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Review: Heavy Vinyl #4

HeavyVinyl4Cover“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.

HeavyVinyl4interior

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

Preview: Heavy Vinyl #4 (of 4)

Heavy Vinyl #4 (of 4)

Publisher: BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writer: Carly Usdin
Artist: Nina Vakueva
Colorist: Rebecca Nalty
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Cover Artist: Nina Vakueva
Price: $3.99

After Chris discovers a secret code, the girls have a new lead and renewed determination to find Rosie Riot…but what if she doesn’t want to be found?

Preview: Hi-Fi Fight Club #3 (of 4)

Hi-Fi Fight Club #3 (of 4)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Carly Usdin
Artist: Nina Vakueva
Cover Artist: Nina Vakueva
Price: $3.99

Now that Chris knows about Vinyl Mayhem’s dark, amazing secret, it’s time to get her in fighting shape to save Roary from certain musical DOOM!

Review: Hi-Fi Fight Club #2

Hi-Fi Fight Club #2 is a fantastic romantic comedy in girl gang vigilante wrapping paper from writer Carly Usdin, artists Nina Vakueva and Irene Flores, and colorist Rebecca Nalty. Chris, Maggie, Kennedy, Dolores, and could be in a band, but they decide to kick injustice’s ass in various ways like stopping an all girl band from being harassed or trying to find Rosie Riot, the missing lead singer from Chris’ favorite band, Stegosaur. Usdin’s script spends some time laying out the origin of the “fight club” and digging into the Rosie Riot mystery (Especially the final few pages). However, for the most part, Hi-Fi Fight Club #2 is pure character study with Chris dealing with finding her identity as a teenager, coming to terms with her feelings for her co-worker Maggie, and also being silly and adorable along the way.

On the visual front, Hi-Fi Fight Club #2 is the cool sound effects from letterer Jim Campbell and Vakueva montage layouts issues. The comic is cut like a stylish MTV promo from the late 90s, but Nalty mostly uses a soft, suburban palette with the occasional bright background burst like when the girls are sparring. This color choice keeps the comic firmly in slice of life territory although Vakueva and Flores’ action scenes pack a wallop and are easy to follow to boot. Some other interesting visual choices, include Vakueva channeling her inner humorist and making Chris pull some crazy faces any time she interacts or is noticed by Maggie with no angsty narration needed. In contrast, Maggie has the cute, beautiful composure of a character from a shonen manga and later shows she can kick ass just like a Sailor Scout.

Usdin, Vakueva, Flores, and Nalty swing for the fences emotionally in Hi-Fi Fight Club #2 without resorting overused tropes like love triangles and or pointless in-fighting. Sure, Dolores doesn’t want Unlike the softer edges for Maggie, Flores uses a strong, stern inking line for Dolores, and she and Vakueva draw her either working the bag or commenting on how A power packed supporting cast aside, Hi-Fi Fight Club continues to be Chris’ story, and her thoughts and reactions fill the panels and caption boxes. Especially with her induction to the fight club, Vinyl Mayhem has ushered her into a “cool” new world of music, crushes, and action, and it’s a lot to process so she struggles being useful in the search for Rosie Riot.

However, she does grow closer to Maggie, but wonders if Maggie has romantic feelings for her or is just being nice to the new girl. Reading the subtext in facial expressions, pauses, and sometimes dialogue in their interactions (Especially at the diner.) is honestly the most entertaining and riveting part of the comic. Usdin, Vakueva, and Flores nail the rush of young love, especially when Chris goes from not being hungry and sulking to her room to running off to the diner and stuffing her face for cheese fries. It reminds me of this weird tic that I had for a little while in high school when I wouldn’t eat full meals in case a “dating situation” popped up, and I could still be hungry. Yeah, that was pretty much, and Usdin isn’t afraid to write Chris as insecure, vulnerable, and yes, passionate about her music, job, the fight club, and Maggie. An anecdote that she shares with the group about Rosie Riot getting ice cream in her hometown to deal with anxiety shows that she looks up to this woman as a role model and that helping find her is way high on her list of priorities.

In its second installment, Hi-Fi Fight Club plays to its strength as Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva, Irene Flores, and Rebecca Nalty make their focus on Chris and her potential romance with Maggie the centerpiece of her story to find identity through her music fandom and nascent vigilantism. And the art and colors continue to be a treat with fluid action scenes, riot grrl poses, and plenty of longing glances and general feels whenever Vakueva and Flores draw Chris looking at Maggie.

