Review: The Devastator #6: "The Indie Issue"A comic review article by: Morgan Davis
How peculiar is it that the number one pop culture enemy of the 21st century is the hipster? Functioning as a kind of subcultural terrorist bogeyman, the hipster has devolved into a vague, rarely defined all-purpose scapegoat whose objective in life appears to be to piss everyone off by simply existing. If pressed, could you explain what a hipster is? And if you could, would that answer match up with someone else's response? Better yet, how would that answer match up with the historic definition of the term, specifically as explored by pop cultural anthropologists like John Leland?
It's to the credit of the staff of The Devastator, a relatively newly launched humor mag that's a bit like MAD crossed with McSweeney's, that their hipster hatin' issue is described as "The Indie Issue" rather than through that post-ironic epithet. The Devastator crew may in fact hate hipsters, but at least they're clever enough to keep the term off the cover, instead embracing the more generic and encompassing "indie" signifier, which at least allows for more exploration and less debate over what does or does not qualify as hipsterism. Indie, broad as it is, is pretty easy -- something that independently exists outside the mainstream with the explicit aim of courting countercultures and their denizens. Money may or may not be made.
Still, most of the targets of the issue are generally associated with the H word, from the sleazy pretentiousness of American Apparel to counterculture icons like Banksy, Alan Moore and, uh, Harvey Pekar (well, maybe not that last one, though his sometime collaborator R. Crumb would certainly have fit the historic definition of hipster, with his embracing of black art and that moustache and his general holier-than-thou attitude, but I digress). Humor often works best when it can get its barbs in popular targets but also maintain a healthy distance and for the bulk of this issue, that's what the Devastator team does. The aforementioned American Apparel attack (written by Asterios Kokkinos), for instance, stands as one of the best moments of the issue and though knowing about that company and their sketchy backroom shenanigans adds to the humor, it's not necessary to get the gist of the joke, which centers around the bizarre minutes of an American Apparel meeting.
Similarly, a comic by Noah van Sciver detailing the typical customers one runs into in a used bookstore succeeds on the basis of its universality, making it appealing regardless of whether you've ever worked retail while allowing for those of us in the service industry to net an extra chuckle. When the creators get more specific, the results are a little less satisfying; that Banksy and Alan Moore section feels a little flat and the issue's entire second half -- which is devoted to a parody of Chuck Klosterman's work that somehow manages to be far more obnoxious than even Klosterman's most vocal haters would credit him as being -- is a massive derail that almost ruins the goodwill the rest of the issue builds up. That's more than likely due to the fact that it was penned by committee, credited to no less than four of the magazine's editors.
As is so common with comedy, The Devastator struggles to maintain a consistent level of laughs throughout its runtime, but the moments where it shines luckily mostly make up for that. The concept of the magazine on the whole is promising enough that it's more than worth checking back in on the next issue as well as exploring the previous ones -- the last issue even turns into a fully playable tabletop RPG! Of course, your mileage may vary depending on how aware/into the subjects getting skewered you are. But that would mean admitting you're a hipster, wouldn't it?
This issue marks The Devastator's forray into digital distribution through iVerse, which you can read all about in our interview with the founders of The Devastator! The Devastator can also be purchased online or at select retailers.