Uncanny Valley High is a comic that will trip you up for staying normal past the point most comics lose their nerve. This is a high school we’ve seen before and Cindy is the legacy of pop culture’s most famous overachievers. Using Archie’s model of the well-rounded student, she crafts her schedule on the assumption Hermione’s time turner will make it work.
The real world doesn’t have magical aide, and when Cindy gets a 99 back on a test it’s the beginning of her self-perceived downfall. Which is all well and good, but does a 99 qualify as a conflict for a comic book and, as it technically does, is that enough?
It’s a question worth asking because writer, Ian Flynn, is a brick wall when it comes to indicating whether additional conflicts are coming. The familiarity of this first stretch should run thin eventually, but makes you wonder where the story is going.
There’s something to familiarity, too, that shouldn’t be discounted. Uncanny Valley High is part of Space Goat Publishing’s new line of Backpack Editions and everything about this idea is spectacular. As a kid growing up, my criteria for buying a purse was ‘does this fit a hardback?’ To see books being designed now for the purpose of being durable and fitting bags, gives recognition to a practice I thought was mine alone.
Young readers are going to understand where Cindy’s friends are coming from, when they admit to being irritated by Cindy’s need for perfection. It’s not about being good, or great, at school but seeing 99’s as failure. Numbers shouldn’t carry so much weight that the high ones lose their value. Cindy isn’t saying others are doing less. She’s a hard worker, competitive for the sake of winning, not beating others, but it’s tough not to take offense when a 99 isn’t good enough by her standards.
Tom Napolitano’s lettering gives the first sign that there’s more to this story and it’s a glitch that makes all the computer references artist, Maddi Gonzalez, snuck into the cover come out to play. The 8-bit logo, the search engine magnifying glass, the flag image, unable to load, so a grey box with an x in the corner. Uncanny Valley High is universal like the internet. It doesn’t get a specific location and Gonzalez’s artwork doesn’t ask you to look closely. That’s how she slips in chaos after a Dawn-from-Buffy style turn takes over the plot. If you don’t know what that means, watch Buffy, but also read this fun, all-ages comic.
Available digital-first on 3/8.