Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Fix 5, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: The stars of The Fix are not good people; Roy, especially, has been portrayed as completely immoral and self-serving. There’s one more aspect of his personality, though, that we shouldn’t forget, one which Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber thoroughly remind us of in The Fix 5: he’s pretty bad at being a criminal, too. Roy’s ability to break the law and get away with it has more to do with the corrupt institution he serves than his own skills, meaning he’ll squander any chance he has to progress as a criminal. For the citizens of The Fix‘s L.A., that’s probably a very good thing.
This issue returns to the story of former child star Elaina, first broached in The Fix 3. At the time I thought that story was a bit digressive, meandering rather far from the Pretzels story that had been previously established as the series’ throughline, but now it looks like Spencer and Lieber plan to split the narrative down the middle, tackling the “Roy and Elaine” story in the odd issues and the “Mac and Pretzels” tale in the even — unless, of course, the creative team once again switches things up just to keep me on my toes, which would be perfectly in character for them.
In the meantime, though, Roy is still dealing with the fallout of Elaina’s murder. Things look rocky at first — despite the cavalier façade he puts on for Sheryl — but quickly turn in his favor, especially when Roy immediately hits it off with L.A.’s Millennial mayor, Kendall Kincaid (good thing he didn’t bankrupt the town trying to build a giant ice-rink). The investigation all leads up to a moment that Donovan claims could finally land Roy that movie he’s always wanted, but Roy loses it all when he leaves the stage to chase down a junkie — who, it turns out, was hired by Roy to rob Elaina!
That last twist is subtly — but not fully — foreshadowed earlier in the issue.
Both Mayor Kincaid and Donovan (quite understandably) suspect that Roy was behind Elaina’s murder. Kincaid states that things would be harder if this was the case, but that seems to imply that he could get him off if it were, and Donovan straight-up calls it a fantastic twist. The implication is that, if Roy had arranged Elaina’s murder, he’d get away with it, maybe even benefit from it. But Roy didn’t — he simply arranged the robbery that preceded the murder.
This whole scenario just reinforces the fact that the only truly smart idea Roy has ever had was to become a cop in order to get away with breaking the law. The privilege Roy gains from his position allows him to get away with almost anything as long as deals honestly with his equally corrupt bosses within the system. When he doesn’t, it spells trouble: Roy and Mac are still dealing with the consequences of pulling a job behind Josh’s back in issue 1, and doing the same by robbing Elaina is already causing trouble. Losing his big moment in the spotlight is likely nothing compared to what’s coming Roy’s way.
Altogether this paints a picture of Roy as greedy, selfish, and incompetent, and it feels fair to say that this nihilistic perspective of humanity is applied to just about every other character or group that makes their way through the series. This month, Roy/Nick Spencer have their satirical sights aimed on Millennials.
I’ve gotta admit, as someone only a year older than Kincaid, this one hurt a bit. Kincaid turns out to be garbage (surprising no one), and there are plenty of people our ages bloated with the same sense of entitlement and ego, but still, this particular rant feels a bit different than the ones levied against the police or Hollywood in previous issues. I think what bothers me is that, in those situations, pointing out police brutality or Hollywood’s sick sexualization of children is a rebel cry, a rally against massive forces that naturally repel criticism. Millennials aren’t above criticism, but they’re also constantly bombarded by it, commonly scapegoated for any problem plaguing America (I swear, if I see one more article about how Millennials are killing golf, I’ll scream). I guess it just feels unfair to turn that satirical eye on a group that’s already the underdog.
But then again, maybe that bit of whining makes me exactly the kind of special snowflake Roy rails against. Or, more likely, perhaps I’m missing the point entirely. This rant isn’t Nick Spencer’s soapbox, it’s Roy’s, and I certainly take anything he says with a grain of salt. That, though, opens a new slew of questions entirely — if I can dismiss Roy’s viewpoint so easily here, what does it mean when I actually agree with something he says, such as that condemnation of Hollywood sexualization back in issue 3? Nick Spencer doesn’t like easy answers, and he definitely doesn’t like simple characters.
That may be the biggest strength The Fix has going for it — I can’t sympathize or even relate with this cast, but I certainly believe they’re real. Spencer and Lieber’s characters are fully fleshed, so idiosyncratic that I immediately buy them and their point of view, instead of dismissing them as caricatures, straw-men, or author mouthpieces. These characters can be hilarious and horrific in the same panel; not only does it keep the book palatable to readers, but it reminds them that “bad” people aren’t monsters we can easily identify and dismiss. They could be anyone. They could be us, if we’re not careful.
