If you would like to read a balanced and well-written review of James Tynion IV’s, Rian Sygh’s, and Walter Baiamonte’s The Backstagers Vol. 1: Rebels Without Applause, here is Yuriy’s excellent post.
This one, on the other hand, is primarily gushing. Because I loved Rebels Without Applause.
The volume opens with Jory, who has endured his first day at St. Genesius Prepatory High School. He can’t stand it. Well, he can’t stand all the boys.
“We’ve been through this, Jory. I know it’s a lot to move to a new city and a new school… But with my new job, I’m going to be working late the next few months. You need to find something to do after school.”
“How about I hide in the bushes with my sketchbook? We can call it the Bush Club. It will be the greatest club and get me into every college that ever existed.”
“Something real, Jory.”
Jory gives drama club a shot.
The drama club denizens are. Hm.
The kindest comparison is to Emily McGovern’s “My Life as a Background Slytherin” Snape, *flounce*s and all, but malevolent and manipulative instead of endearing. (So, book!Snape with the Drah-mah-tic airs of comic!Snape.)
Particularly the *shudder* McQueen twins. Downright scary, they are. Manipulative, egotistical, hierarchical, dismissive of everyone else.
Fortunately, Jory meets better people. Let’s look at that cover.
Jory is the guy with the happy smile poking his head through the stage’s trapdoor.
Sasha is the small boy right below Jory, with blond hair and an enormous grin. Sasha is murder at video games (poor Aziz) and kind of The Backstagers’ equivalent of Lumberjanes’ Ripley, in that they are both smaller (younger?) than their friends, with big hearts, enormous enthusiasm, and impulsive with absolutely no thought for their own safety. Also, they try to make pets of the most inappropriate creatures.
Hunter is the dude with the drill leaning outward on the cover’s left. He’s a bigger guy, cute, friendly, physically affectionate, and (mini spoiler?) he thinks Jory’s the bomb. Hunter is definitely the guy you would look for when you need something built (or someone? ha); he’s also all blushing cheeks and heart eyes.
Aziz is the cool-looking one leaning forward on the scaffolding. Aziz is cool. Although he seems chill, he’s minorly dramatic (see: video game scene) and he loves his best friend, Sasha. Aziz is a bit of a pessimist (with good reason – they are always about to die, yeah?) and something of an enigma at this point; the first few issues are devoted to bringing Jory into the backstagers’ world and developing his mutual friendship-and-crush with Hunter, and the latter issues in this first volume get into Beckett’s character and backstage crisis. Here’s hoping the next volume devotes time to exploring Aziz and Sasha as well.
Beckett is the evil genius who, pre-volume, combined tech controls that required three backstagers to run into one super-powered board. Nobody touches that board. (Beckett’s the dude dangling from the counterweight, by the way.) Beckett is more introverted than the other backstagers, so the loft is his space more than anyone else’s. He’s happy that way, and comfortable enough to hang out up there in briefs and binder. He has a major crush on Bailey, his friend and former classmate. (His eyes! turn into pixelated hearts! what a nerd! *she notes with approval*)
Not pictured are the stage managers, Tim and Jamie, or the star of the current production, Bailey Brentwood, who actually attends Penitant Angels, the local girls-only high school. Tim, Jamie, and Bailey are phenomenal secondary characters. More of them, too, please!
What can be said but that the pace is swift, the timing comic, the words character-delineating, the art world- and mood-building, and all of these things work together invisibly, seemingly seamlessly.
Oh! And the way the boys (men?) relate to each other is so neat! So real. Aziz does not like the creature Sasha has adopted as a pet, but he enlists Jory as help so that Sasha can hold on to it. Beckett apologizes when he messes up. Tim and Jamie are
the Ransom and Holster of the set best friends? boyfriends? datemates? and it shows in how they interact.
The mystery (the malevolence?) of the area beyond the backstage lurks on the edges of the comics, biding its time.
I can’t wait to read the next volume.