World Comic Book Review

10th April 2024

GRRL SCOUTS: MAGIC SOCKS (revisited)— “Rock your socks off”

Creator: Jim Mahfood

Coloring: Justin Stewart

Image Comics, 2017

THUMPING BEATS and screeching melodies push you through the swooshing tunnel of GRRL SCOUTS: MAGIC SOCKS by wired artist Jim Mahfood, till you end prostrate and exhausted, trembling on a blood‑soaked street. Your bruised mind looks warily around as shredded debris drifts peacefully to rest.

There they stand. The three Grrl Scouts survived, or in one case came back to life after a dreamy journey into a nether region, long negotiations, and a single door appearing in the distance to cross the threshold to try again. Get the socks. Make it right.

Murder and mayhem is the main theme in this six-issue Grrl Scout series. Gangster chic was always the attraction when the three late-teen girls got their start in 1999. Now they are attempting to save the world from the awesome power of the magic socks.

In the original Grrl Scouts, and other earlier works in black and white, Mahfood makes the pages jump in his signature flamboyant style, with occasional dabs of color. The pitch is higher now. In the bright coloring of Justin Stewart, everything pops. At the top of the vast concert hall where the music rolls into the rafters and blends together, glued colors frame the shapes to reach you so far away, fastening details of the dancers writhing below in time with the music like ants on a melon rind. Unending gunshots, screams, booms make it sound like a revolution, or from high above like a warehouse rave with a squad of killer dj’s scratching vinyl aiming to outdo each other.

In a corner of the hall, and earlier on the street, and later as the last song trails off, one of the Grrl Scouts will haul out a joint and ask if you want to “blaze a j with me” to like, bond in the moment. Chill. Other times it’s a lonely stick of tobacco, to hold your nerves together; or alcohol to dull the edge. The Grrl Scouts appreciate reality, they just move in and out, so there’s this familiar bit, and whoa, this other bit too.

The team consists of a sensitive artist, a streetwise hipster, and a dizzy dreamgirl disposed to drugs and titillating poses. A fourth wannabe Grrl Scout, a younger cousin who moves the drama, is a homicidal maniac who wants to rule the universe. All strangely familiar, uncomfortably like the younger generation in America peering up from a bowl to find heaped bodies in the streets from drone and missile strikes deployed by a bevy of homicidal maniacs, people in our own family, trying to rule the universe. The dark carnival in Mahfood’s Magic Socks reflects the horrors just over the horizon in our own daily lives.

Art splatters the pages. Dialogue tacks the way forward, with little distractions and bites of humor to stay light, off-beat in the frenzy. A good deal of the language is obscenely vulgar, even shocking the characters who hear it, like soldier language, grimly offensive. How it manages to appeal is a bit of a mystery. The rigorous artwork absorbs the attention.

Desperation and rage oozes to the surface through a bloody sponge. This is the sign of our times. The magic of Mahfood soaks it up on paper, smears it on the walls, makes fun of it, and emerges whole. Banish the socks, world saved, Grrl Scouts back to chill mode. Like house pets, as long as they are bundled together, life looks just right. Others in the drama, the defeated, the dead, the wounded, the terrorized, and the millions of children lost and losing, briefly sponged to the surface here, drift again out of sight over the horizon.

*

NB. Influenced by W. Scott Poole (2022), Dark Carnivals: Modern Horror and the Origins of American Empire. A stunning tour.