Man, Drew, I may have gotten a little carried away with this one. Do you have anything to add (our counter with) to my points about Roy’s ineptitude or his little Millennial speech? Did you find any hidden gems in this issue I may have missed? And, once again, I’ve given Lieber the short shrift. I’m awed by how many different expressions and wild-takes he can fit into a single page — how about you?
Drew: Man everything Lieber does in this issue is great. I’m definitely in awe of his knack for expression and gesture, too, but I heard a recent interview with him that turned me on to a key to his comedic success: pulling the “camera” wide and holding it steady through several panels. Charlie Chaplin once said “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” While that’s no hard-and-fast rule (Lieber pulls plenty of laughs out of close-ups in this issue alone), adhering to it at times allows Lieber to capture the full comedy of his physical bits. Take, for example, my favorite gag from the whole issue:
Oftentimes, when describing brilliant visual sequences, comics critics will emphasize how the effect couldn’t have been achieved with prose alone, and this case illustrates why beautifully. What Roy is doing here is difficult to describe precisely, so doing so would require far more words than would be appropriate for the spontaneity and urgency of this moment. Moreover, it just wouldn’t be funny — prose is so ill-suited for physical comedy, I’m hard pressed to come up with any example of it, let alone a good one.
But I think this sequence might also feature an effect that couldn’t be easily achieved on film, mostly because this particular bit is super dangerous. Buster Keaton is the only one who comes to mind who might have done this, and there’s a reason nobody since has ever really reached his heights as a physical comedian: he took a lot of stupid risks. These days, pratfalls usually land off-camera, allowing the actor to land safely on an airbag. There’s no doubt this approach has prevented countless injuries, but it keeps us from seeing the thing that actually makes pratfalls funny in the first place. In comics (and cartoons), we don’t have to worry about the physical well-being of actors, which puts gags like this, shot like this, back in play. Lieber knows to take advantage of these moments when they come up.
Still, it’s hard not to compare this series to so many Shane Black crime capers. Everything is there: the conversational first-person narration, the casual suddenness of violence, and — importantly — the hiding of key details in plain sight. Spencer does a brilliant job of giving us Sheryl’s perception of Roy’s apparent phone addiction — he can barely look up long enough to even pretend to be paying attention to her — but Spencer makes it clear enough at the top of the issue that Roy might actually be doing something important.
The reason we can forget that Roy’s phone might be a way to “get some answers” is that he never really brings it up again. He almost objects to Sheryl’s assumption that he’s looking at porn, but after this scene, he’s happy to let her assume he’s just being a flippant ass. I guess we can add “self-advocacy” to the list of things Roy is terrible at.
Which I guess brings me to Roy’s comments on Millennials. To me, “Millennial” is just a fancy way of saying “kids today” — just another way of blaming all of society’s evils on the next generation. That’s not to say some of the criticisms aren’t warranted, but it’s not like they couldn’t also be applied to Roy himself. He spends most of the issue completely absorbed by his phone (one of the most obnoxious “Millennial” affectations), which is only more annoying because he fails to inform us how important it actually is. Roy actually has a bit more perspective than I’m letting on — he sites “helicopter parents and authority figures trying to hold onto their jobs” as the root cause of Millennial entitlement — but he never quite connects his behavior to the ones that he’s criticising. To my mind, the real danger of helicopter parenting is producing children who can’t advocate for themselves, which may eventually manifest as expecting the world to suit their needs, or “entitlement.” That is, Roy is presenting one of the key symptoms of Millennialism, even if it hasn’t yet proliferated into full-on entitlement.
Which, of course, it won’t. Roy may present many of the negative qualities we associate with Millennials, but at the end of the day, he can still get shit done. He may hire junkies who may ultimately botch their robbery, ending in a high-profile murder, but he’ll at the very least track those junkies down. He may be shit at telling Sheryl how important his texts are, but at least he understands himself. Moreover, he has a clear sense of self-motivation that can kick his ass in gear (even if it can’t get him into his car without injuring himself). Roy is bad at a lot of things, but so far, surviving isn’t one of them.
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?