Re-Gifters – Mike Carey

When an important Hapkido tournament is announced, Korean-American teenager Jen Dik Seong (Dixie to her friends), one of the best in her South Central Los Angeles dojo, signs up. To complicate matters her father’s job depends on her winning, and her infatuation with another martial artist, Adam, has completely disoriented the feisty Dixie, making her practically unable to compete effectively. Unrequited love leads Dixie to waste the entry fee her parents gave her on an extravagant gift to impress the oblivious Adam, who, in turn, passes it to his love interest, and Dixie is left scrambling to find a means to enter—and win—the tournament.

The story contains a plethora of entertaining and deep characters as well as excellent plot devices including a falling out with her best friend (Avril), annoyingly hilarious twin baby brothers, revenge against Adam, revelations on not taking talent or family for granted, and the mysterious street smart love interest with a golden heart named Dillinger that makes the piece an ideal work of dramatic fiction. Action, romance, angst, multiethnic conflict, and teen-age dilemmas and decisions are all present and realistically portrayed.

If any fault is to be found within this graphic novel, it is with the art. The black-and-white drawings add expression to the complex emotions and motion to the dynamic fight scenes; however, characters’ appearances fluctuate sharply with Avril is illustrated as comically child-like and Dixie’s diminutive stature makes her implied age of sixteen (that of all the main characters) difficult to believe.