I have a plan to review all the comics I got in Seattle plus the many other stuff I already had, and it begins with this book! Three issues, no waiting!
I liked Band quite a bit – it’s not exactly charming, but it does have elements that make it a bit more frothy than its subject matter (what happens when the central figure in a band – the bassist/manager – breaks up with her boyfriend, the lead singer, and leaves the band) implies. It’s essentially a comedy, even though Humiston does touch on some serious subjects.
The first issue, naturally, is all about what happens when Carol dumps Ace and the fate of the band. Ace is in a serious funk, but the other two members, Mel (the drummer) and Gorilla (the guitarist), are hanging in the wind because they don’t know what’s happening. They confront Ace, and eventually he decides to stick with the band. In a clever twist, we find out at the end that Ace is telling this entire story to a bassist they are auditioning, who tells them they’ve taken up too much of his time and he’s leaving. It sets the tone nicely for the book – yes, Ace’s heart is broken, but Humiston never lets the tone get gloomy. Even as we sympathize with Ace, we’re thinking the same thing as Gorilla – that Ace needs to get over it.
Issue #2 is all about their quest to find a new bassist, as one literally drops out of the sky – she’s a Goth chick who calls herself Dawn O’Dead. She doesn’t make the cut even though she’s very talented. Ace thinks she’s crazy, but the other two try to make her feel welcome. I won’t reveal why she doesn’t make the band, but it’s a nice turn of events. Finally, in issue #3, it appears they have found a bassist, and it looks like he’s in the next issue, so perhaps they can move on. We’ll see. What’s nice about the book is that Humiston makes it less about the music and more about the camaraderie that comes from being in a band.
Ace is a sourpuss, but Gorilla constantly calls him on it, and even though they snap at each other, they don’t abandon each other. Mel is a precocious youngster, and even Ace – when he’s not pointing out that she cries a lot – feels like she’s the sister they have to look out for (not that she needs it, as we find out in issue #3). Gorilla’s sister tries out as bassist, but she and Gorilla fight with each other at the drop of a hat, leading to a funny scene. Mel’s mom is a very traditional Chinese woman, so the fact that she’s in a band doesn’t sit well with her, which leads to another funny scene after Mel gets off the phone with her. In just a few issue, Humiston has done a good job establishing the characters’ personalities and how they get along with each other. Sure, there’s a hint of caricature in all of them, but while the humor isn’t gross, it is fairly broad, so a bit of stereotyping is expected. What’s cool about the book is that Humiston has set up a lot to subvert those stereotypes, and we get some of that in issue #3. Humiston also never forgets that the characters aren’t exactly rock stars – Mel is still in school, Gorilla lives with his mother, and Ace has a regular job. It’s nice to see the external world in a comic, and while I don’t think it’s necessary to spend too much time there, I hope that Humiston continues to remind us that, indeed, the band’s life is not that glamorous.
Erin Humiston’s art is quite good, as his work is cartoony, which is good for the tone of this book. His inks are nice and heavy, but they don’t impede the dynamism of the figure work, which is important in a book that relies on expressions and reactions a lot. His wife’s scripts are somewhat word-heavy (as we all learned years ago on the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League, books with humor rely heavily on pacing, so it would be difficult to get rid of most of Christine’s words), but Erin designs the panels so that the book never feels cluttered.
His characters are marvelously expressive, and he makes their interactions very believable. Each character has a distinctive visual look, which goes hand-in-hand with the way Christine has developed their personalities. He does a few nice things with point of view to allow him to switch up the layout, and because he doesn’t do it that often, it’s very effective. Each of the band members have “costumes” – Ace wears business casual, Gorilla wears T-shirts, Mel wears T-shirts and a baseball cap – but Humiston does change their clothes over the course of the issues, which is a detail that some artists might miss. And even though the book focuses mainly on the characters and not where they live, Humiston does give us some nice details when the group actually ventures out of Gorilla’s garage.
Band is a cool little comic that feels like a fairly intelligent situation comedy – everything flows fast and it’s fun to keep up with it. Characters learn lessons, sure, but Humiston isn’t heavy-handed about it, and unlike bad situation comedies, it appears there’s a plan to have the characters actually grow somewhat. It’s a comic about friendship and family, written and drawn very well, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t check it out. Each issue is $4, and considering you get 30 pages of story with no ads and the paper stock is much better quality than mainstream superhero comics (I’m serious – mainstream comics are so damned flimsy these days!), that’s a good deal. I’m sure the Humistons would be happy to sell you their issues, so check out those links and see what’s what!