Forget where I heard about “Street Angel”, but it was another review that was good enough that I ended up bugging my LCS Blue Moon Comics to order me a copy. What I got was a good read, but one that shows the tricky part of collecting the learning curve. Its steep and not entirely smooth and in one place it shows up, bumps and all.
The early stories are a black and white hoot, showing Rugg and Maruca running roughshod through enough comic book tropes that we instinctively know just what their stunted childhood was spent doing. The aforementioned street angel, Jesse Sanchez, is a fun character that doesn’t need to make any other sense that doing all the cool stuff that we can’t do in our world: being the world’s greatest homeless skateboarder and ninja destroyer while having a legless skateboarding buddy to boot. Its fun, totally goofy shit that looks like the old Wally Wood 1960’s Thunder Agents in places. Its also totally forgettable beyond the laughs.
But by the 4th story in the compilation, Down in the Dumpster Blues, writer Rugg is growing by leaps and bounds and a lot of the goofy ninja shit is gone, What we’re left with is some growing emotional honesty about jesse’s homelessness and lack of food and the embarrassment from a single stare for a classmate as Jesse stands in a dumpster. The interaction is both light and heavy in equal measure and crackles with low volume/high emotional resonance. Artist Rugg is also growing, relying less on solid blacks alone and pulling out the quill and brush to add a ton of texture and grey to a less black and white world.
It is my best guess that the artwork here was originally meant to be printed at regular comic size but has been reduced to digest size, which tightens up the linework, but can start to drop out smaller details as well. In this case, the scans seem solid, but there is a real lack of impact with it’s small size that I bet was in the originals. Dumpster blues would be something that I know that I would be impressed to have sitting on my drawing board at 10 x 15 size.
Hero Time, the direct follow up story continues the impressive artwork, as well as a far more cohesive story. The pacing is excellent, as are the pastiche’s of 1970’s marvel comics included in the story. Suddenly, Jesse and an older, wiser Afrodisiac are fighting an almost impossible battle, and we get a great little comic gem of a story.
Rugg's layouts and composition have improved greatly by this issue. Did i mention that learning curve earlier? Hero Time is far more mature in its storytelling and its aims, veering from the sardonic to the serious to the revelation that all the Afrodisiac's efforts to save the Earth have long since been lost by the next generation, a slightly bittersweet view of the aftermath of every other issue of the Fantastic Four or the Avengers circa 1972. Gerber as one of the few to try and address this with his classic Howard the Duck issue, "What do you do, the day after you saved the Universe?"
Of course, in the back are the covers, a great collection of Rugg doing lots of visual pastiche: Harold Grey, rob Liefeld, and Dan Clowes to name a few. And the obligatory sketchbook pages. But the meat? Its in issues #4 and #5 here. A fun read, and worth searching out or getting your local guy to order!