Litzine, Chapter 0, Chris Eng, illustrated by Kelsey Short, hoodieripper.com, $5
This zine is made up of 20 half-sized pages of fiction by Chris Eng, the Toronto-based author of punk romance novel Molotov Hearts, followed by eight pages of character drawings by Kelsey Short.
I liked the illustrations, but in the text the characters felt unrealistic and forced. All seven members of the Shield Maidens are tough, street fighting, Strong Female Characters™, and yet they snipe at each other in the worst Mean Girls sorts of ways. Even sisters Harridan and Iggy seem to barely tolerate each other; the former is not above ordering another Maiden to punch her younger sister in the face repeatedly to appease rival Maledicta’s bruised ego. All of this made it hard to stay interested through the story’s complex fight scenes and it was often difficult to root for the Shield Maidens at all.
Of course characters don’t need to perfect and lovable for them to garner empathy; complicated, morally dubious anti-heroes can be some of the most compelling. But the Maidens don’t seem to care about each other very much, and as a result they don’t make it easy for readers to care, either.
Having said all that, I don’t think this story or the women in it are totally irredeemable — this is only the beginning of the series. One thing I did appreciate was that the Shield Maidens gang includes a trans/non-binary character who looks a little like Prince, and the others aren’t shy about making sure people know their preferred pronouns. Maybe with the subsequent chapters the characters get fleshed out further — and if they don’t wind up likeable as such, maybe they become easier to care about.