Review - Pop #1

"Beauty isn't cheap. Perfection is even more expensive."

Ever wonder why a lot of pop music sounds the same. Sure, it could be labels rely on the same song writers or managers for the performers. Or maybe the AABA format of music is so easily replicated that it's hard to really want to do anything else. Or maybe record labels are secretly creating pop stars in a lab somewhere, ensuring that the tap of profits doesn't turn off. In Pop #1 from Dark Horse Comics, the answer seems to be the third. The issue is written by Curt Pires, illustrated by Jason Copland, colored by Pete Toms and lettered by Ryan Ferrier.

Elle Ray is a burgeoning pop star who hasn't even been born yet. At least, not in the planned way she's supposed to. She has escaped though and desperately seeks to find answers about herself and the world around her. Fortunately, she stumbles upon a man named Coop who seems to be genuinely nice enough to take the time to help her out. Only thing he doesn't know is that Elle Ray is quite the popular lady to certain individuals.

There's an inherent manufactured sense to the music industry and Pires takes this theme and really runs with it in Pop #1. In his world, pop stars are created in a lab, birthed and then unleashed unto the world so that the parent corporation makes a ton of money. It's not too different from how things currently exist, save for the actual birthing part. To that end, Pires really nails it and satires the industry extremely well. There's a character in the book who strongly resembles a real-world pop artist who's given "guidance" in his decision-making, but is told to play along for appearance's sake. Little things like this showcase Pires' desire to show the pop machine in a way that's rife with dark humor. The dialogue does feel a little cheesy at times and the main story of Elle Ray feels like it took a back seat to Pires establishing this new world though.

Considering this is a book about pop music, the art style has to work and feel sufficiently trendy. Copland attempts to accomplish this with a style that feels more retro. The characters have a nostalgic detail about them that transports the reader to another time and place, helping to remind them that they're in a place where pop stars are manufactured. The world around the main characters seems to depict more of a small town vibe, which seems counterintuitive to the concept of pop music, but it's possible he's looking to convey the true reach of the industry. Characters are illustrated very cleanly and show a lot of emotion when the situation calls for it, with a lot of character's leaning to and fro for certain dramatic effects.

Pop #1 is an interesting concept. It's a story that isn't too far-fetched in today's world and is presented in a way that seems readily believable. Music labels are fiercely protective of their talents because of the income they represent, so it's not entirely out of the question to envision one (or all) of them physically manufacturing them for monetary gain (hopefully, we're a long ways away from that point though). Pires' script is pretty strange and spends most of the issue setting up the universe of Pop, leaving mysteries about Coop, Spike Vandall and the music industry's "cleaners." Copland's illustrations are very retro in appearance and add a slight sense of horror to the book. Pop #1 is a pretty bold look at the concept of pop culture and the lengths corporations will go to preserve their profits made on the backs of its stars.

Pop #1 is in stores August 27 with interiors below.