Black Humor with Sugar on Top (Magical Beatdown Volumes 1 & 2 Review)


MAGICAL BEATDOWN VOL. 1 & 2

Writer/Artist: Jenn Woodall

Publisher: Silver Sprocket

DISCLAIMER: Magical Beatdown contains scenes of violence which some readers may find disturbing.

Every girl has been cat-called at least once in her life. Some people think we should feel flattered, but there’s nothing more degrading and violating than people presuming the right to be sexist. Jenn Woodall comments on toxic masculinity, pairing violence with catharsis in her new series, Magical Beatdown.

Some people may find this series too gory, but for those of you who can stomach it, Woodall’s vision is realised as a highly satisfying narrative embellished with dark humour. 

Produced using risograph printing techniques, Magical Beatdown uses a simple two-colour palette of deep blue and neon pink. Halftones allow for a better sense of depth, taking influence from vintage comics with a modern twist. Woodall makes the most of this limited colour use by introducing a multitude of textural effects, which in turn helps to visually narrate the story in a way I consider superior to some full-color comics. 

Inspired by Sailor Moon, Woodall creates a protagonist (Fujiko) with two contrasting personas, amplified by the juxtaposition of colour. When illustrated in blue, Fujiko is an innocent, fun-loving schoolgirl, whilst the use of pink depicts her badass feminist warrior counter-part. 

Round One

Rating: 7/10

In the opening scene, we are introduced to Fujiko as she decides to go to the arcade. On her way, she’s accosted by some gang members, who refuse to let her leave. As you can imagine, things get ugly...

Woodall introduces some snazzy background textures to visually indicate the start of Fujiko’s transformation into a ‘Magical Girl’, amplified by gorgeous gradients. Personally, I think the transformation scenes in this series are where Woodall’s artistic skill shines brightest. 

The use of puns and black humour bring a lighter side to the highly violent and intense fight scenes that follow. 

Fujiko’s transformation is not only visual – expletives poor out of our vigilante’s mouth as she puts the sleazy men in their place. Using a bat that appears to be inspired by Negan’s Lucille, she shows those jerks who’s boss. The Guro Lolita aesthetic that Woodall has created for Fujiko’s alter ego works effectively as a visual tool; the contrast between the hyper-feminine elements of our heroine and the foul-language and dark one-liners she exudes is quite genius. 

My main criticism of the first issue pertains to its short length. It’s a quick read, but the concept is strong and will only get better as the series progresses.

Round Two

Rating: 8/10

Volume two is a huge step up from its predecessor. If you read the first issue and aren’t sure whether to stick with it, I strongly urge you to give the second volume a chance. It’s double the length, and the artwork and writing is much improved. 

The story starts with Fujiko watching the news, where the anchor is discussing the Magical Vigilante’s attack on the gang members.  The gang leader interrupts the broadcast, inviting Fujiko to a fight at midnight. 

Straight away, there’s a greater sense of world building in this issue. As Fujiko prepares to attend the fight, more is revealed about the protagonist, including her secret stash of newspaper articles about her Magical Vigilante persona’s kills.

Fujiko then goes to face off with the gang. The premise Woodall creates is so intriguing – a world where highly unethical attacks become ethical due to the morality behind the motivation. There’s a violent killer on the loose and – somehow – Woodall has us rooting for her. 

The key issue throughout the series has been sexism, with slurs like ‘psycho bitch’ and ‘gentler sex’ being thrown around. My personal favourite line has to be ‘Don’t you know guys don’t like girls that talk like that?’ – it’s just so damn relatable! We’ve all heard something along those lines before and it’s grating. Fujiko’s response is everything. 

During the fight scenes, The Walking Dead’s influence is present once again, with a sword inspired by Michonne’s joining Fujiko’s weaponry alongside the not-actually-Lucille bat. 

Metaphoric imagery and Surrealist elements are used to portray the toxicity of the gang’s leader during the final fight scene. He transforms into a vile, slimy monster that Fujiko must face off against. Fans of Sailor Moon will appreciate some of the details in the final scene. 

There were also some hints at a forthcoming LGBTQ+ relationship, so I’m excited to see how that develops in the next issue.

Round Three?

Jenn Woodall’s skills as both an illustrator and a writer are strong. She seems to be developing as the series grows, which has me feeling optimistic about a potential third issue. This story is, by no means, 100% original. Woodall’s voice comes through in her writing, and the concept is (to my knowledge) hers, if not inspired by classic slashers such as Kill Bill. Visually, she’s taken influence from Sailor Moon and The Walking Dead, but the story is still her own. 

If you’re in the mood for some badass feminist takeover, then snag yourself a copy of Magical Beatdown. This story throws one heck of a punch. 

#IndieComics

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