As I was flipping through a myriad of back issue bins at today's monthly Los Angeles Comic Book and Sci-Fi Convention, pulling up the occassional issue and mulling over its potential to join my collection, my girlfriend sarcastically asked me, "Hey, did you just judge that comic book by its cover?"
I replied, "Of course. That's what I've been doing for all of them!"
Consider Millennium Fever #1. When I picked up this issue in a similar twenty-five cent bin blitz almost a year ago, I reserved it for a Valentine's Day read, since its cover seemingly depicts two youngsters falling in love. Further, since these youngsters are African-American, what better way to acknowledge Black History Month in the midst of Cupid's annual target practice? If only President Lincoln made a cameo holding a groundhog, based solely on its cover, Millennium Fever #1 could be the perfect February comic book!
Of course, every time I make a wide-sweeping generalization about a comic book like this, I underestimate its impact. Millennium Fever is actually a complex coming-of-age story, certainly tackling issues of love and racial identity, but also dabbling in macabre, potentially apocalyptic science fiction, that binds its hero's quest for identity into the fabric of the entire universe itself! Okay, maybe it isn't that complex, since I did only read the first issue, but writer Nick Abadzis laces teenager Jerome's persistant inner monologue with a haunting tone that transcends his typical adolescent circumstances. It starts simple enough, as Jerome laments his virginity at his grandmother's funeral, an odd contrast for sure, but then grows more intricate when his reminiscing about his diverse family tree become a treatise about the beauty of music and communication.
The love story boasted by this issue's cover kicks into gear after Jerome's failed, drunken attempt to hook up with his high school crush, when he desperately responds to a personal ad and meets the girl of his wet dreams. I won't spoil this issue's ending, especially since it's so weird without the next issue's presumed explanation that I probably couldn't do the sequence justice anyway, but needless to say, between that, his blossoming ability with language, and a doom-and-gloom subplot about global warming and oncoming catastrophe, Jerome is in way over his head.
Artist Duncan Fegredo and letterer Ellie DeVille expertly choreographed their efforts to ensure that Abadzis' captions didn't choke the visual flow of the story, and the package comes together nicely. Fegredo keeps his characters expressive and animated while retaining the necessary realism to keep this introductory installment "slice of life" until the strangeness rears its head on the last page, and I assume the crammed paneling was intentional, preserving the moment's mystery for next issue's elaboration. The more spacious paneling was preserved for character-oriented moments like Jerome listening to music in his bedroom, which must've been Abadzis' hope anyway. Get to know your heroes before they save the world from itself, that's what I always say!
While writer Andrew Kreisberg would have us believe that his latest issue of Green Arrow/Black Canary is the best Valentine's Day gift for your sweetheart, I challenge you to thumb through your local stash of discounted back issues for Millennium Fever #1. Its lesson? The quest for true love might not be the end of the world, but it certainly helps postpone it. Also, if you're lucky enough to have someone in your life that will endure your hunt for this or any other obscure back issue, like me -- count your blessings. If it were the end of the world, I'd feel fine!
Millennium Fever #1 was published by DC Comics' Vertigo for October 1995 and was written by Nick Abadzis, illustrated by Duncan Fegredo, colored by Nathan Eyring, and lettered by Ellie DeVille.