Fool's Gold, Vol. 1
by Amy Reeder Hadley
Penny is a clever high school student with a penchant for fashion and strong tendencies toward kookiness. She's never been in a relationship, but her observations of her classmates – especially her best friend Katie, who has an on-and-off relationship with a boy who cheats on her regularly - have led Penny to one conclusion: girls are attracted to jerks. Trying to answer the eternal question why is this so? while studying for her geology class, Penny realizes that these jerks are like pyrite, a stone also known as fool's gold. They look good on the outside, but inside they're worthless! She creates a secret club for the girls of the school that revolves around the simple thesis that its members will 'out' the jerks in their classes and blacklist the boys for future dating. The club begins to revolutionize the school as girls abandon popular-but-cruel boys and begin dating nice guys who were formerly finishing last, but can a girl's natural instinct toward jerks be overcome so easily?
I'm generally not a fan of American-drawn “manga”. In fact, the term bothers me a bit. If it comes from America, can it honestly be called manga? I mean, it's all comic books; to me 'manga' just identifies the country of origin. Manga means from Japan, Manwha means from Korea, etc. But since Tokyopop is known as a manga-publishing company, their English-written series are still identified that way.
All of that was a rather long digression for me. I had meant to say that I usually don't care for these American manga series, because they try to ape the style that Japanese artists use but it never looks quite right. The inking lines are too bold, or the screentone use is amateurish...or something. I guess that, to me, the art never quite looks professional.
But Hadley's art is different. She successfully fuses the design elements of American and Asian comics. Her characters are more realistically proportioned than most manga-style girls, with smaller eyes, noses that are more than a little 'L' shape on the face, and thicker bodies with less elongated distortion. Clothing and fashion plays an important role in her art, too. It's a lot of fun to see how the characters experiment with their clothing and hair; it makes the art seem more dynamic and interactive because the characters' appearance isn't a static, stock uniform worn over and over again.
The story tends to fall into the stock plot elements of high school love stories, but it's packaged so deftly that the work feels fresh and fun. Originally projected to be a three-book series, the final volume of Fool's Gold was never released by Tokyopop and Vol. 2 ends on a cliffhanger. So that sucks. But the story and characters are fun, and the art is just lovely (Hadley now works for Vertigo penciling the series Madame Xanadu if you'd like to see more of her work) so let's hope Tokyopop eventually gets around to finishing the series!