A lot of times my blind choices for selecting an indie title for review is an attempt to find something weird. While not always resulting in masterpieces, some of the indie titles I remember most clearly in my time writing for Bastards have been genuine oddities, books that in one way or another strike a vein of genuine, unmarketable creativity. Cankor, The Book of Da, and my personal favorite, the short-lived Argent Starr; these are books that make reading small press Indies an experience of personal design, letting even unpolished works shine with their own uncanny light. Galaxfreaks: Dark Vibes was such a gamble, hoping for something, for better or worse, that would give me something to sink a hook into, critically. Whether unusual or obnoxious, I just needed something different, something to shake the dust off of the mind and fingers to coax out some words. I shouldn't get your hopes up by saying I had a hard time discerning the intent of the book in question. Ultimately, nothing about the content left me confused, intrigued, or particularly engaged. The only lingering question is a somewhat disappointing one: how weird was this supposed to be? The plot of Galaxfreaks: Dark Vibes is this. A young misunderstood girl is bullied by her peers for being different, all while experimenting with recently developed superpowers in private, sensing she has a heroic destiny. Elsewhere, a powerful hero is confronted by his arch nemesis, which sets an evil plot in motion that could threaten the nature of the universe, a plot that will likely involve our misunderstood heroine soon enough. If that sounds extremely straightforward, it's because it is, and it reads absolutely as straightforward as the synopsis above. The dubious 'freak' aspect of the book is in its aesthetic and vaguely psychedelic inspired theming. The characters are designed uniformly in a fashion reminiscent of Japanese vinyl toys, our heroine looking like a full-body hoodie with an eyeball in the mouth of the hood. The superhero is a cartoon skull in a jumper. The Force analog in the book is 'vibing', I assume intended to be a sort of transcendental relationship with the flow of the universe. Slang, both 'Alien' and commonplace English, are used to spruce up blunt, matter-of-fact monologuing exposition (“Back into reality and let our mega nasty plan unfurl!!!!”). This disparity between the intentional attempt at surreal visuals and the explicitly commonplace and straightforward story results in an experience similar to reading one of those cheaply produced insert comics in the carton of a 90s kid's toy, only for a toyline that never actually existed.
I should say, it's not an awful comic. The toyetic character designs, while not memorable, aren't unpleasant to look at. The colors are appropriately blacklight poster inspired. I wasn't annoyed or upset by the writing. The book seems to accomplish its goals and does so in a mostly professional manner. Except that one goal. The big one the book seems to keep swinging for and missing. Nothing about this is weird.
Apparently, Dark Vibes is a tie-in of the mainline Galaxfreaks comic series, which I imagine is more of the same contained here (I Googled it to see if there maybe was a toyline I was unaware of, but the first search result was a Youtube channel offering motivational videos). The tone seems to be psychedelic superheroes, abstracted weird world versions of familiar heroics, a fun romp to keep stashed in a magazine holder next to your bong and 'Yes' albums. That's a fine and harmless goal, but maybe this is a book that needs to be experienced while under the influence, because sober it's just a stock kind of unremarkable with a wacky coat of paint. Again, it kind of feels like a product tie-in, lots of time put into a visual aesthetic but using the most basic building blocks to clump a vague story around. Forced weird is annoying, the kind you find from people who claim Eraserhead is their favorite movie of all time but don't have anything to offer creatively but pastiche. Galaxfreaks is not that, because it doesn't even seem to know where to start with weird.
I don't resent Galaxfreaks existence. Like I said, it's a pretty harmless enterprise. I could imagine con merch for something like this being popular with a certain crowd at conventions, and clearly, the creator isn't hurting for resources if he's publishing a tie-in title to a self-published effort. As work to criticize, however? To stack up against other works I've read from a broad spectrum of creators and styles? There's nothing here to stick. Unlike the weird gems that have gummed onto my brain over the years, Galaxfreaks is one that feels particularly, almost intentionally, insubstantial. I'm left feeling like I simply stepped through the book and continued on my way.
[su_box title="Score: 2/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Galaxafreaks: Dark Vibes #1 Creator: Andrew Pawley Publisher: Cosmic Freakout