Review: The New York Five #1

DC’s Minx line never got the appreciation – or the fan base – it deserved. Filled with clever, well-made teen romance genre riffs aimed squarely at an audience of teenage girls, Minx should have become a break-away hit with the manga/supernatural romance crowd as well as any comic fans looking for something a little different. It had the quality. It had the creators. It just didn’t have the readers. After all, what young girl is going to run into the comic shops, or head to the Western comics section?

The fall of Minx is disheartening, but at least some of their projects live on. Brian Wood, perhaps best known for long-running Vertigo books DMZ and Northlanders, created The New York Four, a drama featuring four female protagonists in their first semester of college at NYU. The simple, low-concept approach to story-telling was matched with sparse, black-and-white illustrations from Ryan Kelly that focused more on giving the characters and locations distinct personality than on action. The New York Four ended after the first semester, but Wood wasn’t done with them yet: enter The New York Five.

Kicking off at the beginning of the second semester of their Freshman year, The New York Five follows the same cast of characters with the hinted addition of a barely-introduced girl named Olive.  Despite a big deal being made about the timing of it all – the college setting and the start of a semester – none of the girls really deal with class at all.  The only one who has even a vaguely school-related plot is involved in such a half-baked scheme as to make me glad that school isn’t really touched on with more depth.

Unfortunately, for those that haven’t read The New York Four, the issue is somewhat lacking. Outside of a single page summary of The New York Four and the character profiles, Wood and Kelly make little attempt to introduce new readers to these characters in a state of normalcy – because we only know them in crisis-mode, it becomes difficult to take the escalating crises the book piles on them seriously.  The fifth member of the group, Olive, appears to be homeless in the single page she’s on, another far-too-damaged character in a collection of them.

The New York Five radiates promise, which makes its execution all the more disappointing. If you’ve read and enjoyed The New York Four, I can only assume you’ll be a fan of this as well.  But for newcomers to the series, and I have to assume that most of you will be newcomers to the series, it’s an ultimately forgettable foray into an under-examined genre of comics.  A little more low key and a lot more open ended and the creative team could have something special.  As is, it seems like fairly boilerplate melodrama – not bad, but not enough.

Grade: C

Cal Cleary

read/RANT

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