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Days Like This

I'm not a music buff.

I don't anxiously await the release date of the newest album from whatever pop-diva or boy band happens to be the flavor of the month. I don't hitch my wagon to one metal band and spend the rest of my life touting the genius of blaring guitar styles or hard driving drum work. In all honesty, my CD "collection" tops out at about 25.

It's not that I don't like music: the CDs I do have, I enjoy greatly and listen to them over and over. But unless something special catches my attention, I tend to just not care what is coming out at my local record store (if such a thing still exists in these days of the Wal-Mart/Target monopoly).

Perhaps this lack of musical interest on my part makes me dislike J. Torres' and Scott Chandler's foray into the 1960s music industry, Days Like This. Then again, it might be the bland storytelling, unemotional characters, and overall pointlessness of the book.

Dana has just divorced her husband, Abe Solomon, and divested herself from his company Aben Music. With her hefty divorce settlement, she is planning to start up her own record company. Across town, Christina, a young girl with dreams of singing and winning her school's talent show practices with her friends for said event. When they perform, who should hear them but Dana, sitting in the audience with her daughter.

Almost as soon as they jump off the stage, Dana has offered to sign them to her new label and the rest of the book is how they create an album, come up with a name, and finally grab that fifteen minutes of fame on national television.

If you're bored now, try slugging your way through the whole comic. Torres gets points for trying for an original setting that has rarely been portrayed in comics (that of the music industry in the 1960s), but he fails to ever make the story interesting.

Perhaps his failing comes from the complete lack of conflict in the book, which is odd considering his two main protagonists are points of interest in the 1960s: Christina is a young black woman, still in high school, during the civil rights movement and Dana is a divorcee back when it was still seen as highly unfashionable to be so.

Granted, the book is set in a thriving New-York-like metropolis and therefore is assumed to be far more open to the "modern" and different life styles, but couldn't we have seen a somewhat realistic depiction of the times? No one looks down on Dana for being divorced. No one seems to notice that Christina and her friends are even of a different ethnicity. How about some conflict J.? What the hell am I reading this for if there's no build to a climax or a resolution to a conflict or problem?

Torres' characterization is weak too, but he does have some nice moments involving Christina's father's rejection of her music career, Dana's daughter and her feelings of abandonment after the divorce, and…. no one else.

Also, Torres seems to just throw ambient plotlines in just in case the main story didn't really interest anyone (which it didn't). These plotlines aren't really resolved so much as cut off, or abruptly stopped. The subplot of Abe owing money to the mob: explained away in a few word balloons of dialogue. The possible romance between the singing group's songwriters: never touched on more than once. And even the intentional subplot of Dana's daughter feeling abandoned is never really addressed other than briefly by the mother, who's solution is to take her out for ice cream and to go see her dad. It's just shoddy storytelling.

I feel sorry for Scott Chandler, whose art I find quite enjoyable. He has a very cartoonish style. It's simple, with characters sporting dot eyes and such, but he also has a fine eye for the details of machinery, buildings, and his backgrounds. His artwork fits the setting of the piece very well. The only thing about his art that I didn't like was that some of his ears appear too pointed (Christina's little brother being the most afflicted party). I was waiting for Legolas to pop out of a closet and shoot an orc through the eye. But that's just my own stylistic preference and has no effect on the overall look of the comic.

Ultimately, Days Like This is almost completely devoid of worthwhile content (it's like a nicely wrapped empty box). For the $8.95 you would pay for it, you could pick up three single issues of comics that would have more story, better characters, and maybe even a satisfying conclusion.

Check elsewhere on the site for recommendations for said single issues, as our reviewers generally know what they're talking about. Except when recommending JLA/Avengers: I read Marvel Vs. DC. Let it never happen again.

As always, the opinions expressed here are those of Mr. Sparling, and not necessarily those of Fanboy Planet. We buy our CDs at Amazon.com and we enjoyed JLA/Avengers. It's a shame this is his last column for us.

Robert Sparling

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