Polarity Issue #1

Polarity Issue #1

We live in a really interesting time for comic books. With the ubiquity of the Internet, it’s easy to spread the word about comics that might not otherwise get a lot of attention. It’s possible for anyone with a great idea, a spoonful of talent, and a whole lot of persistence to break into the scene. “Polarity,” brought to us by Boom! Studios, is one such comic.

Max Bemis earned his fame as the front man for Say Anything, an American alternative rock outfit. They’re an amazing band, but that’s a whole different review. So how did his foray into the comics business turn out?

As it happens, it’s one of the best comics that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Bemis’ writing has the same cynical intellectualism that you find in a lot of his lyrics. It’s smart, funny, and vivid. The only problem one might have with it is the wordiness of the whole thing. Bemis has a huge vocabulary, and sometimes it seems like the point of a sentence is to show that off. The trick is letting it work for you with the context.

“Polarity” follows Tim, a 20-something Brooklynite with a flagging art career and full-blown bipolar disorder. He is at once a part of and diametrically opposed to the hipster culture all around him. He has a lot of complex, biting ways to describe them and the high-level vocabulary Bemis employs really helps to give those lines some oomph. The Say Anything track “Admit It!” makes a great accompaniment for the first issue as Tim smacks face first into his reality.

One of the cool things about a comic book is the reader’s inability to tell what is real and what is not, particularly in this case. Tim admits to his bipolar disorder very early in the first issue, and it quickly becomes clear that what we’re getting is his story, filtered through his reality. Just as Tim has a hard time distinguishing fact and fiction, so too does the reader. At the end of the first issue, the events of the story seem to ramp up (he said, trying to avoid spoilers), but the seemingly impossible events cast doubt on themselves. Is this really a comic that has extraordinary, superhuman aspects, or is it a grounded-in-reality story about a man who isn’t? Are the superheroic events of the second issue real, or is Tim hallucinating on the bathroom floor?

Polarity Issue #2

Polarity Issue #2

The fact that “Polarity” can elicit these kinds of questions is exactly what makes it so good. It’s also great to see a main character who’s neuroatypical. What does that mean? That the brain doesn’t function in the way it’s expected to. A comic book seems to be the perfect way to try and describe to someone without that mindset what it’s like to have an issue like bipolar disorder. We can see, thanks to Jorge Coelho, the way the world seems to twist as Tim goes off his meds.

Coelho does a brilliant job of capturing the word. The characters are dynamic and interesting to look at, and he’s really captured the trendy hipster-chic look that has taken a prominent place in modern culture. Tattoos, flannel, vests, and scarves are everywhere. Tim is this rail-thin, lank-haired poster child for the disaffected millennial. He has sharp features and, more often than not, a disheveled, almost starved look about him. Coelho captures the difference between the face he puts on for the world and the stark truth that slips out when he’s alone.

“Polarity” is ultimately what you make it. It doesn’t require any kind of deep analysis to enjoy; I think you’ll get more out of the comic if you do, but if that’s not your thing “Polarity” respects that. Pick it up, at least the first issue, and see what you think. You won’t be disappointed. The third issue is set to release in June, with the series wrapping up the following month.

About The Author

I'm a graduate of Grand Valley State University with a degree in creative writing. I'm a typical writer, in that I don't do it for a living. But I love writing, I love music, I love comic books, and most of all I love geeking out about the stuff I like.

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