“The song I make for her has got to be the equivalent of a lightning bolt from the sky.” – Wax
Holding the cassette he’s been working on for Pirate Polly in his hand, Wax is the future, greatest DJ in the universe, but he’s currently having trouble with the lyrics for his love track. His sister, The D, suggests he change gears and work on the sound, and that seems to do the trick. The lightning he was going for flashes, but there’s something else in the sky, too… a flying saucer, called by Wax’s funky scratching, beams his building to another planet! The D, Wax, their Uncle Rashaad, Wax’s best friend, Cookie, and Polly (who was standing on the sidewalk outside) aren’t “in Brooklyn anymore” and it’s up to Wax to learn the art of sci-fu to send them back home.
Written and illustrated by Yehudi Mercado (Fanbase Press’ Hero Hotel), Sci-Fu has been my graphic novel to watch since Oni Press announced it. The Get Down meets The Wizard of Oz, with a UFO filling the role of the twister, there are even sprinkles of Scott Pilgrim when Wax gets pulled into a conflict with Choo Choo, the robot, and his crew, The Five Deadly Dangers (a nice piece of character design has Choo Choo’s bill looks like the pilot on the front of a train).
Like the Wicked Witch of the East, Choo Choo’s father, King Chug Chug, met an untimely death after Wax’s arrival and if Wax doesn’t defeat his boss son in battle, Choo Choo’s claiming Brooklyn for himself.
Graffiti sound effects and characters tagged on a subway car bring Mercado’s 80’s Brooklyn to life, while Discopia takes its visual cues from video games — during training Wax develops a talking, metal hand and the lettering makes me think it sounds like the Dance Dance Revolution announcer.
Music and electric color schemes act as a bridge between the two planets that otherwise differ quite a deal. Instead of discouraging them from venturing outside the apartment, Uncle Rashaad takes the kids on his ice cream truck and discovers that the roads don’t have street signs. These are the details that set Discopia apart because they require characters to venture out and discover things. It’s at this point that you really feel like you’re in a different world because the basic rules can’t be taken for granted.
No one, for instance, is looking for Sci-Fu — a book about combat through sound— to push for non-violent solutions but that’s exactly what Wax does at every stage, including trying to warn Chug Chug he’s in danger while they’re in the middle of a fight.
Mercado really celebrates the creative process, too. Wax and Cookie introduce themselves through hip hop and it’s like they’re in soundproof jello molds. That’s what being in ‘the zone’ looks like. There’s also this very real acknowledgement of time. When you cook, or travel, you can estimate how long it’s going to take but the same tenets don’t always apply to art. Sometimes you get struck with inspiration and it’s a stop the presses moment. Other times you spend two hours working on a song and it still stinks at the end of hour two. It’s frustrating, but while Wax’s crew don’t lie to him when his music’s bad, they also make a point of telling Wax when it’s great.
Dorothy may have landed in Oz alone, but Wax arrives in Discopia with his friends and family beside him. A mash-up that hits all the right notes, nobody gets forgotten or left behind in Mercado’s Sci-Fu.
Sci-Fu goes on sale March 13th.