Review: Hi-Fi Fight Club #1
Hi-Fi Fight Club #1 is an adorable and queer as heck new comic from the BOOM! Box imprint, which has kind of become the Sub Pop Records of comics with fantastic books like Lumberjanes, Jonesy, and Giant Days. Well, you can add Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva, Irene Flores, and Rebecca Nalty’s new comic set in 1998 about the employees of Vinyl Mayhem aka “the coolest record store in town” that is actually a front for a vigilante fight club. The story is mostly told from the POV of Chris, “the new girl”, who is rolling ball of enthusiasm about music (especially Rosie Riot of Stegosour), copyright friendly X-Men comics, and has a huge crush on “literally the cutest” Maggie, who Vakueva and Flores draw in a shoujo manga style. It’s a slice of life period piece about young love, growing up, and being passionate about shit that dips into the vigilante genre towards the end in a fairly grounded way like her co-workers training by kicking boxes in the backroom.
Passion with a side dish of awkwardness are the defining characteristic of Chris as a character, and Usdin, Vakueva, Flores, and Nalty bring this out through the writing, art, and colors of Hi-Fi Fight Club #1. The interactions between Chris and Maggie are as sweet as the synths on a 2010s Tegan and Sara single and have all the hallmarks of a co-worker crush beginning from the winks in the locker room to “accidentally” working the same shift. I also like how Usdin has Chris work out her queerness in regardness as she’s a little hesitant to make a move on Maggie because she doesn’t know if she likes girls or not. However, calling Rosie Riot (Think Hayley Williams meets Joan Jett.) a babe kind of makes her a little more comfortable. Usdin goes beyond a rote coming out story and goes for the fun, gushy romance, which is a breath of fresh air.
Chris is still really klutzy and fangirl-y around everyone as she is trying to find her identity through music and the record store like her co-workers Goth queen Dolores, music encyclopedia and mansplaining shutting down Kennedy, and her manager Irene, who is arguably the most mature 24 year old in fiction as she pulls off crop tops effortlessly while running a record store and a secret fight club. Along with the romance subplot, it’s Chris’ struggle with finding her identity on the edge of seventeen that propels the story, not just the missing rock star plot. She is at a weird, transitional period in her life where she has some adult responsibilities like a job yet still finds her parents annoying and is overwhelmed by the world around her. This can be negative, like her being late for work or getting in a bike accident, but her view of her co-workers, Stegosour, and Vinyl Mayhem contact stimulates even the most cynical reader.
Hi-Fi Fight Club combines the crazy speed lines and expressiveness of manga inspired art, like Chynna Clugston Flores’ Blue Monday or Karl Kerschl’s Gotham Academy, with gorgeous, wavy lines used by artists like Emma Rios. Irene Flores’ inking is fluid, not rigid, which goes while the freaked out expressions and big eyes do a nice job selling the fact that Chris is always on high alert, especially around her crush Maggie. Rebecca Nalty rounds things out and enhances Nina Vakueva’s impeccable late 90s fashion sense for each character by matching a color to each member. Red and later a garish orange are Chris colors’ and match her passion for the store, trying to play guitar well enough to be a band, Stegosour, and life itself. Obviously, the Goth Dolores gets black, and Maggie gets this lovely powder blue that complements her kindness and Chris’ feelings for her. Kennedy and Irene get nice earth tones to go with their knowledge and purity.
Even though it features a top secret vigilante organization, Hi-Fi Fight Club #1 is a fairly down to Earth book about teenage crushes, geeking out over bands, and little, relatable moments like dropping your Walkman CD player and being happy when the music doesn’t stop. Writer Carly Usdin makes Chris one of the most infectiously likable protagonists in comics while the art team of Nina Vakueva, Irene Flores, and Rebecca Nalty nail the cool, indie slice of life comic with a touch of shoujo manga visual style of the book.
If you ever had a secret teenage crush or fell head over heels with a band, artist, or genre of music (Aka most human beings.), you should pick up Hi-Fi Fight Club #1.
P.S. It’s a little weird for me to be the same age as the “oldest” character in a teen comic…
Story: Carly Usdin Pencils: Nina Vakueva Inks: Irene Flores Colors: Rebecca Nalty
Story: 10 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy
BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review