I’ve read the first volume of Carly Usdin’s Heavy Vinyl, and I have been changed. I’m back in the 90s except instead of being a depressed and closeted kid, I get to be a part of a great adventure with this great team of teen girls. Before now I had only read the first issue of this series, which back then was called Hi-Fi Fight Club, and I completely loved it then, wishing that I had been friends with the characters when I was a teen. This book was so much better than I thought it was going to be and I thought it was going to be one of the best series of the year. In addition to Usdin, the book was penciled by Nina Vakueva, inked by Irene Flores and has colors by Rebecca Nalty.
Heavy Vinyl is about a teen girl named Chris who works at a record store in 1998 New Jersey. Chris is a total music nerd, kind of clumsy and more than a little soft butch. She’s great. The first issue ends with her finding out that her female coworkers, including her crush Maggie, also have a secret fight club/crime fighting group that they invite her to join when the lead singer of her favorite band disappears. From there we get to see the girls bond and become friends, plus discover that the disappearance is just the smallest drop in a giant bucket of music industry conspiracies and global networks of music-loving all-girl fight clubs.
The obvious comparison is to Empire Records, but there’s also plenty of D.E.B.S., Clueless, more than a little Josie and the Pussycats and some Juno and Dirty Dancing thrown in. Usdin really knows how to perfectly capture the teen voice. She makes Chris cute and trying super hard and anxious and perfect. She gives each girl a distinct personality that would fit perfectly in any 90s teen movie, there’s even a goth Mexican girl, which is super incredible and something I love seeing representation from. There’s this trope in teen movies that I absolutely love where we see a lovable loser, wrong side of the tracks, misfit with a heart of gold who has a crush on the pretty and sweet popular girl-next-door. Heavy Vinyl actually has that, but it’s gay. Carly Usdin has written my favorite trope into beautiful queer comics life.
This art is so perfect for the characters and the story. It’s bright and fresh and dynamic and both cute and tough at the same time in the most wonderful way. Every ounce of these girls’ personality is drawn into them. Vakueva, Flores and Nalty are absolutely literally the perfect combination for this book, I don’t think anyone on the planet could’ve done a better job. You want the art in a book like this to be cool and it is, you want it to be expressive and exciting and it definitely is, you want it to be able to get across emotions, humor and romance, and this art does that perfectly.
The series was a limited series, so this might be it, but the comic does a super great job at setting up the characters for more stories, and it really builds a great world for Usdin to play around in in the future. You can buy Heavy Vinyl at bookstores and online.
New Releases (May 30)
Welcome to Drawn to Comics! From diary comics to superheroes, from webcomics to graphic novels – this is where we’ll be taking a look at comics by, featuring and for queer ladies. So whether you love to look at detailed personal accounts of other people’s lives, explore new and creative worlds, or you just love to see hot ladies in spandex, we’ve got something for you.
If you have a comic that you’d like to see me review, you can email me at mey [at] autostraddle [dot] com.