Review: Polarity #3

Okay, so I have something to admit to you Bastards. I did not approach Polarity #3 with the kind of objective journalistic integrity with which I incorrectly pride myself. I’d just recently caught up with the series after missing our first group review of the inaugural issue, and what I found having done so, at least in the first two issues, felt like the pretentious bigging-up of a self-hating hipster. This vexed me greatly. Powered by that sense of affectation, this story about an indie artist using his bipolar disorder-derived super powers to avenge kids in skinny jeans everywhere just ground at my nerves. So riled-up, I was all set to come at this thing’s throat like a goddamn spider-monkey. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I read issue three ... and was forced to rethink my approach.

When I was reading those previous issues, it was pretty clear to me that Polarity was nothing more than a hipster kid’s wet dream. That scene in issue two where our hero, Tim, appears in a high school locker room to beat up a jock and become the savior for the next generation of hipsters, was trite verging hypocritical, as was any point in which he snidely criticizes his own “spiritually-bruised,” artistic scenester lifestyle.

This continued at points within issue three, like when Tim - who we last saw huffing booger-sugar to counteract the pills that keep his bipolar disorder, and thus his superhuman powers, at bay - gets hopped-up on taurine and accosts a mustachioed gentleman of ill repute for peddling drugs and making fun of hipsters. Pot. Kettle. Black.

Polarity_02_preview_Page_1Now, this characterization would be interesting if I saw it veering towards self discovery, where Tim realizes he’s as much of a monstrous shit as everyone he purports to hate, but apart from a few half-assed mea culpas, this feels too self-involved to be anything more than a comic book-shaped soapbox. I’m willing to hang on until the end to find out, though, just to see if this self-appointed shit-caller’s shit gets called.

The other stuff in this issue, however, was actually pretty good. Whereas his characterization is off, and structured in a way that makes me dislike most of Polarity’s populace, the dialogue here (perhaps not surprisingly from a professional lyricist), flows quite nicely. It does sometimes cross the line from a natural, snappy cadence into a sort of saccharin attempt at being clever, like it’s trying too hard to be an edgy, self-aware, early 20-something manifesto. But hey, I still like Kevin Smith movies, so I can suspend my disbelief in the immature take on adult relationships long enough to appreciate flashes of genius. And those flashes do come.

Bemis’ skill as a writer shines when he isn’t trying to force too much of his own message into the mouth of his main character and down the throats of his readers. The liner moments between Tim and his menagerie - those asides they share - are soft, funny and endearing - it’s just a shame this doesn’t last longer or translate when Tim is ruminating in his own self-aggrandizing thoughts. As a whole, though, I have to give Bemis credit for having an easy-to-approach dialogue flow that is pleasantly engaging enough to, in this issue at least, make up for his other narrative foibles. Oh, and respect for making me actually sit back and say, “HOLY SHIT!”

Throughout this issue, Tim has been coming to grips, not necessarily with his newfound superhuman abilities, but rather his responsibility in using them ... to varying degrees of success. It was almost a foregone conclusion that his psychiatrist-cum-superhuman handler, Dr. Mays, was not what he appeared to be. We got a peek of that last time in his familiarity with Tim’s abilities, but the look-back into his suitably troubling past at the outset of this issue came out of nowhere, as did the walking monster baby head with arms for eyes. I’ll let you get there on your own, but needless to say, the surprises at the end of this issue made it quite enjoyably fucked up.

However, one good ending does not a great series make, and this thing has been rife with flaws from the word go, mostly in its spotty characterization. In the same way, and no pun intended here, Polarity can’t seem to decide what it wants to be. It tries to out-hipster hipsters while simultaneously making fun of and protecting them - an odd tactic, and one that makes his buddy-buddy approach pretty off-putting. It also just feels like the origin story of a bitter, annoyingly vengeful superhero who I’d rather see get his ass kicked than kicking ass.

Still, I liked issue three a lot more than I thought I would, and it brought enough humor and wit to leave me walking away with an overall sense of enjoyment. So, I’ll stay on-board until the final issue ... though I’ll be pretty surprised if this thing doesn’t end in a Beautiful Mind / Shutter Island type deal.

Score: 3/5

Writer: Max Bemis

Artist: Jorge Coelho

Colors: Felipe Sobreiro

Price: $3.99

Release Date: 6/5/13