[Review] 100 Girls

100 Girls
Adam Gallardo and Todd Demong
Simon Pulse, $9.99 USD

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when your particular brand of mad science involves cloning 100 girls with different superpowers and conditioning them to be weapons, you more or less deserve what happens when they wake up, find out, and get really, really angry.

The teenagers-constructed-to-be-weapons idea isn’t itself original, but 100 Girls has some interesting twists, which I don’t intend to spoil overmuch. In this first installment of what I hope will expand on the promise it shows, Sylvia Mark discovers her amazing acrobatic powers during a fight with a bully. Running away from her adopted parents, she’s accosted by some men in black, and takes them down with breathtaking ease.

Then her clone-sister turns up and says she can feel the others, out there.

After that, it gets interesting.

I’m not a huge fan of the art – Demong’s caricature-style faces don’t really appeal to me – but it’s certainly expressive, and the kinetic force of the fight scenes lifts right off the page. It’s also worth noting that there are plenty of visible characters of color in this world – a reasonably impressive detail when many of the main characters are cloned from the same white woman.

Gallarado and Demong don’t shy away from the implications of the world they’ve created: the girls’ solutions are not peaceful ones, and there’s blood a-plenty. But there’s also something beautiful about this vision of young women uniting against the military/industrial interests that literally lay claim to their bodies.

The characterisation is really the most endearing quality of the book. There’s no easy demonisation here – the villains are people too, loving people who have nevertheless committed vile crimes. And despite what has been done to them, the girls are still teenagers, with all the triumphant recklessness that implies. My most favourite moment comes when the interestingly-grey Dr Carver confidently reels off a list of action items to take care of before the girls arrive – after all, she says, it’ll take them at least 48 hours to formulate a plan to infiltrate the facility.

“You might wanna rethink that 48 hours thing,” Sylvia tells her from off-panel. “We decided that plans are for wussies.”

Fans of Gen-13 should find plenty to love in this book; fans of literally empowered young women making terrible choices from terrible options, likewise.

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