Reviews of the first 50 pages of works by local authors.
STREET ANGEL: SUPERHERO FOR A DAY. Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s Street Angel — a homeless, 4’11” skateboarding inner-city ninja named Jesse Sanchez — has come a long way since debuting more than a decade ago. An indie hit at first, she’s gotten big enough to be featured alongside Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel in The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, Hope Nicholson’s new book celebrating female protagonists in comics history. But she’s also probably the only one to ever be depicted sleeping on a sidewalk next to a cardboard sign reading, “Will Hero 4 Food.” The latest all-new entry in the Street Angel series is a full-color comic (Image Comics, 29 pp., $19.99) that’s a shaggy-dog story involving inveterate dumpster-diver Jesse’s search for lunch — but also happens to involve a ring that confers superpowers, and a visitor from outer space. Rugg and Maruca (co-credited with the story) give Jesse an engagingly misfit band of school friends, even as they wryly poke fun at, upend and celebrate the conventions of superhero comics. The artwork, by Rugg (The PLAIN Janes, Afrodisiac) ranges from gritty to a graphic simplicity, sometimes in the same panel. This is fun stuff, delivered with enough punch to match a roundhouse by Street Angel herself.
THE OTHER EINSTEIN. Lately, little focuses our attention more than the relationship between men and women in the workplace. That makes the paperback release of Marie Benedict’s novel (Sourcebooks Landmark, 310 pp., $16.99) especially timely. Benedict (a literary alter ego of local author Heather Benedict Terrell) offers a first-person fictionalization of the story of Mileva Marić, the young Serbian woman who was Albert Einstein’s first wife, and whom some experts believe contributed to his early physics breakthroughs. Mileva and Albert meet as students in 1896, in Zurich, where their burgeoning attraction — intellectual as well as romantic — takes place against a backdrop of Victorian sexism and even ethnic prejudice. With a fine eye for detail — Zurich’s electric streetlights are a marvel to the provincially born Mileva — Benedict provides a thoughtfully empathetic portrait of a woman determined to make it in a man’s world, even as readers are aware she’ll ultimately be overshadowed by her world-famous husband.