Remember how Fifty Shades of Grey started out as some Twilight knockoff? Well after reading the first issue of Pop, I’m pretty confident that Curt Pires’ story had its beginnings as Grant Morrison-era Doom Patrol fan fic, one that shot for the same kooky and compelling narrative style but ends up having more in common with the guy you knew in 10th grade who tried just a little too hard to be weird (that guy was me if you went St. John’s. Class of ’07!). Pop’s premise seems simple enough from this premiere issue. Mysterious organization has been behind the artificial creation of pop stars like Mariah Carey and Britney Spears, using them to satiate the masses for some nefarious means. At the start of this issue, Elle Ray, their most recent pop star, has prematurely broken out from her artificial womb and is on the run. Soon after she bumps into every geek stoner dude Coop as he’s heading out of his comic book/record store to make his way home to commit suicide via a comically large noose that I guess he prepared earlier that day. Evil organization headman tracks down Elle Ray thanks to a mechanical worm implanted in her skin, and sends a pair of sadistic, clever, and cute henchmen to track her down.
If at any moment that sounds like a fun way to spend the next ten minutes of your life, I have failed you. This comic blows despite its potentially engaging premise that seems set to criticize contemporary culture’s obsession with celebrity, criticism that is sure to be a heavy handed mess if the first page of this issue is any indication. Said page features a collage of images about people’s desire to become famous by any means while an unknown narrator delivers lines that seem to be straight out of a sociology 101 term paper. Additionally, Pires’ bitterness towards American youth culture teems throughout the issue, making it a difficult read.
And while a premiere issue can be forgiven for failing to live up to its premise, Pop’s protagonist Elle Ray just feels like another in a long line of comic book women whose main function is for men to ogle at in addition to giving some meaning to Coop the loser’s life. With a name that sounds like it was stolen from a luchador, Elle gets hardly any dialogue in this issue that’s not about her appreciation of Coop’s kindness towards her. Like the culture Pires hopes to satirize with Pop, he uses Elle as a prop in this comic, lacking any autonomy.
Here’s the part then where I usually mention how the art is the saving grace of the book, but that’s just not the case here. Jason Copland and Pete Toms make a hearty effort to give this book a distinct style that employs bright colors along with a Paul Pope-influenced art style, but to poor effect. With uninspired character designs and some muddled scenes, the bright colors evoke nausea more than wonder, which I guess may be Copland and Toms’ intention.
Pop is a book that you ought to just walk pass on your next visit to your local comic book shop. Better yet, if you see it at one, do your comic geek colleagues a favor and move it behind that stack of variant cover X-Men comics no one has touched in years.
Writer: Curt Pires Artist: Jason Copland Colorist: Pete Toms Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 8/27/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital