Poor Shira Spektor! She’s “in love” with a Latino boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Her widower father has a horrible new girlfriend — his secretary, in fact! Plus, she’s gone on a shoplifting spree, her only friend in the world is an elderly ex-movie starlet, AND the book she stars in — Token — is the swan song for DC Comics Minx imprint! How can one girl possibly juggle all that drama?
The answer is: Very briefly. The page count in a Minx book is not vast, so the format begs the authors to practice brevity and the artists to get a lot of information into every panel if the story is going to be very complicated. If both creators fall a little short of that demand, the book’s success falters, and that’s the main problem with this final title for the Minx line.
Token — written by Alisa Kwitney and drawn by Joelle Jones — follows the everyday life of Shira Spektor, a lonely resident of Miami Beach, Florida, fifteen years of age. While the teen trauma is all credible, it lies in a jumble amidst the limiting page count. There are plenty of big themes in here — loss and loneliness being the major ones, as well as the concept of moving on from your past— but as the story alternates between meandering navel-gazing and jumpy emotionalism, it never manages to deliver on the promise of those themes.
There is constant emotional turmoil for the overwhelmed Shira but not enough pages to give any of the plot its deserved punch. Every incident is way too rushed and there is little to latch onto. The story needed to be pared down — at least one element could have been left out and not disturbed the flow.
With so much packed in, the storytelling relies too heavily on over-the-top signposts that lack the emotional sophistication required to move the story along in any fresh way. When Shira develops her infatuation with Rafael, her first order of business is to betray her smart girl persona and dash to the library in order to rip through a trashy romance novel called — just repeating this makes me cringe — Latin Lover. Meanwhile, Shira’s father goes all Jekyll and Hyde on his daughter and mother when they don’t adore his new girlfriend — not even a shade of the character as first presented appears. Rather than try for a three-dimensional character, Kwitney settles for the cliche of snippy-jerk parenting, which comes off as a bit childish and hints at a distrust of the audience’s capability towards nuance.
One other deficit is the time setting — 1987. On one hand, this does allow for a break from the endless cell phone conversations and text messaging of modern teen drama. However, that’s really the only indication that the story is not current — neither Kwitney nor Jones take advantage of the era. The art in particular offers nothing in the way of dating the story. I’m still a bit boggled by the main character wearing capris back then, which seems anachronistic to me but maybe I wasn’t hanging out with the right girls — or at least the ones from Miami.
This wastes what could be a perfect set-up. Shira’s elderly friend, Minerva, looks back to her own youth to offer Shira advice and understanding. It would have been interesting to contrast that with Shira’s story nowadays as she looks back to 1987. It seems like an obvious device and one that might have offered a context for the rushed nature of the information Kwitney is trying to get across.
As a final word on the Minx line, the book confirms that in the great big world of modern horrors the biggest problem facing teen girls is the heartbreak of being a social outcast — and the most common and painful symptom of that is the lack of a romantic interest. Or, at least, this is what the grown-ups think.