HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1 by Carly Usdin and Nina Vakueva
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
An inviting and well-paced first issue that introduces us to memorable characters, a great record shop, and a possibilities-are-endless cliffhanger!
99 %
Teen Girl Fight Club!!
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Music has always had a pervasive influence on every form of media since the beginning of time, and comics are no different. From the playlists at the back of early LUMBERJANES issues to the ones written and/or drawn by band members in AMORY WARS, music has its place in the world of comics. In HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1, that’s no different — but what if we added in a little FIGHT CLUB, too?

High Fidelity Introduction

In this issue, we meet Chris, the new girl at an all-female record store called Vinyl Mayhem. She’s just starting out in the wide world of music, and in the smaller world of the record shop. She wants what every 16-year-old wants: to belong, whatever that entails. She wants to be just as cool as her coworkers, Maggie, Dolores (aka D), Kennedy, and Irene. This issue starts us off immediately with some slice-of-life tension, with Chris being late to work for her one-month-iversary. Then, she runs into her crush, Maggie, who helps her out.

CLICK: Love the style of HI-FI FIGHT CLUB? Then you should check out MISFIT CITY!

Shortly after, we see the women of Vinyl Mayhem start acting funny. Chris wants to prove herself, to stay late and finish the job, but Irene (the boss-lady) tells her to go home. She’ll have plenty of time to prove herself. But everyone else gets to stay behind. As Chris turns to leave, Kennedy and Maggie are kicking at some boxes, which is super suspicious (a classic case of dramatic irony — we readers know more than Chris does. Does it have to do with the fight club?!).

I’m Ready for the Mayhem

We don’t get treated to that fight club intro just yet — there’s more world-building to be done. The plot really starts to move forward when the band, Stegosour, shows up at Vinyl Mayhem for their show. The women complain about the band’s lateness only to have them show up — without their lead singer. The women spring into action, calling a “Code Violet,” and cancel the show, claiming food poisoning. The staff gathers, including clueless Chris, and descends to the basement. Then, and only then — on the final page — do we actually learn that there’s a fight club. I didn’t feel that I needed the existence of the fight club itself to move the story forward, but I do think that it’s an excellent ending to HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1. The title promises the fight club, and the final page gives us the payoff we waited for.

Hi-Fi Fight Club #1, page 3
Image courtesy of Boom! Studios.

We Can Totally Relate

Writer Carly Usdin introduces us to an incredibly recognizable, relatable, and realistic character. Speaking for myself, I remember being (and still often find myself) in Chris’ shoes. I was always trying desperately to be as cool and put-together as everyone else around me. Her character and her internal characterization of the women around her comes through on the page. Chris gives each character a little one line summary of her impression of them. Maggie is “literally the cutest,” while D “scares the crap out of [her].”

CLICK: Want more awesome lady-ensemble-cast comics? Check out SLAM! VOL. 1!

Indeed, those little one line summaries give each character a place in Chris’ mental hierarchy. As a result, we can see the characters more clearly through her eyes. Simultaneously, she places herself in that hierarchy on the first page, when she describes herself without any sort of qualifier. Each of the other women gets “cool” or “cute” or some other kind of descriptor, while she’s left herself with “new girl.” Therefore, she sees herself more as an outsider and in a different way than she views the women she works with. Something to which most teen readers can certainly relate (and adult readers too).

Backgrounded In Reality

The art in HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1 backs up Chris’ psyche as well, especially through the use (or lack thereof) of backgrounds. There are loads of moments where the artist, Nina Vakueva, simply replaces the background with a solid color. Because of this, we focus more closely on the character and their thoughts in that moment. Those bright panels emphasize the characters themselves, and how they each stand on their own.

The shop walls and backgrounds use the same colors (orange, blue, teal, red, and pink). It’s almost as though Chris associates the shop entirely with the people within it. Through the solid background colors and the way Chris characterizes herself, we see that she doesn’t feel a part of Vinyl Mayhem just yet. She is just the New Girl, while the other women ARE Vinyl Mayhem.

Hi-Fi Fight Club #1, page 4
Image courtesy of Boom! Studios.

Pacing is Everything

Nina Vakueva plays a bit with panel size, as well, keeping HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1 moving at a relatively fast pace throughout. The establishing first shot drops us right into the action and continues moving us forward through the issue to the very end. It actually feels quite quick-paced for an issue where we aren’t yet familiarized with the characters and world. Of course, it’s an introductory issue, but it leads us in the right direction and leaves us on an excellent cliff-hanger.

CLICK: Want more awesome interactions between queer characters? Check out our review of STEVEN UNIVERSE #6!

The majority of time is spent on the interactions between Chris and her new co-workers. She’s still the new girl, even after a month, and yearns for that stage to pass. However, we do get to see some really classic character development. We even see her add pictures and personality to her locker. That scene slows the pace a little for me, but in such a successful way. Vakueva spends an entire page dedicated to Chris cutting out pictures and taping them inside her locker. Seeing each movement, we get a montage that puts emphasis on Chris finally starting to own her space in the shop. We get a deeper peek into what Chris really wants as a character, and it ties into the end of the first issue.

Fight Club, or FIGHT CLUB?

HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1 really doesn’t seem to have any direct ties to the movie or book FIGHT CLUB. Right now, it seems pretty focused on being the polar opposite of FIGHT CLUB. The club is entirely female and the main character is openly pining for another woman. In that regard, I think it’s far more compelling than FIGHT CLUB. HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1 doesn’t have to rely on toxic masculinity and closeted homosexuality to be edgy and create the narrative.

Instead, the issue has freedom; it can move and explore. Having an openly queer main character allows for different character dynamics. Instead of being ignored, the plights and everyday life of queer characters can be highlighted and treated with dignity. I certainly hope that these issues will continue being unapologetically and fiercely independent, queer, and female.

The Need for the Fight Club

It seems like this fight club was created out of necessity, rather than for fun (or borne out of toxic masculinity). When the rest of Stegosour comes to the shop and talks to Irene, she says that they always get the missing people back. This makes it seem like a relatively regular occurrence. In that way, the fight club relies not on a need to show off or be competitive, but on a need in the community. There is so much that can be explored here, between the character dynamics and the fight club itself.

READ: Interested in the cult-classic FIGHT CLUB? Check out our review of FIGHT CLUB 2 #1!

Of course, there is no way that using the term “fight club” won’t have the book immediately compared to the cult classic. But I think in this case, Carly Usdin is well aware of the possible comparisons and is taking care to subvert the expected. I have very high hopes for the future issues.

HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1: A Winner for Me

The last page of the book leaves me yearning for issue #2. I have so many questions about how, what, why, and when. I just want to keep moving through the issues. Even as a cliffhanger, it’s well-earned and a great payoff for the build of tension that happens after the band arrives. It’s a brilliant blend of suspense and exhilaration. We want to know what Chris is thinking, but we also kind of want to get right into that butt-kicking action. We want to see how Chris’ relationships progress, but we also want to help find the missing band member.

Overall, I think writer Carly Usdin and artist Nina Vakueva do an amazing job in this issue of introducing us to the characters and the world. At the same time, it creates some exciting and believable tension, both in terms of relationships and in terms of this whole fight club business. What will happen? I can only assume that it will be a wicked cool tale of adventure and mayhem, vinyl-style.

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