Review - Emily and the Strangers: Breaking the Record #1

"I'm Emily and these are the strangers. We're the most zorkingly awesome band you've ever heard."

For as much is extolled about the rock and roll lifestyle, there are some parts to it that are a little less than ideal. Things like the grind of touring, band infighting and dealing with slimy record labels all take the shine of the music career rose just a bit. Dark Horse's Emily and the Strangers: Breaking the Record #1 is a little all of the above. The issue is written by Rob Reger and Mariah Huehner, illustrated by Cat Farris and lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot.

Emily—and her new band, the Strangers—won the battle of the bands and received a record contract with Awesomely Awesome Records. There's something about the contract that doesn't quite strike Emily the right way. That and the sudden appearance of a whole bunch of new cats around their house further confounds the situation. Can the girl who just figured out how to get along with her friends manage dealing with a major corporation?

The story is told primarily through the eyes of Emily and she's somewhat suspicious of the "too good to be true" contract offer made to band. She's characterized as smart, sassy and cautious punk, approaching the contract and record label with the right amount of trepidation. Most of the story feels a little familiar for those who know band break-in stories, but it takes a pretty dramatic turn for the strange at the end. It's a pretty intriguing twist that promises to take the book in a fun direction down the road. What's more is that there's a certain whimsy in the book, primarily channeled through the bickering and amazement of the band.

Coupled with the fun story are illustrations rife with punk chicanery. Farris' style evokes images one would expect to find on Cartoon Network for instance, as it's chock full of bombastic character styles and crisp lines. The art isn't meant to be taken seriously and it's the perfect fit for a book like Emily and the Strangers: Breaking the Record #1. Most of the panels are overlaid in a way that feels like photographs on a table and in the instances where there are gutters boast a rather intricate design. Each character's facial expressions effectively convey their overall sentiment regarding the entire ordeal; the label manager looks sleazy, the Strangers look wowed and Emily looks perturbed.

Emily and the Strangers: Breaking the Record #1 can easily be approached by any and all ages. It's a very lighthearted look at an ordeal that many bands go through (or wish to go through) told in a way that feels very imaginative. Reger and Huehner imbue the characters with a punk rock spirit where they're content to damn the man if need be. Farris adds a very light touch to the illustrations that keep the book feeling comedic and childish in some ways. Fans of Emily and the Strangers: Breaking the Record #1 will want to check the book out, while those new to the series might find a very accessible book that introduces a fun new cast of characters and misadventures.

Emily and the Strangers: Breaking the Record #1 is in stores now with interiors below.