The Backstages is a difficult one for me to review; this is a short first introductory issue that pretty much sets up the premise of the series (magical realism, friendships, bonding, lots of drama) that may or may not get better as it goes on. Honestly, there wasn’t enough to go on yet but I can say it definitely is a trippy story.
Jory is a bit of a loner and having to deal with a new school to boot. He’d rather draw in the bushes during breaks but is also pushed to do extra-curricular activities and socialize. On a whim, he checks out the drama club and looks to join. What he finds is a whole group of interesting and quirky people – from the narcissistic actors to the down-to-Earth and yet very otherworldly stage crew. It’s with the creative and crazy stage crew that he finds his ‘home’.
The authors definitely have a distinct voice and the art also supports that vision well. If you like zaniness, irreverence, and something very different (if perhaps very strange), this will work for you. Indeed, few graphic novels from the West have ever approached the absolute distinct originality of Japanese manga (where, e.g., a boy can wake up with his girlfriend suddenly replacing his right hand) like The Backstagers does so well.
So why the 4 star rating? It’s really not enough to know whether the characters will grow on me or not. Pretty much, the entire first book is Jory just passively agog at the outrageous antics of the people in drama disciplines. I didn’t really get a feel for him yet and the characters were so gregarious as to almost be ciphers (though, again, that perfectly represents the drama of theater). It didn’t hook me in enough to want to read further but I definitely applaud and appreciate the creativity and originality here. This isn’t your father’s comic, that’s for sure. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.