This punk-girl five-parter originally came from the same doomed publishing venture that released Brian Wood’s New York Four before it folded. The death of DC’s Minx imprint – an effort to reach out to younger, female readers with manga-formatted comics featuring female leads – was largely due to bookshops being unsure as to where to file the books, instinctively shoving them in beside regular Captain America trade-paperbacks where they were never found by their target market.
While reaching out to a whole swathe of the population that was largely uncatered for is both a noble and potentially lucrative idea, I always regarded the actual work as kind of patronising. As a disclaimer I’ll admit I’m now 25 and for the brief one-year lifespan of the imprint I was already in my twenties and a far cry from their target market. However, the 8-16 age bracket is ridiculously broad if you consider the archetypal examples of each polar end. Without a solid bullseye it sort of feels like Minx was blindly lobbing a ball into a massive ballpark hoping to hit one of the babyish, punkish, My Little Pony-ish, wise, rough, innocent, pretentious or whatever ad nauseam 8-to-16 year old girls who stood sweetly, sullenly, wide-eyed, or drunk and horizontally comatose on the field.
It came as no surprise to me when Minx collapsed, but it did to David Hahn who had spent two-and-a-half years writing and drawing his 144-page graphic novel All Nighter, only to see his publisher disappear just as he reached completion. Image picked it up and is now releasing it as a five-part series in regular American comic book format, where it can be found in the “A” section on the New Release shelf just like any other comic.
When we meet our lead female, Kit, she’s at the tail-end of her post-high school graduation summer, just a week away from starting art college. She’s sitting on the roof of the all night diner in ripped jeans waiting for the boyfriend she’s about to break up with. She’s still hanging out with the same people and doing the same shit she always was, but something’s about to happen and she knows it. She’s making the transition to adulthood and leaving her petty criminal youth behind with most of the important growing-up stuff happening in the local diner on which we find her perched, which is– as locals cafes, pubs and hang-outs are liable to become – a whole tiny world of its own populated by punks and the heavily pierced and people in Joy Division T-shirts.
Hahn dodged the typical pitfalls of writing for teenagers by deliberately avoiding the use of current slang; the three years or so since its completion aren’t obvious or awkward like a bad ironic t-shirt of yesteryear. In black, white and grey tones the art is slick in a computer-generated but not unattractive way. I found the whole thing just okay: it wasn’t as patronising as some of Minx’s previous efforts and was largely inoffensive until I stumbled over a smiley emoticon – a total redundancy in a comic book caption box.
The book is about bad boyfriends, shady histories, free chilli fries and hanging out with people you only know for a moment and you’re not even sure you even like. It might be great and I’m missing it, but then when you’re a kid it’s weird what grabs you and what doesn’t so maybe you’ll like it and maybe you won’t. I’m not a 16-year-old girl but I do know that when I was 16 I would have wanted something meatier than this.