In Hi-Fi Fight Club #1 by writer Carly Usdin and artist Nina Vakueva, Chris is living the teenage dream: she gets a job at Vinyl Mayhem, the coolest record store in town. And she gets to work with Maggie who is, in Chris’s mind, “literally the cutest.” Chris has a major crush.
Chris has that teenage sensibility in which she thinks every other person out there has “their own thing going on… they all know what their own thing is.” Maggie, Dolores, Kennedy and Irene, her coworkers and boss at Vinyl Mayhem, are impossibly cool. D’s the rad goth, Kennedy has encyclopedic knowledge of music, and Irene is the cool adult every teen wants to be. Chris, by contrast, has no idea what her own thing is -- but viewed from outside the story, of course, the reader can see exactly what Chris is into. She’s really into music, she’s really into Maggie, she’s enthusiastic and friendly and she does not like bullies. Later in the issue, she has an epic takedown of a jerk insulting another customer’s music taste that is just beautiful to see.
Chris is worried about being the new girl at Vinyl Mayhem, but there’s some weird stuff happening behind the scenes. Everyone else gets asked to stay late some nights and Chris stumbles upon them beating up boxes -- sorry, “doing normal everyday things to boxes!” as Maggie explains. It gets weirder when the store holds an meet and greet for hip band Stegosour. The band shows up late, missing lead singer Rosie Riot. Even worse, she’s the latest in a series of musicians who have gone missing. Who’s kidnapping bands? What do the Vinyl Mayhem crew have to do with it? What kind of world do they live in when beating up boxes is a “normal everyday thing” to do?
Usdin does a fantastic job of evoking that teenage feeling -- rolling your eyes at your dad’s terrible music taste while still loving him and appreciating the ride home from work, that fluttery feeling you get looking at your crush, the epic disappointment of not belonging. Chris’s crush on Maggie feels pitch perfect. Maggie makes Chris clumsy and nervous. Chris changes her schedule to match Maggie’s. When Maggie gives her a copy of Spinned with Rosie Riot on the cover as a one-month-at-work-iversary present, so she can decorate her sad, plain locker, Chris is floored. (The things one cares about when one is 17 in 1998… ) Chris also has no idea if Maggie is queer, but it’s great to see her so comfortable with her own sexuality. Chris’s navigation of her own crush and hope that Maggie’s into girls feels very real.
Hi-Fi Fight Club does take place in 1998 New Jersey and while the fashions totally work for the time period, they still look great modern sensibilities. Vakueva does an excellent job showing the reader who each character is based on what they’re wearing, and she’s up there with Babs Tarr for designing comics clothes that real people would want to wear. I’ll definitely be making my own version of Maggie’s “GRL PWR” denim jacket.
Hi-Fi Fight Club #1 is a great introduction to a cute, queer comic with relatable characters and some mysteries to solve. It works for younger readers as well as adults, especially those who grew up in the 90s. Come down to Vinyl Mayhem and meet the Hi-Fi Fight Club.