I’ll admit when I saw Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks cover I was excited. It looked so promising. You see, I am a big fan of the whole riot grrl oeuvre going way back. I was hoping that this comic was going to be Tank Girl meets Rat Queens set to the strains of Bikini Kill, something beautiful, hilarious, and timely yet timeless. Sadly, it wasn’t, but not for want of trying, only maybe trying a bit too hard…
Jim Mahfood’s art is rough, lacks detail, and looks like the doodles one would find on a junior high school boy’s notebook back in the early 90s. I expected to see one of those pointy letter S’s all over the place. The action and pacing are frenetic, jagged lines and bright colors scream from every page. But then there are two subdued pages set during flashbacks that show what Mahfood can do when he isn’t trying too hard. The narrative is part revenge tale, part getting the old gang back together, and part I’m not quite sure since the McGuffin of the tale are the titular socks. There are borderline racist gangster characters, a jet pack, a night club shoot out, gratuitous drug use and some dated pop culture references that land with a thud.
I’m really not sure if the characters have powers (the superb fighting skills, the force and quantity of vomit expelled as a defensive measure, I guess those are powers?) or where their tech comes from (jet packs and cellphones that create real life psionic guns or something) or what the nature of the world they inhabit is, there is a pirate ship mentioned at one point. You see, the world building here is non-existent and what there is isn’t all that engaging, there is nowhere to hang your hat or to get a toehold. To be honest, a lot of the book feels like asides, like you’re reading a normal comic with standardized art but then they do a cutaway to show an over the top reaction or a fantasy fight scene. Grrl Scouts just sort of jams it all together, much like the streams of vomit and obscenities, the page gets filled though not sure that any of it matters.
I feel terrible saying all this because based on the little author’s note comic at the end of the main story the creator talks about how he’s been working on all this for something like 30 years. And the likes of Image, Oni, & now Valiant have had faith in Mahfood’s work, Hell, even Ron Howard tried to make a tv show out of it. And there are very, very faint echoes of Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin, but I’m sorry to say that for me it just misses the mark.