Gold Digger v3 #27-38 (2001-2)
Okay, ever since the opening arc of Gold Digger v3, Gina's had a couple of djinni hanging around as houseguests. Dao, the male djinn, has settled comfortably into the role of Gina's lab assistant. Madrid, the female djinn, has been content to leech of the Diggers. But that's all about to change.
After the end of the Tournament of Arms on Jade, Gina gets a surprise invitation to visit the Shadow Elves in their mountain homestead, where she makes some shocking discovery. First, it turns out that the mysterious "shadows" that conquered Jade in the past are the same as the "Beta Phantoms" that have bedeviled Gina and Penny in the past. Next, it turns out the three artifacts of Jade - Tirant's "Bain", the Edge Guard's "Jain" and the Shadow Elves' "Dain" - are actually Nomad Artificer artifacts that pre-date the universe. And finally, it turns out that the Nomad Artificer responsible for building all of this is still alive, and she's... Gina?
Once Gina realizes that she's responsible for designing the Nomad Artificer's technology, she's able to increase her understanding of that technology exponentially. And one of the items whose workings she now appears to understand is Yh'dahjim, the djinni's "magic sun", which appears to be an extrapolation of her existing "phantom ring" technology...
And here's where Madrid comes in. It's always annoyed her that she's able to grant others' wishes, but never her own. The other djinni are similarly frustrated - Dao is by his inability to win Gina's love, and Genn with her inability to win over Seance. Using their powers in combination, the three of them hatch a plan to allow Madrid to steal Gina's identity, access the "magic sun" and become capable of granting all of their wishes. A plan that works swimmingly, until Madrid finally manages to contact the magic sun and discovers that "Artificer" Gina accidentally created the djinni when a group of Furbys she sends back to the present become self-aware and empowered by one of her phantom ring devices, the M-14 HAD 7h (look at it in a mirror, sort of). She also discovers that it was her own attempts to bypass the Ancient One and access the magic sun directly that led to the destruction of Yh'dalhjim and the enslavement of the djinni (by the Saurians and their psionic Amonian slaves, no less).
And that's when Gina and company have to step in to lay the smack down.
The above plot summary sounds a bit dry, but the story itself is actually pretty damn exciting. It's interesting to see how Fred is starting to draw together his universe here - the djinni, the Nomad Artificers, the astral rifts, the magic realm of Jade and the Beta Phantoms are all revealed as parts of the same puzzle, which Gina is still solving today. It's during these issues where Gold Digger goes from merely entertaining to something more, as bits of a larger plot start to become apparent.
And he also introduces the "key event" which has dominated current issues - a mysterious quasi-space accident that catapults Ancient Gina into the past and possibly destroys the entire universe. (Right now, it looks like Ancient Gina manages to change enough of the past to avert that specific accident but may have created a similar one that may turn out far worse for herself personally.)
The other key stories in this run include: Cheetah takes her mothers' students shopping, which serves mostly to forward the romance between Garfield and Luan (and which also makes the shop-a-holic Cheetah look less ditzy than usual); Ace and Penny are forced to do battle with Death Bird and her new Night Flight; Gina and Ryan must compete with Pee-Wee's "B-Team" and a Shaolin monk to explore a Saurian temple in the Congo; and the newly pregant Cheetah must defend her baby's soul from Tanya, who's still holding a grudge. Even these events are done in a way that foreshadow later developments - Carla's impetuousness hints at her later struggles with developing "murder" techniques, Gina's adventures in the Congo further her investigations into Saurian civilization, and Tanya's attempt to ambush Cheetah on the astral plane summons an unexpected guest and gives him some ideas that come to fruition in about, oh, 22 issues...
Fred's art hasn't changed much during the last two story arcs. He is becoming more facile with is coloring effects, incorporating more special effects like transparency, glows, and color holds. I'm more interested, though, in a technique that doesn't see much use in other comics - colored backgrounds.
Most color comics tend not to use colored backgrounds, opting for either a pure white backgrounds (which are apparently passe) or black backgrounds (which are apparently more "cinematic"). On rare occasions, you'll have panels superimposed over a background image, but you rarely see solid color backgrounds that aren't black or white. Yet Fred uses this technique all the time.
Colored backgrounds certainly have their advantages - a well-chosen color can help enhance the overall mood of a page, while adding an element of visual distinctiveness. At the same time, it can be hard to pick a color that doesn't clash with or overwhelm the colors in individual panels, and a poorly chosen color can turn a page into an indecipherable muddle. Finding the right color for each page can either take a long time or a lot of insight into color theory, which is probably why most assembly-line comics don't use this technique.
So why does Fred use it? Partly because these aren't assembly line comics, and partly because he doesn't know any better. He doesn't always get great results, but sometimes he does manage to hit one out of the park. And it really does make his comics look distinctive, which is probably as good an argument for any for doing something.
A Nice Touch
Here's a nice bit of continuity. Back in the 40's of Gold Digger v2, one of G'nolga's flunkies takes a peek at Brianna and her friends with a scouter, and reports that her aura is brown with white spots. Then, four years later, when we finally see Brianna's aura in color....
...it's brown with white spots. For new readers, it's an insignificant detail. but for long-time readers, it's a nice easter egg. There's actually a lot of that going on in these issues - the Nomad Artificer technology seems to be partially based on Gina's "phantom rings", Ancient Gina seems to have struck up a partnership with Empress Lynn's pal Subtracto (even though this isn't elaborated on), and even the pyramid Cheetah constructs as her "punishment" in issue #34 remains part of the Diggers compound to the present day.
Gold Digger #34 features the first appearance of PeeGee and PeeBrit, two "Peebo scouts" based on Brianna's sisters. They're insufferably cute - so insufferably cute that they later get their own spin-off to showcase how insufferably cute they are. Happy now, Mike?
I think I need to integrate the phrase "I challenge you - in the name of love!" into my standard conversational repertoire.