REVIEW: “Polarity” #1 (of 4)

(BOOM Studios, 2013)

Review by Cory Thrall

WRITER:  Max Bemis
ARTWORK:  Jorge Coelho
COLOR ARTWORK:  Felipe Sobreiro
LETTERS: Steve Wands

Max Bemis, frontman for the band ‘Say Anything’, has created and written a four issue mini-series, starting with this first issue.  I don’t know anything at all about the band Bemis is in, but I dug into this first issue sure that it wouldn’t be a problem.  Plus, with each of the four issues containing a code for a different free downloadable song from Bemis, I’m sure I can get a decent idea.

This is the story of an artist who suffers from bipolar disorder and who finds that his medication is somehow stifling ‘super powers’.  When we first meet our main character – the constantly ‘sad-eyed’ Tim – he has recently been released from a mental hospital.  It seems that, while off of his meds, Tim thought he was some sort of Superhero that just happens to fight crime in the nude.  Some questionable action finds him plowed over by a car, into the hospital, and now in the rehab state he is currently in.  He is staying away from intoxicants such as alcohol and marijuana in an attempt to keep his life in control, and is dutifully taking his medications as prescribed.  Though he mopes about, hanging his body loosely and slumping, he seems to be trying to make things better.

Before his accident and subsequent hospital stay, Tim was creating artwork that had begun getting attention while Tim was on his ‘vacation’.  Once he returns home, newly refreshed and managing his illness, he wallows around ‘hipster’ art shows and gatherings, towed along by his pseudo-girlfriend Alexis – a girl who is far more interested in the popularity of his art than she is in any actual relationship.  She sees him more as a step up the ladder of ‘cool’, and the idea that she might dump him at any moment for the next big thing is suggested more than once throughout the issue.  She is vapid, empty, and selfishly cold.

Eventually, Alexis informs Tim that his artwork has started to ‘suck’ since he returned from the hospital, suggesting that his mania gave him a spark unseen in his current work.  This, of course, angers the socially confused Tim, and he makes his way to a solo visit at a local bar.  There he runs into a previously established obsession of his – a fun-loving woman named Lily, who Tim not only hides his feelings from, but is also uncontrollably shy and awkward whenever they speak.  It’s a classic set-up, and for the most part works well.  A spark of a possibility with Lily actually brightens the usually frowning Tim, but this is really the only life in the entire issue.

Max Bemis’ premise and script leave a lot to be desired.  First off, I find the idea of this title to be a very poor choice.  Reading of Bemis’ own battles with oncoming fame while dealing with a mental illness, it makes me wonder why this book feels like it’s trying way too hard to be something it’s not capable of being.  In a story that you would expect deep and rich drama from, especially given the situations the main character finds himself in, we get occasionally well done scenes that are almost completely bogged down by dips into the overly dramatic and over-written.  At times it’s downright cheesy, the kind that makes you feel slightly awkward while reading.  While a lot of the dialogue is realistically scripted, this is the only real strong point in Bemis’ writing.  The characterization is too light and barely visible aside from the stereotypical outlines we glean from the very first introductions we get.

Jorge Coelho’s artwork is nicely done, though it does remind me of a tamer Jeff Lemire in style.  The work has a lot of hard angles mixed with some looser lines and detailing, and the overall look of the people are long bodied, lanky figures that give everyone a slightly ‘drug abuser’ appearance.  There is a lot of fun in the variance of the different styles and clothing the ‘hipsters’ of the title wear, so there’s some quality work put into that, for sure.  Overall, the artwork mixes with the coloring in a mellow way, not a slap in the face either way, good or bad.  I like the art, it’s just not the most original looking work going at the moment.  My final complaint on the art is the lack of visual storytelling, as most panels and action seems more like single cards than a collected narrative.  There are a few great shots of action, and even some amazingly rendered gore, but it all feels flat when put up against the rest of the issue’s tired panels.

When all was said and done at the close of this first issue, I was left with a strong feeling of someone pulling my leg.  This comic feels like a vanity project for Max Bemis, not an attempt at working in a new artistic medium.  The characters are boringly plain, our lead character is a whiny, self obsessed annoyance, and the idea that one battling mental illness would find a more ‘important’ life role once they stopped their medication is an unsound idea at best, and an insulting one at its worst.  This may only be a 4 issue mini, but I can surely say I will not be coming back for issue #2.

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Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter:  @FeralFang27

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Polarity” #1 (of 4)

  1. This comic actually sounded interesting to me, and I thought the art was pretty interesting, but boy, it’s always a good idea to stay completely away from any comics done by any sort of celebrity. They never seem to treat the medium with any kind of respect. Of course, as is always the case, there’s a complete exception to this in Gerard Way, because UMBRELLA ACADEMY is the best thing ever. For the most part though, I just stay away.

    • Yeah, that really makes sense! Definitely a good plan. This one caught my eye, though, so I grabbed it, anyway. And, as you can tell I was not happy with it at all. I agree, though – the art is probably the best part about it, even if it’s a bit stiff and not exactly the most ‘unique’ artwork – which isn’t *always* that bad of a problem. The art here is light compared to the bogged down weight of the rest of the book. Hmm – I’ll have to check out ‘Umbrella Academy’! From what I’ve seen the look of that title is very interesting! Thanks again for stopping by the site and commenting! It’s appreciated very much :) – Cory

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