Review: Heavy Vinyl #4
“Have I ever really helped anybody but myself/To believe in the power of songs/To believe in the power of girls?”- Metric, “Dreams So Real”
Heavy Vinyl #4 (The comic formerly known as Hi-Fi Fight Club.) cements its legacy as one of the cutest, gayest, and riot grrl-est comics ever in this miniseries finale from writer Carly Usdin, artists Nina Vakueva and Irene Flores, and colorists Rebecca Nalty, Kieran Quigley, and Walter Baiamonte. The comic plays with the most delightful of tropes, including scrappy underdogs fighting shady corporate overlords, the adorable saying goodbye to family montage, and of course, the big damn kiss. Vakueva panel layouts are also very lively and slanted for maximum fierceness even if this comic isn’t a beat ’em up battle royale story. It rocks though.
Even though she has to wrap up the first Heavy Vinyl storyline as well as set up some threads for future stories, Usdin doesn’t skimp on character development, and Vakueva and Flores use visuals to give a glimpse into each member of the Vinyl Mayhem fight club’s personal life. Of course, the manager/team leader Irene has an adorable dog and girlfriend, and Kennedy enjoys hot chocolate with her boyfriend Logan, who has become the Chris Hemsworth to their Ghostbusters and a solid source of comic relief throughout the series. Of course, Maggie has two doting dads, who spoil her with pancakes and fresh squeezed orange juice, and Chris is just trying to keep things together as she freaks out every time her parents say “action” with some manga-influenced sweat lines.
My personal favorite intro was Dolores, who is Puerto Rican, and has a close relationship with her family to go with her computer knowledge and Goth aesthetic. Nalty uses plenty of shadows in her room and just a glimpse of sunshine to show that she’s a complex character and not just a sullen Goth. I also like how Vakueva lays out her room and uses body language to show that Dolores feels a little bit of tension in balancing work and school as well as going out of state. Even though the spotlight has mainly been on Chris and Maggie, Usdin has given her a mini arc throughout Heavy Vinyl, and she plays a big, take charge role in the final big reveal with her no-nonsense attitude and technical knowledge. However, she has a softer side too as is revealed in an epilogue that made this 90s geek kid smile.
Even if it’s extraneous to the missing rock star/mind control overarching plot of Heavy Vinyl, the hella awkward and hella cute slow burn romance between Chris and Maggie is the book’s beating heart. And there’s plenty of pay off in Heavy Vinyl #4 beginning with the complete adorableness that is Maggie falling asleep on Chris’ shoulder during the bus ride to New York. Palty emphasizes the blue sky outside their window, which creates a hopeful vibe while Vakueva and Flores draw one of the happiest faces of all time as Chris looks out the window. They and Usdin channel these intense feelings throughout the second half of the comic culminating in the reddest blush ever when Maggie tells Chris that she obviously knows about her crush. In general, these Maggie/Chris scenes show off the tightrope of romance and humor that Heavy Vinyl ably walks.\
But Heavy Vinyl #4 isn’t all longing glances, sweet montages, and kick ass tunes. Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva, and Irene Flores do a lot of world-building and other big picture things like making the plot of this miniseries just the tip of the iceberg for a conspiracy storyline that is similar to Josie and the Pussycats, but trades out the camp for indie rock earnestness. Some of the lines about this plot development are super on-the-nose, but Usdin is a smart and has Chris say most of them like “Music is about expression.” Chris’ intense love for the band Stegosaur and hunger for finding and learning about new music as part of developing her identity as a young woman is a big part of her character arc so the lines really work. Also, the first in-person appearance of Rosie Riot is quite breathtaking.
Heavy Vinyl #4 has it all: deep character dives, well-developed romance, organic world building, and a passionate tone from Rebecca Nalty’s background colors to Nina Vakueva and Irene Flores’ design choices and fight formations to Carly Usdin taking time to show each main cast member with their family. Music is awesome, stories about that are by women are awesome, and Heavy Vinyl is one of the best comics of 2017.
Story: Carly Usdin Pencils: Nina Vakueva Inks: Irene Flores
Colors: Rebecca Nalty with Kieran Quigley and Walter Baiamonte
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy
BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review