Some may view superheroes as being crazy when they dress up in spandex costumes and use their powers to fight evil. But what if one were to gain super powers by simply getting crazier and crazier?
That’s the premise in the graphic novel “Polarity,” written by Say Anything frontman Max Bemis and illustrated by Jorge Coelho. Originally released as a four issue mini-series in 2013, it’s now available as a 112-page trade paperback from BOOM! Studios.
The story surrounds Brooklyn artist Tim Woods as he discovers that he has bipolar disorder after walking out of his apartment and into the street without any pants on one day, then promptly getting hit by a car going 35 miles per hour.
After waking from a year-long coma and getting much needed help (and thousands of pills), Tim has a better understanding of what makes himself tick as he tries to re-immerse himself into the hipster art scene. He isn’t a hipster by any stretch, but while he was manic he created brilliant pieces that made waves in the scene.
Although his works were once spectacular, now that he’s on medication their quality has diminished somewhat progressively. His hipster girlfriend, Alexis, encourages him to ditch the pills and return to his former glory, but Tim was hoping that she would just dump him instead so he could pursue his crush, Lily.
Needing that inspiration to take ahold of him once again, Tim flushes the medication down the toilet, starts drinking and smoking pot and lets the insanity take him over. He can hear his neighbors’ thoughts, he can find the hidden bromance messages in every Judd Apatow comedy, but most importantly, he thinks he’s under surveillance.
His long-time psychiatrist Dr. Mays fears Tim has stopped taking his medication and grows concerned for his well-being. As it turns out, Tim was under surveillance and he located the agent spying on him before accidentally killing him with a head-butt, causing the agent’s head to literally explode.
That’s when the story takes a sharp turn, sending the reader into the unknown where Tim gets more and more superpowers the crazier he becomes. He’s like the Hulk of crazy, and drugs and stimulants make him increasingly powerful.
It’s also revealed that Dr. Mays isn’t so innocent in all of this as well, for the psychiatrist is the one that has been keeping tabs on Tim for a darker, more sinister purpose.
Bemis’ story is consistently dark, intriguing and humorous throughout. The way he hooks the reader with an intoxicating cocktail of hipsters, superpowers and bipolar disorder is as clever as it is gratifying.
There have only been a handful of occasions where musicians have done a marvelous job at adapting their stories in the medium of comic books—Gerard Way with “The Umbrella Academy” and Tom Morello with “Orchid” come to mind—and it’s safe to say that Beamis’ name can be added to that pantheon.
The art by Coelho was extremely fitting to the story: going back and forth from normal life to chaotic, with the bizarre situations transitioning wonderfully and never looking out of place. Some of the imagery was downright creepy at times, but it never entered the realm of cliché visions of a mentally unbalanced person that is seen all too frequently in the media.
Extras at the end of the book include a cover gallery featuring the original covers of the four issues from talented artists like Ulises Farinas, Tyler Crook and the amazing Frazer Irving.
“Polarity” is something both new and old comic readers can enjoy, no matter where they lay on the spectrum of sanity. With such an imaginative concept, you’d have to be crazy not to pick it up.