I think it’s fair to say that 2016 sucks. It is a year that is dark and full of terrors and getting worse by the day. There are a few bright spots scattered through the hellscape, however, and Mags Visaggio and Eva Cabrera’s Kim & Kim is one of them. Not only is it one of the best ass-kicking, patriarchy-smashing, queer-rocking comics since Midnighter, but it’s an indie comic to boot.
Kimiko “Kim Q.” Quatro and Kimber “Kim D.” Dantzler are interstellar bounty hunters hunting down the galaxy’s villains. With a retro-futuristic punk flair, battle guitar, big-ass gun, and hover van named The Contessa, they’re just two broke girls trying to make a living in a universe that doesn’t care if they fail. When they come across a bounty too good to be true, they decide to steal the catch out from under Columbus and Red, two bounty hunters working for the Catalans, a crew headed up by Kim Q.’s estranged father. Unfortunately, their quarry is neither human nor willing to go along quietly, and the Kims’ easy payday suddenly gets a lot harder.
Kim & Kim is a new on-going series from Black Mask Studios. Issue #1 dropped July 6, 2016 with Mags Visaggio as writer, Eva Cabrera as artist, colors by Claudia Aguirre, letters by Zakk Saam, and edits by Katy Rex.
To Pull Or Not To Pull
Speaking of Midnighter, in his blurb Steve Orlando compared Kim & Kim to a cross between Blade Runner and Jem and the Holograms, and he’s not wrong. If anything, I’d add Tank Girl to that list, and just a splash of Lumberjanes. Visaggio walks the fine line between fire and sunshine. The story itself is fairly straightforward—the Kims have to retrieve a renegade crew member from the crime syndicate run by El Scorcho before the Catalans do—but hella fun, emphasis on the “hella.” You’ve seen characters like the Kims before, but between Visaggio’s characterizations and Cabrera’s art, they stand out as unique creations with fully formed personalities.
Cabrera favors a vaguely manga-esque style that looks nothing like anything being cranked out by DC or Marvel. Think Brittney Williams (Hellcat) and Babs Tarr (Batgirl) by way of Brian Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim). Her action sequences are riotous fun, particularly with Aguirre’s vivid coloring. Moreover, no matter how revealing the characters’ clothes are, she never stoops to objectification. The Kims wear what they wear for themselves, not for anyone else. (Anyone know where I can get that “What the Hell” bra?) Aguirre absolutely nails Visaggio’s tone, favoring bold red, yellow, and orange hues and brash spotlight blues and greens. Even Zakk Saam stands out as a letterer by using speech balloons with a thin tail. The sound effects are a bit clunky and could be blended into the action a little better, but he makes up for it by writing Kim Q.’s narration in the same hot pink as her hair color.
I’m a big fan of female friendship stories. Watching Holtzmann and Patty hang out was half the fun of the new Ghostbusters movie, and Kate Leth’s Hellcat is one of only a few series from the Big Two on my pull list that I buy by the issue. The Kims swap jokes while trading childhood horror stories in a way that only real friends with a deep intimacy and trust can. The Kims are BFFs of the truest kind. They accept each other’s faults and foibles and, with Kim D. being the sensible, grounded one and Kim Q. being the rough-and-tumble wildcard, complement each other perfectly. The page showing their faltering attempts at gathering intel on their bounty is hilarious and adorable all at once as they don different disguises and poorly infiltrate various demographics. It’s not their story, but even the boys are given interesting backstories and are well-developed people who are never relegated to the enemy or eye candy.
It was so rare for so long to get a solid story about women, by women, and for women, so whenever a new one comes up I automatically pick it up. The only thing that made me want Kim & Kim even more was that the leads were women of color and queer. And not only are the characters realistically, wonderfully, thrillingly diverse, the creators are as well—Visaggio is trans and the rest of the creative staff are if nothing else ethnically diverse. Basically, this series is everything I’ve ever wanted out of a comic and its publisher. I’ve complained for years that addressing diversity on the page is only solves half the problem. It’s one thing to make a Black girl Iron Man and a whole nother thing to hire two white dudes to bring her to life. Kim & Kim has no time for such half-assedness.
It matters that Kim Q. is trans, just as it matters that Visaggio is trans. Some readers may not care about the gender identity politics of their comic book characters, but it certainly matters to other trans people. Trans characters are often depicted as shape/gender-shifting aliens/mutants or as sidekicks, so giving Kim Q. a co-headline with a woman (of color!!!) isn’t just a step forward in the right direction but a massive fucking leap. Representation is lifeblood for those of us who rarely get to see our experiences portrayed in pop culture. I’m not trans, but as a biracial ace/aro woman I very much know what it’s like to never see myself fully and positively represented in media. Having diversity reflected back at us not only broadens the horizons of the majority but opens up inclusivity to the minority. Kim & Kim is exactly the kind of content I’m looking to spend my hard earned money on, and I hope to hell this is only the first comic of many.
Black Mask Studios is putting out some wicked killer titles right now (*cough* Four Kids Walk Into A Bank *cough*). With their push on diversity, strong storytelling, quirky concepts, and relatively unknown yet very talented creators, they’re definitely giving Image a run for their money. You so need Kim & Kim in your life. For reals, yo.
Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.