Chris is (almost) 17, and thinks the biggest challenge in her life is figuring out who she is and wants to be. Little does she know what’s in store for her after-hours at her new job at the record store Vinyl Destination. Heavy Vinyl is packed with exciting action, ’90s nostalgia, girl power, and a passion for music.

It’s 1998, and it’s been a month since Chris started her job at Vinyl Destination, the best record store in town. She’s still waiting for it to change her life and help her figure herself out. All her coworkers seem secure in themselves, and there’s something enviable about their confidence and utter coolness—especially Maggie, who Chris can barely be around without blushing. As if dealing with her crush and her identity crisis isn’t enough, Chris soon discovers her coworkers’ big secret: they train after hours as a vigilante fight club, ready to take on crime and the patriarchy as a whole. Chris’s first mission: to find and rescue the musician she absolutely idolizes, Rosie Riot, who has gone missing.

This first volume of Heavy Vinyl was a ton of fun, and I personally can’t wait for more. Those who grew up in the ‘90s immersed in pop culture will get the most from the references and name-drops of various bands, movies, comics, and so on, but it’s not necessary to come armed with this knowledge to enjoy the story. The book also completely embraces the ‘90s’ particular brand of unapologetic and uncomplicated feminism. Vinyl Destination’s employees are all young women, talking mostly about female-led music and culture, and fighting alongside each other with both their brains and their fists. There’s a lot of early Buffy the Vampire Slayer flavor to it, and I think fans of that show would also get a kick of out Heavy Vinyl.

Aside from the interesting premise, one of my favorite aspects of the book is the representation it provides. The main relationship depicted is F/F (Female/Female), and there are additional queer relationships throughout, including one interracial relationship. There’s a second interracial M/F (Male/Female) relationship, and two of the five Vinyl Destination employees are characters of color (black and Puerto Rican). Additionally, it was really refreshing for me to read a story with so much queer representation where nothing bad happens to those relationships, and where the story isn’t about coming out, how difficult it is to be gay, etc. While those stories are important and need to be told, it’s a relief to simply enjoy a fun comic in which characters happen to be queer. It also meant a lot to me that Chris was non-gender-conforming. This type of representation would have made a real difference to me as a teenager.

The art is energetic, expressive, and complements the story well. There is variety in the character design, though one way to make it even better would be more body type variety, and I hope the creators consider this for future issues. (Depiction of visibly disabled characters wouldn’t hurt, either.) Backgrounds are generally low on detail, serving their purpose without distracting from the main story, and the colors were nicely chosen.

Adults who remember and grew up in the ‘90s would likely enjoy this book the most, though the story can also appeal to teens who don’t mind missing out on the references. There is certainly something for young people to relate to in Chris’s struggles to find her place in the world and to figure out how to express her feelings for Maggie. Although there is some violence depicted (it features a fight club, after all), it’s fairly tame and bloodless, and relationships are mainly depicted at the level of hand-holding and kisses. Heavy Vinyl is a good purchase for libraries, and I’m hoping BOOM! Box releases more of it soon.

Heavy Vinyl, vol. 1
by Carly Usdin
Art by Nina Vakueva
ISBN: 9781684151417
BOOM! Box, 2018

  • Sharona Ginsberg

    Past Reviewer

    Sharona Ginsberg is the Head of the Terrapin Learning Commons at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her work fits where technology and learning intersect, and she is especially interested in makerspaces and creating. She is also interested in issues of equity and social justice, serving LGBTQ patrons, and her dog, Bilbo Waggins.

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