Gold Digger v3 #1-9 (1999-2000)
Story and art by Fred Perry
Colors by Joe Weltjens (#1-4,9), Nathan Lumm (#4) and Fred Perry (#5-9)
Gina Diggers has lost her groove. It's true. In the last year or so of black-and-white Gold Digger she's been reduced to a supporting player in her own comic. Penny, her main rival, beat her to the archaeological discovery of the century. Her sister Brittany caused major havoc on the other-world of Jade, but also helped foil a plot by an evil supervillain. Her sister Cheetah's been stalked by were-rats. Even her pilot is in on the act, winning a thrilling dogfight with an unarmed DC-10. And Gina? She's stood around sheepishly while extradimensional aliens have saved the day.
So in the first story arc of the color Gold Digger series, Gina's got something to prove, and prove it she does by discovering the sunken city of Muthia and the long-lost race of djinni. But where there's djinni, there are greed-heads hungry for wishes — like "Pee-Wee" Talon and his flunkies, the foppish (but deadly) Fauntleroy and his draconic wives, and heck, just about every other explorer in the world! Can Gina hold off the entire Explorers Union and uncover the secret of the djinni's "magic sun" before some idiot ruins everything?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: well, maybe. We don't know yet. After all, most of the plot threads introduced in this opening arc are still playing out now, 90 issues later. Gina still hasn't found the magic sun, but she has learned more about the origins of the djinni and their creators, the Nomad Artificers. The djinni she discovers are still hanging around, causing trouble in various ways. Fauntleroy and Pee-Wee have gained items of great power and are still major thorns in her side. And the rest of the Explorer's Union? Well, they appear to be tied up in this crazy plot in ways you might not believe believe...
These issues are still fun to read, eight years later. The page count has dropped from 24 to 16 pages an issue, but Fred's compensating by paring back on the sub-plots and cramming as much action and humor into those 16 pages as possible. In nine issues we get to see Gina explore an ancient civilization, win a bizarre trivia contest, learn the secret behind the slaughter of the werecheetahs (which is revealed to be the plot of of recently-introduced uber-villain Gothwrain), brawl with every explorer under the sun at the Explorer of the Year Banquet, and explore the fabled "Halls of the Extremely Dead." Each plot thread has a resolution, but also contains the seeds of the next issue's plot. When questions are asked, Gina finds the answers (though sometimes those lead to more questions). Gina is in control and proactive, and her supporting cast members all get to strut their stuff without stealing the spotlight. It's a real step forward for Fred, showing his growth as writer.
Unfortunately, though Fred's plotting has improved, his art hasn't made the transition as well.
At first, the color doesn't really add much to the comic. Most of the time it's very basic, purely descriptive without adding to the overall atmosphere. It's also muddy and overly detailed, with extraneous highlights and shadows that clash with the relatively simple linework. This leads Fred to add extra detail to his drawings in an attempt to make them seem less spare, but he hasn't figured the best way to spot these details, making his drawings seem fussy and over-rendered in the wrong places.
He's also tinkering with his style so he can stay on schedule, and it isn't working. Everything winds up feeling angular and stiff, and his anatomy just feels weird.
Still, these are positive signs. It shows that Fred is trying to adjust his style to his new circumstances. Perhaps he hasn't figured out how to best utilize the possibilities of color, but he's learning and improving with every issue. (And the coloring does drastically improve after he takes over the full-time coloring duties from Joe Weltjens.) He's also trying some new tricks that only work in color — Dr. Digger's purple-tinted vision up there really wouldn't work well in black and white, and while it's not terribly effective in color either at least he's trying something new.
Overall, an auspicious beginning to the era of color Gold Digger
My friend Mike is constantly bugging me about Peebo, Brianna's scarily autonomous assault robots. "Why isn't there any Peebo in these issues?" "How come you didn't have any scans of PeeBee in your latest review?" "Who would win in a fight, PeeBri or Iron Man?" So here, for Mike, is the our first glimpse of the late, great Peebochu.
Happy? Great. Now shut up.