GET YOUR COPY OF MFR: THE MAGAZINE #3
By Dumbing of Age Book Four, the main cast has been established, the tone has been set, and the status quo is settling into place. It should be vaguely foreboding, then, that the book (available here) is called Amazi-Girl is Always Prepared for Anything.
Spoilers for Book Four below… obviously.
DUMBING OF AGE BOOK FOUR – RECAP
The events of Freshman Family Weekend have their consequences, including a heated argument between Amber and Ethan concerning their respective issues. Amber and Danny are – sort of – avoiding each other. Walky and Sal still haven’t talked about the Racism Thing.
Ruth and Billie continue their shared detox, although Ruth is unaware that Billie isn’t holding up her end of the deal. To show her appreciation, Ruth fixes her cheerleader outfit, and Billie is overcome with guilt.
Billie convinces Danny that Sal is Amazi-Girl, and gets him to go talk to her. In the meantime, she has lunch with Walky, and talks to him about his issues with Sal. She eventually convinces him to talk to Sal about it, and see her side of things.
Amber realizes that Ethan is still dating Joyce, and has a catastrophic, jealous meltdown at him in the school cafeteria. She leaves the cafeteria, and immediately runs into Danny and Sal. Apparently when Sal held up that convenience store, Amber and Ethan were there.
Dorothy and Walky go chasing after Amazi-Girl, with limited success. Amazi-Girl receives a call from her father, telling her to come meet with him – and Danny. In the ensuing showdown, Blaine uses Danny as a hostage, triggering the rest of Amber’s memory of Sal, in which Sal used Ethan as a hostage. Amber snaps completely, and beats Blaine unconscious, revealing her secret identity in the process.
Ruth gets Billie another cheerleading outfit, and Billie kisses her – but Ruth realizes she tastes of alcohol, and refuses to talk to her again.
…EVERYTHING GETS WORSE
Dorothy finds out that Amber is her next-door neighbour, and pops over to ask her about Blaine O’Malley’s trip to the hospital. With a few context clues, Dorothy realizes that she’s Amazi-Girl. The next morning, Amber is ready to be exposed as a vigilante, but instead Dorothy pretends not to know anything to protect Amber. In exchange for this kindness, Amber gives Dorothy an exclusive interview with Amazi-Girl.
Ethan and Danny share their worries about Amber, and make plans to go get comic books together. They get along well – a little too well for Danny’s taste, as he realizes he’s not as straight as he thought.
Joyce puts up whiteboards on the doors of her rez floor, but overnight they wake up to find them vandalized with penises drawn in permanent marker. This looks like a job – for Amazi-Girl, apparently! After some expert deduction, she accuses Joyce of being the Whiteboard Ding-Dong Bandit. Unfortunately the encounter reminds Joyce of the night of her assault, and Amber realizes how much of an effect that night is still having on Joyce’s life.
Ruth’s rejection sends Billie into a spiral, and she ends up in Walky’s room. He panics and asks Ruthless for help. Ruth comes and puts Billie’s mind at ease that she’s not drinking again – yet. Billie meets an old friend at lunch, and it doesn’t go well. The stress drives her back to Ruth, and they make what appears to be an alcoholic suicide pact.
DUMBING OF AGE BOOK FOUR – REVIEW
While the sharp changes between humour and seriousness are a trademark of Dumbing of Age at this point, this book has some of the most severe ups and downs. What’s so interesting, however, is how well Willis makes them work.
In my review of the first book, I criticized the balance of seriousness and slapstick humour. It’s here, however, that the sudden shifts in tone work perfectly in the comic’s favour. Amber going after Sal because of her PTSD isn’t funny; chucking Malaya into the air is hilarious. Amazi-Girl chasing down the Whiteboard Ding-Dong Bandit is hysterical from beginning to end… until Joyce starts crying.
I also enjoy how Dumbing of Age grows in its own telling. The themes of sexuality that start off as somewhat clumsy have expanded and grown. Ethan began the comic mostly as an orbit to Amber’s character, and the sole queer cast member. Now he’s dancing around the beginnings of a romantic storyline with Danny, previously the straightest man in existence.
How does Dumbing of Age Book Four hold up to the rest of the series?