Little Red CRVT: Thoughts On MPLS Sound

Conflict Of Interest Siren: Hannibal Tabu, a Bleeding Cool writer, co-wrote MPLS Sound. I interacted with him a couple of times on Slack. To the best of my knowledge, that's the extent of our interactions. We have different tastes, as evidenced by our wildly different takes on Commanders In Crisis. It's impossible to remove bias, however, so read on at your own risk.

Little Red CRVT: Thoughts On MPLS Sound
MPLS Sound cover by Jen Bartel

MPLS Sound comes from Humanoids imprint Life Drawn, which focuses on non-fiction or historical fiction, near as I can tell from the Humanoids website. MPLS Sound is a work of historical fiction about a woman named Theresa Booker and the band she forms (called Starchild) after being inspired by Prince.

The characters are clearly delineated, and there's no particularly painful dialogue to read. I attribute that frictionless reading experience to co-writer Joseph Illidge's 20 or 30 years of experience editing comics. Page 87 has "The crowd could use some comedy relief." when I'm pretty sure it's "comedic relief." But then again, that's nitpicking, and comedy relief could be the way folks said the phrase 30 or 40 years ago.

The art team of penciller Meredith Laxton and colorist Tan Shu are the stars of the show, turning in lots of period-appropriate costumes, as well as some cool page layout tricks. My two favorites were 1) The performance stage as keys of a piano, and each of the band members pressing down on one of the keys. 2) A page of text where the action goes on inside the letters. Is this also the work of letterers Troy Peteri and Ryan Lewis? If so, well done, team.

For my money, the story could've used another draft and ends abruptly. There's an epilogue that promises the reader a lot of interesting things happened, and success came, which I would've liked to see instead of being told about. Charitably, if I arrived at the end of the comic and wanted to read more, the team did their work well. Uncharitably, it's the kind of thing the team should've made room for in the writing stage.

Little Red CRVT: Thoughts On MPLS Sound
A page from MPLS Sound, by Meredith Laxton, Tan Shu, Troy Peteri, and Ryan Lewis.

Without going into spoilers, my major critique of MPLS Sound is that for all the talk of how difficult it was to be a black person in the Minneapolis music scene at the time (page 19, page 72), the team never depicts it on panel. We never see racism test the resolve or camaraderie of any of the individuals of Starchild. This isn't to say that all stories by black authors should be about overcoming racism, but it shouldn't take too much out of the page count to show one instance of how it challenges the characters.

I'd love to see a longer version of MPLS Sound, but it's not to be. MPLS Sound is limited in scope, and while that's a sign of good planning, I can't help wanting more from the OGN. Don't go in expecting Prince, a biography of Prince, or a look at the city he came from. MPLS Sound is Theresa Booker's story, and she's determined to make her own way.

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About James Hepplewhite

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