‘Rockstars #1:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Rockstars is a brand new comic book series from Image Comics, created by writer Joe Harris (The X-Files; Millennium) and artist Megan Hutchison (An Aurora Grimeon Story: Will O’ the Wisp). Harris and Hutchison are joined by Kelly Fitzpatrick (colors), Michael David Thomas (letters), Tom Muller (designer), and Shawna Gore (editor), and the first issue will premiere this Wednesday at local comic book retailers. The cover collage of issue one is vivid and unique; it is a semiotician’s nirvana of symbols, signifiers, and signs, representing the always suspected occultism that fuels the image of rockstars with long hair, playing loud boisterous guitars that scream at a fever pitch and set women’s hearts afire. 

The first story arc, “Nativity in Blacklight,” introduces readers to Jackie Mayer, a card-reading private eye who ends up partnering with Dorothy Buell, an investigative journalist. Both are rock critics, but they are from two different musical mindsets which position them in a yin-yang working relationship. Mayer summarizes that rock ‘n’ rock has its secrets as he refers to devil worship, hidden messages when songs are played backward, copious amounts of drugs and sex, and, on occasion, some young woman might just go missing. It was 1974 when two friends, Suzanne Berrens and Becky Albright, went to see the rock band, Blue Rider. Becky was found the following day, dead in a back alley, but Suzanne was missing. Fast forward some years and in a crime scene of a Jane Doe, who is found in a similar death poise to Becky, leads Mayer to suspect a connection.

Harris has written an intriguing supernatural thriller wrapped in a narrative filled with a spirit of reverence to the rock ‘n’ roll scene of the 1970s when Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones ruled the airwaves and cultivated bad boy images on and off stage. The allure of the music scene is captured brilliantly by Harris, and his weaving of two time periods and two mysteries expertly hooks and mesmerizes readers. Bringing up the rumors of whether Paul McCartney was dead and rampant party scenes add flavor to the story, but it also shows the obvious passion Harris has for the subject matter.

The intellectualism of the writing is matched by the incredible visual talent of Hutchison. The fluidity of her style and dark, ambient overtones via the predominance of black allow the bright stage lights to pop as well as capture that special twinkle reserved for the rockstars. All of the homages to bands of yesteryear – the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin – in the opening pages subtly legitimize the placement of Mayer, Buell, Blue Rider, and the mystery surrounding all of the characters. In two latter layouts, Hutchison expertly draws the eyes to the dialogue in one instance and the action in the other, where she laid out long, horizontal banner sections that shape a half circle at particularly tension-ridden moments in the story.

A moment must be taken to mention that Fitzpatrick’s color palette choice is enchanting and heightens Hutchison’s artistry. Thomas’ lettering, particularly the typewriter font of Mayer’s narration, lend to both the time period of the story and Mayer’s rock critic trade, evoking a rather nice noirish tone. The overall design work of Muller and skillful editing of Gore results in an engaging cerebral and visual story. This is definitely a comic book series that needs to be on everyone’s pull list!

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