Misfit City #1 – Advance Review
Misfit City is, in many ways, a perfect microcosm of why the retro-revival scene has such a fervent modern following. What do we want when we pine for the 1980's? Do we want to actually live the historic 1980's of America? Do we
Misfit City is, in many ways, a perfect microcosm of why the retro-revival scene has such a fervent modern following. What do we want when we pine for the 1980’s? Do we want to actually live the historic 1980’s of America? Do we want a time when the seeds of our corporate-centric society were sewn, or when the AIDS epidemic was arguably at its worst, or the economic hardships that affected many working class families beginning in 1982?
No, probably not.
When we talk about retro, we talk about certain moods. There’s a feeling of retro. It’s why somebody can post an image that is objectively from the 1980’s and the debate over “Is this retro?” can still rage. There’s a reason that a lot of synthwave music is so cinematically focused and feels like a film score. The nostalgia we have isn’t for the 1980’s. It’s for the 1980’s as depicted in film and art. Because that’s where things are perfect.
That brings us to Misfit City, screenwriter Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Kurt Lustgarten’s comic about dealing with that sense of fiction-focused nostalgia, but also about what friends do in small towns in America, and how much of our time is spent waiting out the clock for anything exciting to happen. The story takes place in Cannon Cove, Oregon, the in-comic setting of the classic film The Gloomies, involving several kids and their hijinks in Dead Man’s Cave. In other words, it’s the Goonies but nobody wanted to get sued.
For our core cast of townies, the coincidence of their hometown is just that. They don’t care that the movie took place there. They just want to live their lives. Because the movie was such an important part of so many people’s lives, tourists are drawn to Cannon Cove out of that sense of nostalgia. One of the most interesting things that the narrative does is explore the odd sense of disappointment that tourists feel when comparing the reality of the town with what meant so much to them from the film. What they long for and what has significance to them is Cannon Cove, but it isn’t this Cannon Cove. And so they gawk over a character’s sweatpants from a famous scene.
The core cast end up discovering a treasure map to pirate Black Mary’s treasure, setting up a Goonies adventure in a post-Gloomies Cannon Cove. The writers, fortunately, show tremendous restraint when it comes to those sorts of referential elements. It would have been painfully easy to make this a very meta and self-aware comic, but by doing so it would have lost something that the comic holds as a strength: the characters. The characters are the beating heart of this comic, and the way that they are fleshed out over the span of 26 pages is really impressive. There personalities and motivations are effectively conveyed.
Where the comic struggles is its sense of pace. With a lot of #1’s, this is a problem. Smith and Lustgarten clearly have a destination and arc in mind, but a lot of this issue feels sacrificed to get everything into position for that story rather than making this the proper start. Of course, speeding up the pace would potentially sacrifice the character work of the fairly large cast, so perhaps I’m asking too much.
The unique personalities of each character is accurately conveyed by artist Naomi Franquiz’s work throughout the issue. Facial designs are noticeably varied, and the expression work is particularly strong. When the comic kicks into its high gear during a night scene, her color work in particular shines. It captures the hues of the night time perfectly, and the way that lights and colors bounce off of various surfaces.
Misfit City is fun. That’s probably the best way to describe it. It is at its most enjoyable as it concludes, leaving me hopeful for #2, both in terms of the plot and the opportunity to explore the hinted at themes and to watch these believable characters bounce off one another.
Misfit City comes out May 10, 2017. Support your local comic shop.