Hold onto your Discman and prepare to blast back to 1998, a time when comics were king and the coolest thing you could do was work in a record store. But in Hi-Fi Fight Club #1, young Chris is about to find out Vinyl Mayhem is a little rougher than Empire Records. Is it good?
Ah, to be young and in love! But does super-cute Maggie reciprocate? Is she even into girls? And what’s with those Band-Aids on her knuckles?
Is it weird that the store manager supports the tripping of know-it-all boys who bag on Lauryn Hill? Why doesn’t she seem concerned about the disappearance of Rosie Riot, the lead singer of Stegosaur? Chris’ can-do attitude will net her the answers to some of these questions, but she may not be allowed to talk about them.
In Hi-Fi Fight Club #1, writer Carly Usdin and artist Nina Vakueva really do a great job of transporting us (older folks) back to that mythical time of flannel and appointment X-Files viewing. The whole cast of characters from your memories are here: the goth chick, the music encyclopedia named Kennedy and the SUPER old boss who must be, like, 24 or something. It is totally rad.
In fact, it’s a little too hackneyed at first, and the all-girl cast gloating over dim-witted boys seems like an overly obvious reversal of the typical comic book power fantasy. But as little reveals about the characters and the situation start to hit, the reader realizes that may all be by design, so that when the final twist commences, all that trope-chasing gets turned on its head.
Vakueva’s art brings a manga-type sensibility and fits the overall presentation well. In a story that doesn’t “move” much yet, she’s able to make the panels (and transitions between panels) dynamic, which bodes well for when the action inevitably picks up. Rebecca Nalty’s colors are bright and expressive, an appropriate match for the simmering status quo, leading to just the right amount of cognitive dissonance when the real meaning of “Vinyl Mayhem” becomes apparent.
Hi-Fi Fight Club #1 is a deceptively high-concept comic hidden in what seems to be mere pop culture recapitulation. It might take a second reading to grasp how the creative team sets up that status, something that one might not expect from the apparently standard opening pages. That’s a a feat in itself, one that may be difficult to live up to in subsequent issues. Usdin and Vakueva have proven they can effectively upset the apple cart, though, so there’s likely more weird subversions to come.