Story: Carly Usdin Pencils: Nina Vakueva Inks: Irene Flores Colors: Rebecca Nalty
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Hi-Fi Fight Club #2 (of 4)

Hi-Fi Fight Club #2 (of 4)

Publisher: BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writer: Carly Usdin
Artist: Nina Vakueva
Cover Artists: Nina Vakueva
Price: $3.99

With Rory in danger and Chris finally in on the crew’s off-hour activities, they need a plan to get to her in time… and they find it in the most unexpected place!

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Wednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

Each week our contributors are choosing up to five books and why they’re choosing the books. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Javier

Darkseid Special #1 (DC Comics) – Given that we celebrate Jack Kirby’s centennial this week, this book is auto selected as my number 1 pick. Penned by Mark Evanier (Kirby’s biographer), and with Paul Levitz, it includes Granny Goodness, an OMAC short, and a classic Kirby Fourth World story.

Deadly Class #30 (Image Comics) – 1980s big hair and depression. Remender delivers.

Crosswind #3 (Image Comics) – Gail Simone and Cat Staggs breathe new life into the old body switcheroo story gimmick, with a murderous hitman twist.

Animosity #9 (Aftershock Comics) – Marguerite Bennett’s post-apocalyptic animal ruled world blends action and drama with Latorre’s spellbinding art.

Victor Lavalle’s Destroyer (BOOM! Studios) – There’s definitely some hubris in including the writer’s name in the comic book’s title, but this is the Victor Lavalle who wrote ‘Slapboxing with Jesus’ and ‘The Ballad of Black Tom’. His graphic update on Shelley’s Frankenstein is potentially the BOOM! sleeper hit of 2017.

 

Brett

All-Star Batman #13 (DC Comics) – All-Star Batman has been one the most consistently entertaining comics from DC and one of the best comics on the market. A character study in comics and a must read.

John Carpenter Tales of Science Fiction: Vault #2 (Storm King Comics) – Great science fiction horror action that ups the tense setting and story.

Return of the Dapper Men (Top Shelf/IDW Publishing) – The award winning graphic novel is reprinted with new material. If you missed it the first time, now is your chance to get it.

Star Wars #35/Star Wars: Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu #1 (Marvel) – Some of the best comics Marvel has been producing has been their Star Wars comics and this week we get two releases that I’m sure are entertaining if the past releases are any indication. Add in a comic just focused on mace Windu and I’m totally in.

Transformers: Optimus Prime #10 (IDW Publishing) – IDW’s Transformers comics have been knocking it out of the park with political intrigue, action, lots of drama, and some of the best science fiction allegories being produced today. These comics feel like they have more in common with the original Star Trek than they do the 80s cartoon.

 

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day tomorrow. What’s everyone excited for? What do you plan on getting? Sound off in the comments below!

Around the Tubes

Patch – Morris County Native Wants To Fight Bullying With Comic Books – Awesome to see this!

CBR – Hellboy: Ed Skrein Leaves Film Over Whitewashing Concerns – Good.

ICv2 – Michael Tierney of Collector’s Edition/The Comic Book Store on Marvel’s Lenticular Covers – Care? Don’t care?

The Outhouse – DC’s Vixen Cartoon To Broadcast On The CW – Smart of them to.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Talking Comics – Hi-Fi Fight Club #1

Comic Attack – Horizon #13

Newsarama – Savage Town

 

Review: Hi-Fi Fight Club #1

Carly Usdin pens a cheeky and interesting tale of a group of teenage female employees working in a record store with Hi-Fi Fight Club. The premiere issue sets up a story that serves up some serious Empire Records vibes. On its surface the story seems to be leading up to a teen movie style love story romp in a record store but, by the end of the introductory issue you discover that there’s more to there’s way more to the story. Usdin’ writing is complemented by an almost all female art team, the only male on the crew is the letterer which lends to an interesting female gaze.

Nina Vakueva penciling brings Usdin’s characters to life, there is a uniformity in the facial features and body types of the female characters in the issue and while the lead characters are well designed they’re somewhat interchangeable. Irene Flores ink work is sharp and Rebecca Nalty serves up some pretty pastels and punk colors making the story pop. Nalty gets bonus points for not making the resident goth look like a cliche.

I was hella excited when I read about the premise and became even more excited when I discovered the comic had an 80% female team. I’m happy to report the issue is pretty darn solid and I’m hoping that the few issues that I had with the first issue will be fixed in future ones. The writing is pretty solid, the premise is interesting and the comic world could use all the strong , bad ass female characters that it can get. Hi Fi adds a teen and superpowerless twist to things which is refreshing, it’s like it D.E.B.S. and Empire Records had a baby. The team of teen crime fighters/avenging Angels that Usdin created, is headquartered in the basement of the record store where all the girls work, is headed by a female team leader.

There’s loads to love about this new series but, I also found a couple of flaws. All of the female characters introductions are reduced to micro sentence descriptors one characters description left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The character Maggie’s descriptions is “Literally, the cutest” . While the other characters are a bit cliched and one noted, this one reduced a female character to a physical descriptor as if there was nothing else noteworthy about her. I realize that in the context of the narrator being a teenage girl with a crush on Maggie there would be some notice of her looks but, I’m sad that it came in the form of reducing her down to her physical features. I was more than a little disenchanted that the creative team was comprised of mostly women. I was also a bit put off by the lack of facial ethnic differences which, meant that the only person of color a lead had white woman dipped in chocolate syndrome. I know that there is more than one way that a person of color can look but, to have her look identical to every other character in the series rubbed me the wrong way especially when the artist gave the character braids. I also, wasn’t a fan of the fact that all of the women had the same body type to go along with their “perfect” faces. I had hoped that the artists would have taken the opportunity to give the characters their own unique looks and styles to showcase the myriad of looks that a woman can have.

Overall, I like the premise and I can see this comic going places. I just hope that they try to showcase more shapes, colors and sizes in the art work and that the story focuses on making the characters people who are more complex than microsentence descriptors. I look forward to seeing where the ladies go as they delve into their first case together with their newest addition Chris. The comic world needs a secret teen girl vigilante fight club and I hope that this evolves into the greatness implied in the issues final pages.

Story: Carly Usdin Art: Nina Vakueva, Irene Flores, Rebecca Nalty
Story: 8.2 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.6 Recommendation: Read

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

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

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Wednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

Each week our contributors are choosing up to five books and why they’re choosing the books. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Black Hammer #12 (Dark Horse) – Jeff Lemire continues to impress with his take on deconstructing super heroes.

Detective Comics #963 (DC Comics) – Things are kicking up as the group now knows that Tim Drake is alive. But, before we get to that this issue focuses on Spoiler and Anarky.

Mother Panic #10 (DC Comics/Young Animal) – Batman without the restraint. Just brutal and awesome.

Nightwing: The New Order #1 (DC Comics) – Maybe not the best timing but we’re intrigued to see what this fascist Nightwing has in store for us.

First Strike #2 (IDW Publishing) – The first issue started off with a bang (literally) and we can’t wait to see what the second brings in this crossover of properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers.

Saucer State #3 (IDW Publishing) – Aliens. Conspiracies. Politics. The President of the United States. Yes please!

Hard Place #1 (Image Comics) – A former wheelman tries to go straight but is caught up in a robbery and is being chased by the cops and Russian mob. Sounds awesome!

Lazarus X Plus 66 #2 (Image Comics) – Some of the best world building in all of entertainment.

Shirtless Bear-Fighter #3 (Image Comics) – The concept is goofy but we’ve been having a blast with this series.

Generations: Unworthy Thor & Mighty Thor #1 (Marvel) – We’re not quite sure the big picture point of these one-shots, but we’re still holding out hope.

Secret Empire #9 (Marvel) – We’ve had mixed reactions here as to this event (generally negative) but with one more issue to go we want to see how it wraps up and if there’s any way to right this wrong.

X-Men: Gold #10 (Marvel) – The relaunched X line from Marvel has been a big improvement and this is easily its best series.

Bubblegun Vol. 2 #4 (Aspen) -A fun sci-fi series with eye catching visuals that feels like it should have a game to go along with it.

Catalyst Prime: Incidentals #1 (Lion Forge) – The company’s latest addition to its Catalyst Prime line of comics and the first group book. We’re intrigued to see where things go and how this stands out.

Clueless (BOOM! Studios) – As if!? The classic film gets a new graphic novel and we’re so ready to head back to the 90s.

Heathen #5 (Vault Comics) – The first four issues have been fantastic to read and look at in this new take with a vikings(ish) world.

Hi-Fi Fight Club #1 (BOOM! Studios) – Sounds like a riff on Empire Records. We’re sold on that alone.

Letter 44 #35 (Oni Press) – All the answers!!! ALL OF THEM!!! The series wraps up with this final issue.

Sisters of Sorrow #2 (BOOM! Studios) – A gritty series from the same person that did Sons of Anarchy. The first issue felt like a 70s exploitation/revenge film in a way and it’ll be interesting to see where the series goes from there.

War Mother #1 (Valiant) – This character has been touched upon a few times through various Valiant events, but she’s finally getting her own series and we can’t wait to see what’s done with the character. Valiant consistently knocks it out of the park and we’re expecting no less with this one.

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