By Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber, Ryan Hill, and Nic J Shaw
Listen, this whole “structured” societal idea of “success” and “happiness”? It’s bunk. Good guys, bad guys, assigned parking, quinoa, Tinder swiping, birds landing on podiums…bunk, the lot of it. So what do your fed-up, low-life average folk gotta do to get ahead in the world when it’s moving so fast nobody knows how to properly catch up to a game that’s rigged? Well, you figure out how to break the rules and make the rules at the same time. Only problem is, Roy and Mac kind of suck at the whole crime thing and their cop game isn’t much better. Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber, Ryan Hill, and Nic J Shaw craft a rhythmically hilarious and often irreverent look at the most cynical of worldviews in The Fix #1. Its outlandish humor blends with the street level crime genre to reveal a farcical trip that’s an absolute clinic on how to pace comedic beats in this visual medium. C’mon, it’s fucking bingo. Show some respect.
Reuniting again after their acclaimed run on Superior Foes of Spider Man, Spencer and Lieber show that they can take the same endearing everyday shmoe approach to miscreants and then aim even lower towards an R rating. Don’t misunderstand, this book is very smart and very sharp; it just spices things up with some jizz jokes, like you do. The Fix is densely layered, but it isn’t complicated in the least because of the visual language these four creators utilize to deliver punchlines that vary from huge to sly. Everything hangs on the lockstep collaboration between the creators that makes for a natural ebb and flow for the story and world to unfold, while making sure every joke lands with precision. Thematically driven by a script firmly and intentionally rooted in the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, this is a book that’s difficult to review by addressing only one aspect of the team at a time because the sum is really the beautiful cursing baby greater than its individual parts.
Take a glance at a random page of The Fix #1 and chances are it’ll look like it’s got some heavy dialogue, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is some talking head bonanza. Those word balloons are laid out smartly so as to deliver maximum laughs and/or “ugh, jesus!”s as possible. There’s a great sequence introducing an over-the-top character named Donovan that is just littered with word balloons swirling around him, but Shaw’s word economy in each balloon, where each beat of the joke starts and stops, beautifully mirrors the flow of the physical story being told. Pair that with Lieber’s penchant for body language and facial expression enthusiasm and you have one hell of a naturally flowing anecdote wrapped in absurdity. Spencer’s script brings a thoroughly sophomoric joke to truly funny highs, while Lieber, Shaw, and Hill package it in perfect visual synchronicity.
Flip the pages and you’ll see the book exhale enthusiastically into a dearth of dialogue and a visual menagerie of an outrageous day-in-the-life sequence all perfectly paced and fluttered together by Lieber’s humor-driven sense of timing across a double page splash in nine rigid panels. As crisp as Lieber’s style is, its his storytelling ability that stands out the most through his traditional panel layouts that enhance the already compelling subject matter. Many pages are two column, eight panel grids that allow for what are essentially low-action conversations to be presented with great comedic effect thanks to the camera angles’ framing of the subjects to highlight the tension or subtly deliver a physical punchline. Other times small inset balloons display a zoom-in on an object (a packet of Swiss Miss, a kids’ offensive doodle of a teacher, etc.) to buoy the tone and add that depth of detail that sets the scene in a familiar reality to our own. The only potential misstep in the issue is early on involving a three panel sequence that has Roy and Mac making an escape that leaves the actual sense of direction murky because the setting is static and overlapping through all three panels while the characters make their way clockwise through all three seemingly back to where they started. It makes sense after re-reading it, but it’ll take you a few looks to really get it. Lieber’s artistic style is unquestionably clean and finished (there’s hints of Samnee, hints of Aja), but it’s the attention to storytelling in The Fix that sets this apart from most other comics you’re likely to read and its arguably his best work to date.
Ryan Hill’s colors are aptly muted with a palette that’s largely steeped in washed-out warms and earth tones, but there are certainly great uses of higher values at just the right moments. It’s a grounded book, a street-level crime comedy that’s less about the bombastic and more about the dusty, sun-bleached every day, so Hill makes sure to complement the clean pencils and inks with colors that are subtly textured and mostly flat. It works very well and is reminiscent of Hollingsworth’s work on Hawkeye in its subdued balance and sepia-ed flashbacks.
The Fix #1 is easily some of the smartest low-brow you’ll ever read. More than just jokes, it’s also speaking to the idea of feeling like the constant runner-up in a world that’s completely rigged against the little guy…even if said little guy is also just a legit bad guy. And kind of a loser. Also, not that smart. The people on top? They’re a bunch of kombucha swilling, yuppie gangsters or a pack of millennial hot shot computer nerds hacking Target. The world’s changing and even crime isn’t what it used to be. Irreverent, genuine, absurd, and familiar, it all builds to one of the best final page setups you’ll likely read all year. You’ll walk away appreciating just how much page real estate is dedicated to legitamtely funny bits, so much so that you’ll justly question “they spent that much time talking about that?” even though it clocks in at a hearty and well utilized 36 pages. Spencer, Lieber, Hill, and Shaw are a creative team working in rhythmic synchronicity to deliver a modern day burlesque of a crime story replete with bingo framed armed robbery, taint carving, mime attacks, and illegal battlebot betting rings. So yeah, go get your fix.
The Fix #1 will be released April 6th from Image Comics