In the sprawling Chinese city of Guangzhou, brutal police crackdowns have all but destroyed organised crime. With the Triad crime gangs divided and warring amongst themselves, bounty hunter Shexie Meiren makes a profit by helping the authorities take known criminals off the streets.
Shexie Meiren is a hard boiled neo-noir from writer Michael Kelley, with art from Rain Art Studios, published by AIC Comics.
The tale of a female bounty hunter making her way in an overtly masculine world provides us with two strong female leads, as Shexie is accompanied by her techie sidekick Macy, whose introduction makes it clear that these are two women not to be messed with. It’s an interesting turn around, with male characters appearing as villains and victims whilst the women take centre stage.
The hard edged Shexie is well established in this, the opening episode of a series. Whilst Shexie might be fighting the bad guys, its made clear that she’s doing this to make a living, not through any moral mission to clean up the streets. At one stage, she slips away to leave the victim of a gang attack broken and bruised, seeing no profit in helping out. It’s a refreshing change to see a comic creator diverge so much from the expected path – a Chinese, female lead in an action based story, with none of the emotional baggage that female characters are frequently expected to have.
An interesting, minimal art style proves us with a seedy, crime infested city where Shexie plies her trade. Jet black gutters and letterbox panels feed into the noir feel, with blocky backgrounds accentuating the characters, and a bold use of colour. Most of the comic is in greyscale and muted tones, but here and there an item or a lightsource will be coloured differently.
Shexie Meiren is moody and filled with character, providing a great set up to an ongoing story. There are some things we had issue with. A couple of panels see a tangle of word balloons as three characters converse, which affects the flow of the scene and which could have been prevented with a slight change in composition. Also, with strong women centre stage it’s a surprise that Shexie wears a vest and hotpants throughout. It’s warm in Guangzhou, certainly, but such scanty dress isn’t usually practical when riding a motorbike, and a male character would at least wear jeans. If nothing else, it provides limited weapon concealment options.
This first issue ably introduces Shexie and the mean streets of Guangzhou, starting in the alleyways before moving up the ladder to political machinations as the bounty hunter sets her eyes on a bigger target. It’s a great set up, establishing character, location, and the background to the politics of Chinese policing which will be unfamiliar to many readers.
With a Kickstarter scheduled to begin on March 1, AIC Comics will be looking for supporters for Shexie Meiren and two other comics (and if you happen to be near Frankie’s Bar & Grill in the Futain Free Trade Zone, they’re holding a launch party). Amazing Tales will be keeping an eye on the Kickstarter and will provide an update in our planned Kickstarter round-up in a couple of weeks.
AIC comics and information on supporting their Kickstarter can be found on twitter.