The premise for Maggie X: Bitch With a Chainsaw, written by Bryce Raffle with art by Beth Varni, is an interesting one: zombies exist in the world, among normal denizens of the night, and they need to be dealt with.
That’s where “The Agency” steps in: an organization of secret agents trained to hunt zombies. The existence of secret monsters, and equally secret monster hunters, invites intrigue; but does the story draw us in beyond this concept?
Art To Die For?
The art of Maggie X is non-traditional, in the sense that it is far-removed from the typical art style associated with zombies, gore, or horror. The line work flows between thick and thin, teetering on expressive, but could use some refinement. This gives the work a sometimes gestural and cartoony feel, which contrasts with the grittiness of the other artistic elements.
Varni pairs the line work with a coloring technique that makes heavy use of textures to enhance the atmosphere of the work. In addition, the artist uses very deliberate color palettes to further accentuate the mood and to give each scene a distinct cohesiveness, which I can appreciate.
This combination of line, color, and texture is quite unique. However, whether or not this is an effective marriage of elements is up to an individual reader’s tastes. It may seem incongruous to someone with certain genre art expectations. Yet, sticking too closely to genre norms may not always work either.
Story Doesn’t Cut Deep
The story of Maggie X is simple, and perhaps even too simplistic: a pair of agents go to explore an incident, while some further conspiratorial mystery is vaguely alluded to. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it doesn’t push enough boundaries to get me excited, and I feel like it’s pretty standard fare at this point.
Existing within the zombie genre (already ubiquitous in the cultural subconscious for the past two decades), there aren’t enough original ideas to set the story apart. Beyond the plot, there are other elements that could be pushed further to create something a bit more memorable.
There is an interesting aspect to zombies in terms of their behavior, but it isn’t explored that deeply. It would have been interesting to take this aspect to the next level and focus on the technicalities. The way that this aspect actually affects the world would definitely set it apart from other zombie stories.
Lifeless Characters – that aren’t zombies!
Characterization is also an aspect that could elevate this tale. The characters in Maggie X often feel very flat, like overly familiar archetypes. We have a sassy protagonist, a jerky rival, mysterious boss, etc. Characters that challenged my expectations within the genre, or at least had intrigue or likability to them, would keep my interest vested in the story.
The dialogue feels cliche and stilted; like the plot, it doesn’t feel like it’s pushed enough to entice the reader. Interactions between characters are predictable and I feel very little interest in what they have to say. Fleshing out the characters beyond their archetype would do wonders to endear us to them, since we’re supposed to care about them.
There’s also the issue of the framing device: the story is being relayed from one character to another. But (as we are often reminded), both characters already know a lot of the information that is being repeated for the reader’s sake. So why choose this route? It feels like forced exposition: inorganic and highly apparent.
There is definitely a more subtle way to get this information to the reader, if it’s needed at all. It’s just such a glaring narrative device that it breaks the illusion, which is problematic for a story heavily dependent on mood. Clever ways of conveying information are key to immersion.
Maggie X – Conclusion
Maggie X takes it’s shot at the zombie genre, but it doesn’t quite do enough to stand out. The art is a unique take, atypical of zombie comics. It could, however, turn readers on or off. The plot and dialogue feel very conventional, akin to a B-movie; not a great thing if you’re trying to stand out.
This indie comic might still surprise us in later issues, but for now there are a few things that need work. If those issues are addressed, though, then X may just mark the spot. In the meantime, you can take get the first issue of this comic on Amazon here!