For a lot of people, that first job offers freedom and a sense of belonging. Way back in……I am not going to say, but believe me when I say it was quite a while back; my first job paying £8 for 6 hours work in a local mini mart was the height of cool. Suffice to say, I earn quite a bit more now, but looking back, that summer felt rife with possibilities.
Chris an almost 17-year-old girl, has her dream, for now, job as the newest employee of Vinyl Mayhem. Full with the desire to fit in, find her own way in life and listen to cool beats, we get to see her interactions with the rest of the Mayhem gang of D, her mortal enemy, the ultra cool Kennedy, Maggie who is the object of Chris’s crush and shop owner Irene who Chris aspires to be when she grows up. Despite the almost Empire Records vibe; there is even a pseudo Rex Manning Day; things are not quite what they seem. But it’s not until Rosie, the lead singer of teen band Stegosour, goes missing that Chris gets to peek into an alternative life behind the record racks.
Creator / writer Carly Usdin is a highly talented creative supremo across multiple media strands. You will have seen her work in a million places without even realizing. In Hi-fi, Usdin weaves her own love of music in to the instantly likeable Chris, who walks the very thin line between the trying to please everyone mind-set of childhood and the striking out on your own mentality that drives kids from the safety of their parents house and into the big bad world of bills and responsibilities. Whilst the book may seem cheesy in places, if you take the time to reflect on its pages, you will discover a well nuanced world that is so like our own. I mean, who hasn’t had the “my car, my tunes” conversation with their kid? Hell, I have that conversation with Mrs H still! The characters are well served by some great dialogue; we don’t need to be told of Chris’s crush, its painfully obvious in every semi awkward, did she say that/ did she mean that conversation.
The art is provided by Nina Vakueva, whose style is as easy-going as the dialogue. Sure, as you read through the book you may see the more than the odd Manga style inspired look, this is tempered in a way to give you a sense of the familiar. Bearing in mind, that the story works so hard to give us the same sense, I would say that both Usdin and Vakueva are on the right track. What I also like about the art is the little things, like fingers and thumbs. In many ways these oft forgotten digits help convey the sense of what the character is feeling. If it is true that the majority of how we communicate is by body language, then Vakueva has certianlty put in the work to demonstrate that here. The colors by Rebecca Nalty work in a kind of washed out Wonder Years way, again suiting the vibe of the book.
Looking at this book, I dreaded reading it. Its chirpy, happy, in a kind of cheesy way that would normally send me running for the dark streets of Gotham. Yet, by gritting my teeth, I found that I really enjoyed the book for the slice of almost whimsy it is, bringing smiles of recognition of my early jobs and the friends I made, now long gone.
Writing – 5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars
Created / Written by; Carly Usdin
Art by; Nina Vakueva
Colors by; Rebecca Nalty
Published by; Boom Box (Boom Studios)