By Dustin Cabeal
If you read comics and proclaim to love comics, then you should read Hi-Fi Fight Club this week. If I did a pick of the week or some such crap, then this would be it. If I had a spinner rack at a comic shop with recommendations that people “in the know” scoffed at because they already knew the book was cool, this would be in that spot. I would never know it was in that spot, but it would be there.
At first, I had my reservations about Hi-Fi Fight Club when I first started reading. It wasn’t the setting; it wasn’t that it was an all-female cast (that was actually why I read it), but rather… I didn’t know what the hell was going on. The bulk of it is spent with Chris, who is the newest employee at Vinyl Mayhem. The story is narrated from Chris’ perspective, and she walks us through the world and her thoughts and feelings on a lot of things. It’s very accurate for a teenager in the 90s, and I say that as someone who was a teenager in the 90s.
A few pages in though and this woe is me 90s teen story seems like, well just that. The writing from Carly Usdin is so sharp though. At times Chris seems too far into her own head, but then what teenager isn’t? For that matter find me an adult that’s not the same way. Chris worries about fitting in, about how well liked she is with her coworkers and in-between all that she’s developing a crush on one of them. Usdin makes sure that we know Chris, not just about her, but know her as a human being. Which worries me, because that could mean bad news for Chris or just better stories. I’m banking on the latter.
The rest of the characters are a bit flat. They’re reduced to archetypes, which is understandable given how much time is spent with Chris and developing her character. It’s unrealistic to expect any writer to develop five characters in under thirty pages of a comic book. I’ve read so many comics lately that can’t even get one character developed in four issues, so I have nothing but praise for just how detailed, consistent and enjoyable all the characters in Hi-Fi Fight Club are in this first issue.
The art is why I picked this book up to read. The artwork is also why I fell in love with the book instantly. Even if the story weren't as good as it is, I probably would have kept reading this series just to look at the art. A lot of it has to do with Maggie’s eyes; I can see why Chris would instantly fall in love with her, just saying. The line work is detailed, clean and while it’s capturing the 90s, it feels incredibly modern. Many stories suffer from making the book look dated intentionally which defeats the purpose of flashing back to another era. That would be like telling a caveman story with cave drawings and just leaving readers confused and disappointed.
Surprisingly, there’s an inker on this issue and let me just say hell fucking yes, I’m glad to see inking coming back to comics. I had to check after looking at the art, but sure as shit there was an inker credit for Irene Flores, and she makes the book look good! There is something underappreciated about inking. The industry decided they could do it all digital and save money, but it changed the way comics looked and depending on the style of art, not always for the better. Flores inking is light, subtle and yet makes the backgrounds fuller looking, the details stronger and the coloring warmer. Don’t underestimate the effect inking has on a comic.
At this point, the review is running long, but I’ll continue with the coloring which is by Rebecca Nalty. I’ve never seen her coloring before, but I would be surprised if I didn’t see her name more in the future. The book looks wonderful. Nalty brings Vakueva’s art to life. The lighting effects alone are masterful, but then there’s the way the first page instantly tells you everything you need to know about the town the story takes place. That and the colors are just warm and rich looking. It looks like the goddamn 90s, but again in a way that doesn’t feel dated.
Lastly, we have the lettering by Jim Campbell, a name I see a lot and with good cause. The lettering adds to the personality of the characters and enhances Chris’ narration. The book is easy to read, and the fonts used match the tone and style of the story.
Some of you are probably going to read this and still wonder what the book is about, after all, I did intentionally pass all that up in my review because I want you to wonder that as you pick up the book. Sure, some people won’t like it, some will think it’s okay, and others will love it. That’s the fun of comic books; we don’t all like the same things to the same degree. But if you get off your superhero chair for a moment you might find that Hi-Fi Fight Club is a wonderfully crafted comic book, emphasis on comic book. That’s the biggest compliment I can give; it’s a damn good comic book.
Hi-Fi Fight Club #1
Writer: Carly Usdin
Artist: Nina Vakueva
Inker: Irene Flores
Colorist: Rebecca Nalty
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Box