I’m just young enough that I can’t really remember a time without anime or manga. I had an early introduction to Akira via my uncle and discovered both Saturday Anime on the SciFi Channel and the burgeoning anime section at my local video store. By that point, it was over for me. 8-Man After All, Dominion Tank Police, Bubblegum Crisis, Robot Carnival, Demon City Shinjuku, A-Ko, Vampire Hunter D (the first one), Galaxy Express, and Fist of the North Star were huge to me. I mean, I used to watch (and own) Tenchi Muyo. You could say that I was spoiled. I got the best of Japan (well…), the best of America (well…), and it was all normal to me. I managed to catch that wave just in time. (Do you guys remember Burn Up?)
Before that, though, Japanese animation and manga weren’t quite the powerhouses they are now. There were a few early adopters, of course. Frank Miller was a Lone Wolf & Cub fan, and Ronin is chock full of Japanese influence. Another was Adam Warren, who, if not the first guy to do “original english language” manga, was definitely one of the first.
I came to Warren’s Dirty Pair late, particularly in comparison to the time when I first discovered the Lovely Angels (that lovely time known as “puberty”). In the late ’80s, Warren and Studio Proteus acquired the rights to Takachiho Haruka’s Dirty Pair, a tale of two girls (a boisterous redhead and a demure brunette) who work for the 3WA as “Trouble Consultants.” However, people call them “the Dirty Pair” on account of the fact that if they’re involved, collateral damage goes through the roof.
I knew Adam Warren’s Dirty Pair existed, but never managed to pick any up until earlier this year. Ken Kneisel, murderer of Flex Mentallo, savior of Emma Frost, and pretty much the nicest guy I know, hooked me up with just about the whole set. I tore through the books as I got them, with an eye toward writing about them later in the year.
What’s really interesting about these books is that Kei and Yuri, the titular Dirty Pair (though they prefer Lovely Angels) could easily be written as The Assertive One and The Doormat, respectively. Rather than fall into that trap, Warren twists their dynamic a little. Kei is a hard-drinkin’, hard-fightin’, hard-shootin’, loud tomboy with a foul mouth. Yuri’s more reserved, sure, but she’s far from a wilting flower. Both of them are capable, funny, hate each other’s guts in that way that only best friends for life can.
They get along and complement each other very well, despite being nominally different. Warren even gets to play with their relationship a bit, when a clone of Yuri is tricked into thinking she’s on a VR training exercise and able to do whatever she wants. So, we get a more Kei version of Yuri than we’ve ever seen before. All of her insecurities, as well as all of her strengths, are put on display while she runs around a planet causing mayhem.
The action in DP tends toward the huge and explosive. Suns go supernova, characters are infected with wardrugs that make them into violent beasts, bio-organic monsters run rampant, and sometimes people get shot right in the face with lasers. It’s a very action movie kind of violence, the kind of thing where the heroines can come across dead bodies and go “Yuck!” rather than vomiting.
And, you know what? It works. Adam Warren’s Dirty Pair feels like the kind of story you’d see in a Die Hard or Lethal Weapon. The action keeps you riveted, but the relationship bits in between keep you going. Kei and Yuri have a great dynamic, and they get into funny and exciting situations. It’s definitely a product of its time, a period where high heels and laser beams go hand in hand, but that was a fun time. I hesitate to call it dated, if only because the science fiction still feels fresh in its approach. The hair styles can be a little ’80s anime-style, but I never really felt like I was reading a specifically ’80s comic, like you tend to with so much of Marvel and DC’s output from the same time period.
Dirty Pair still feels fresh, or is interesting enough to eliminate any of those feelings of the awful ’80s. Kei and Yuri are great heroines, almost like a sci-fi version of Riggs and Murtagh. It’s funny, exciting, and a blazingly fast read. Good stuff.
(all images yapped from ComicArtCommunity)