Today, Ryan and Shelby are discussing The Fix 2, originally released May 11th, 2016.
Ryan: The best art is immersive. After an afternoon with a book or a brief television binge, it can take a little while for my brain to climb back out of that fictional world. That’s why I knew what butterbeer tasted like before Universal studios invented a recipe or why I can’t be trusted to drive home from a Fast & Furious movie. By engaging more than a single sense, stories can offer a gateway rather than a mere window into a world. Writer Nick Spencer and Artist Steve Leiber offer that gateway in The Fix 2, by using their medium to engage more than just visually.
While most of the issue takes strong use of sound, it opens with a series of evocative moments, from Roy and Mac experiencing the tourist highlights of LA. There is little dialogue during the montage and very little in the way of sound cues. But even Roy and Mac’s visits to Disneyland, Griffith Park and In-N-Out are just a part of Roy’s manipulations. Spencer is able to balance Roy’s misanthropy with sharp observations and humor. It’s still tough to feel any comfort when Roy’s view of the world is cynical to the point of sociopathic. Roy’s inherent belief in the darkness of man is demonstrated through the downfall of Pete Danielson, which is told in four parts. First we have Roy’s narration of Pete as “the nicest guy.” Then Pete’s helping Roy on a cold case. Then the reveal of how Roy was framing him every step of the way. Finally, we get Pete’s kind behavior re-framed as a cover for his more vile choices.
There is an aural element to this issue. Roy is hyper-verbal and his ability to manipulate has it’s own rhythm, though he adjusts himself depending with whom his talking. He plays up his role as supportive friend with Mac, smiling and explaining why he has to take a bullet. There are few panels in the issue not filled with Roy’s words either in dialogue or narration. He is our guide into the story and we cannot escape his words and worldview.
The page above comes after several panels crowded with Roy convincing Mac to take a bullet, even if it will be harmful to Mac’s masturbation abilities. After getting Mac in position, Roy takes the opportunity to mess with him one more time, before pulling the trigger. The sound of the gunshot is given it’s own panel, in a striking orange color and black background that reinforce the power of the moment. In the lower right panel below, Mac’s “fuck!’s” fill the night air. There isn’t a moment where you can forget what the world sounds like. The contrast in the last panel between the looming expletive and Roy’s serene and pleased expression is strong. Roy’s character design is reminiscent of a too-cool seventies TV star like Lee Majors. Even as Roy’s behavior crosses from amoral to cruel, Lieber maintains his almost wholesome look. It’s hard to hate a guy with a symmetrical face, even is he is personally destroying lives. Lives like Pete Danielson’s.
When Pete first encounters Roy, he is carrying his weekly doughnuts and singing The Turtle’s ‘Happy Together.’
He may be covering up his inner monster, but none of that is evident here. He lacks the brow sweat and guilty expression that Roy uses to retroactively convince us that Pete deserved what he got. Instead, he is just what he appears to be, a friendly guy who is concerned when he hears a fellow officer crying. Later, having just ruined Pete’s life, Roy sings the same song to himself while collecting the spoils of his destruction.
While Lieber doesn’t put Roy in the same exact hallway, the industrial colors and body language unite these two moments. Roy is of a much different disposition of Pete. He cares very little about helping other people, perhaps because he doesn’t carry any shame over his darkness. Roy accepts it as part of his humanity.
Just when it seems like every living being in town is crooked, we meet a dog that “has a nose for the criminals” and does not take to his new partner Mac.
Mac goes through a series of emotions in these panels, from surprise to disappointment to hurt. Meanwhile, the barking gets more and more frantic. The words start in one corner in the first panel and as they take up a growing portion of each panel, they also become a more saturated yellow. Even Mac’s loud rose-covered shirt is drowned out visually by the dog-cop who won’t be conned by turkey bacon.
Shelby, what did you think of the issue? Were you engaged? I didn’t really touch on Josh’s scene, but that’s gotta be the worst New Wave Bluegrass rehearsal ever, right? Where do you come down on Roy’s assessment of Pete? Should you ever trust the nicest guy in the room?
Shelby: This book makes it impossible to know whom to trust. Sure, it could be true that Pete has some dark thing hidden from the world, something so dark even Roy won’t speculate on exactly what it is (which means it’s pretty fucking dark). It could also be true that Roy knows how to play the room so well, he KNOWS that cynical people inherently mistrust the the overly nice, because the truly cynical can’t believe that a person would be nice for niceness’ sake alone, that there’s got to be some selfish, bleak motive hidden behind it. So when Roy exposed a supposed chink in Pete’s polite armor, the cynical people of the world suddenly found their suspicions validated.
I’ll admit, that in and of itself is a pretty cynical read, and I’m gonna blame the immersiveness of Lieber and Spencer’s version of Hollywood. I honestly don’t know what to think of this book. It’s clever, tremendously well-written, and beautifully drawn, but god damn is it depressing. With the world operating the way it has been lately, Roy’s character seems perfectly plausible and believable, and I hate him. He’s the worst kind of person, the one who is wrong, knows he’s wrong, and knows he can convince the people who matter that he’s right. He’s worse than the typical asshole who isn’t aware of how big of an asshole he is; at least that guy can claim ignorance and there’s a very, very slim chance he could see the error of his ways. The real reason, though, that I hate Roy so much, is that a part of me sees what’s right about his way of thinking. The world is pretty crappy, and all Roy is doing is figuring out how to game that crappiness to his advantage. His biggest problem, honestly, is that he’s not very good at it. There’s a big part of me that thinks his cynical outlook is absolutely correct, and that is a super depressing realization.
For me, the bright spot of this book is not the incorruptible Pretzels, it’s the horrifying monster Josh.
Man do I love Josh. He’s refreshingly straight-forward, a literal monster who doesn’t bother trying to hide it. Think about it: in the panel above, there are a bunch of bluegrass guys watching him garrote their banjo player. I get it, I play the banjo, but even still that’s a pretty extreme reaction with zero response. Josh doesn’t play games or have an over-inflated sense of self like Roy, he’s just a basic hipster yuppie who also happens to be a murderous crime lord. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition that only works because it’s totally over the top and completely sincere: two caricature-like stereotypes gloriously smashed together. I like it because it’s outrageous and unrealistic, unlike the rest of the book which I can sadly absolutely see in the world around us. I’ve known smarmy assholes like Roy, and I’ve hated them. Spencer and Lieber have created a character that I hate so much I don’t want to read him, but they’ve crafted him and his story so well I can’t stop reading him. This book is the horrifying car wreck that you can’t look away from, and I somehow mean it as both a compliment and detriment.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?