X-Men: Misfits, written by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman, art by Anzu, is a shojo revisioning of Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngsters with a teenage Kitty Pryde leading the way. While I think my 13 year old self might have liked this comic, I’m not entirely sure she wouldn’t have also been embarrassed for liking it as well.
Kitty is recruited to the school within the first few pages of the book (by a disturbingly dashing version of Magneto), and becomes the only female student in a sea of boys — boys who have many interesting powers and backstories, but basically serve as Kitty’s new harem. It really is just a high school with an incredibly stupid hierarchy in which looks and money rule the day instead of power level (I think this was probably a wasted opportunity — by making it like a stereotypical high school environment, everyone’s powers seem like completely random after thoughts).
There are three types in Kitty’s little harem — there are nice guys who are usually incredibly physically unattractive, then there’s the rich, arrogant and attractive jerks, and finally, the complete and total zero. Meaning, there is no personality worth remarking upon. Of course, since Kitty has to find out how stupid and vain the rich pretty boys are, she’s left with third option as the only viable romantic possibility. (I’m not even going to bother explaining which iconic character is in which category because it simply does not matter. Whether they have the power of fire or ice they remain annoying as hell.)
And this is where the “shojo-ness” of this volume goes through the genre and comes out the other side much less engaging and thoughtful than the majority of shojo titles I read on a regular basis. First, shojo does not equal romance. Shojo titles are defined by their focus on human relationships of all kinds. Since Kitty lacks other girls to interact with, her identity is entirely defined as “THE GIRL” and in a school full of all boys…well, what else is the story going to focus on, if not romance? The politics of mutant kind organizing, educating, and training is blatantly overlooked for a too simplistic narrative of how Kitty learns that some boys, er…most boys are big jerks. Also when your boyfriend has powers and is a big jerk this is going to be much bigger mess than if your date gets drunk at the prom. Just sayin’.
However, the art is where reliance shojo genre is abused the most. It’s like every shojo artistic convention was mixed in a blender and spit out indiscriminately on the page. The page layouts are awkward and disjointed, background patterns are overused to the point they lose all meaning, and a dog tail and ears often appear when Kitty is feeling bashful, happy, embarrassed…and every other emotion imaginable. Instead of using this technique at key moments, I felt Kitty spent half the book represented as a damn dog. It made me sad, because when done right this technique can be hilariously on point (I keep thinking of Kyo’s cat ears when his dander is up in key scenes in Fruits Basket).
There is hope, though, as the preview for the next volume indicates other girls will be joining the school, and I’m hoping they have more personality than the boys currently do. And really, even a little would help things out enormously.
Review Copy provided by Del Rey.