Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Backstagers, Vol. 1: Rebels Without Applause by James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh

The Backstagers, Vol. 1: Rebels Without Applause
by James Tynion IV (writer), Rian Sygh (artist) and Walter Baiamonte (colorist) [YA PB Tynion]

Being active in the local community theater culture, this youth graphic novel caught my eye on a library book display. The “Backstagers” are a group of oddballs and misfits who serve as the backstage crew for theatrical productions at an all-boys private high school. This first graphic novel follows new transfer Jory, as he looks for an after-school group he could potentially join. The on-stage Drama Club isn’t a good fit, but he immediately bonds with the quirky gang who build the sets, create the props, and run both sound and light for the shows.

If that were all that this story were going to cover, it would have been enough — “introverted loner finds group of fellow quirky oddballs that he can belong to”. However, this is also a storyline with a strong dark fantasy element to it. The doors at the back of the crew area lead to a series of tunnels, storerooms, and, ultimately, other doors to other dimensions. The tunnels and rooms change their configuration every time you enter them — sometimes even while you’re in them! In fact, an entire backstage crew from the late 1980s disappeared in the tunnels and was never heard from again.
While newcomer Jory is the central protagonist, every member of the Backstagers gang is a well-rounded character, and has a moment to shine — Hunter (the whiz with power tools), Aziz, Sasha, and Beckett (the light/sound board operator who’s created his own little fiefdom, powered by an energy crystal taken from one of the alternate dimensions in the tunnel labyrinth. This “Volume 1” paperback compiles four comic book issues, and the storyline continues/concludes in “Volume 2”. The art is pretty good, but the character of diminutive Sasha is drawn as if it stepped out of a cross-breed between big-eyed Disney animation and Japanese manga. That’s one element I didn’t care for.
Overall, this was an entertaining read, though the heavier the dark fantasy element became, the less I cared for the story. Your mileage may vary. I look forward to reading the rest of the story when the libraries add the second volume as a paperback.

[ official The Backstagers web site ] | [ official James Tynion IV web site ] [ official Rian Sygh web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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