouth is more stylized than [[[Re-Gifters]]] was; the story is less specifically realistic but possibly, in its big emotional scenes, closer to the real emotional life of a British teenage girl. Tasha Flanagan is a “Year Twelve” in her school – which makes her what, 16 or so? – an accomplished and popular blogger, attractive enough to have her pick of boyfriends even though she’s cranky and obnoxious, and (to inject a little reality, and conflict) keeping her head down around the local thuggish girl-bully and her minions.
(I’d always thought girl-bullies tended to be the blondes with impeccable nails and nasty things to say about everyone else’s clothes, not simply distaff versions of the mouth-breathing boy-bully stereotype, but I’ve been out of high school for a long time now.)
Anyway, Tasha has two big problems. First is that her divorced mother has taken up with a new boyfriend, Jed Hazell – and Jed is 1) a prick, 2) the father of a moody, humorless daughter, Chloe, whom Tasha is stuck with, and 3) even more of a prick. (No, seriously – Jed is a novelist, of the Mills & Boon variety, and he’s utterly insufferable. I suspect him of being based on someone the elder Carey met; he’s that distinctive.)
Problem #2 is less common, and (to my mind) less believable: Tasha’s been shanghaied onto the yearbook committee by the faculty advisor, and not allowed to quit. (Only in fiction does this happen; in real life kids who are “volunteered” for things they don’t want to do stop showing up and don’t do any of that “volunteer” work.) And the girl-bully believes the editorship of the yearbook is her rightful job, and so wants to find – and pound – Tasha.
(Is there really that much girl-on-girl violence in British schools? I’m sure this is a state school, but it still looks like one from a relatively affluent neighborhood, where parents generally get annoyed when little Elspeth or Dakota comes home with fresh bruises every day.)
[[[Confessions of a Blabbermouth]]] does have an overly rosy view of blogging – Tasha’s ramblings are unlikely to be as popular as they are depicted, and she seems more MySpace-y than a straight-up blogger. But, since I blog myself, this may be just sour grapes…
Anyway, Tasha works through her two problems, bonds with Chloe, shows up Jed as the prick he is, and writes it all down in her blog. I’m not entirely convinced by the final ending of the Jed plot – he’s such a prick that it doesn’t seem sufficient – but, otherwise, it all works out well.
On the art side, Aaron Alexovich does a fine job, using generally black page backgrounds and an array of distinctive character designs. His people are clearly cartoony – many of them have very wide eyes and faces – but they’re expressive and believeable in context, and he moves them around the page well. I haven’t seen his work before, but he’s very good at this sort of thing: real people in a real world. Even though a majority of the characters are wearing school uniforms most of the time, they’re still instantly recognizable.
Like Re-Gifters, Blabbermouth will be of most interest to girls the same age as Tasha (and particularly those whose themselves as being like her). But it’s solidly entertaining, and works just fine for those of the other gender and those substantially older.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.