Writer: Si Spencer
Artist(s): Simon Gane, Cameron Stewart (i), Guy Major (c)
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
The coolness continues in the second issue of Vinyl Underground, only this time the vibe comes at the expense of the story. Rather than finding anything useful about who has committed the ritualistic murder that led to the imprisonment of Femi Abiola, Kim’s father, our ‘heroes’ are either talking with each other or pursuing their own selfish agendas. Granted, Si Spencer’s concept of an underground investigation team in the guise of British media darlings is still effective, but it is about the only element that is. Other than overall outstanding look, this issue doesn’t move anywhere, other than an ending revelation that really wasn’t that shocking. How many times have we seen set-ups in crime dramas?
So far, Vinyl Underground has reminded me more of a glitzy CW show (Gossip Girl, anyone?) than a Vertigo comic. I know that Spencer, Simon Gane, and Cameron Stewart are seeking to exploit this hype imagery and stylized dialogue for full atmospheric effect, and I do appreciate the unique London setting that they are creating. However, this comic is mostly style with little substance, making issue #2 a fairly empty read.
Tabloids, tabloids, tabloids. Spencer obviously has spent a lot of time in London, because tabloids, notoriety, and celebrity are the raison d’etre of Vinyl Underground. Morrison Shepherd is the central figure of the prying eyes, so it’s fitting that his place is broken into by burglars in the employ of a Tommy ‘The Toolbox’ McArdle, a gangster who is also a publicity hound. He warns Shepherd, in a cross between Mafia intimidation and a sloppy Jedi mind trick, to stop messing with the drug pushers since it has nothing to do with the murdered child. But, Morrison continues on the path, visibly fighting his own past addictions as well as a couple of neo-Nazis (once again, the lovely Leah comes to the rescue, smashing the goons into pieces with numchuks). Other than Morrison’s half-assed inquiries, the rest of the issue consists of the other main characters chatting away without any plot or character development beyond what we’ve already seen. Callum and Leah chat online while doing her tease thing, mainly like coworkers who are bitching about their boss. Kim and her father chat in prison, as Spencer pulls the oldest trick in the mystery writing book: Make the prime suspect seem even guiltier by his extreme ideology and actions. Anyone who has read the first issue of the series knows he probably isn’t guilty, yet Spencer pulls a Scooby Doo plot development to have us question his innocence. Not good. Finally, Morrison and Kim meet up to rehash why they broke up in the first place, leaving the readers to wonder what positive qualities Morrison possesses to have us rooting for him and his fellow social degenerates. So far, they are not likeable or identifiable in the least, justifying the tabloid treatment Morrison receives.
Like the first issue, this installment has a pretty paint job, but hardly anything under the hood. Once again, Gane and Stewart construct a fight scene with Leah that displays a lot of carnage, yet still has the lovely vixen posing without a scratch. Fortunately for us, Morrison does get the crap kicked out of him by the neo-Nazis, giving his handsome mug some much needed tarnish. However, even bandaged up with a black eye, he still manages to bring his hip aura to his encounter with Kim. Spencer and his artists are definitely in sync as to the overall look of Vinyl Underground, yet I don’t think it works well for comics storytelling. All of the flowing locks, iconic poses, and trendy clothing show us that the main focus of this series lies in the readers’ prying eyes, just like the eyes of the British tabloids in the comic. We are supposed to see a side to these four people that the world has never seen, yet the side we see is not all that different from what we’ve come to expect, and it’s certainly not appealing. Which leaves me with one overall question: When are we going to see these characters fully fleshed out, with emotions and actions that readers can relate to? I hope these revelations come soon, because my patience is wearing thin on Vinyl Underground after only two issues.
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