Every so often a new series comes along that feels like it takes all of your favorite things, smashes them all into one, and still manages to come out feeling like a unique experience all its own. Back in 2011 I was introduced to Justin Peterson’s creator owned comic Very Near Mint, and I fell in love with it. No really, I DID fall in love with it. So much so that I nominated it for our prestigious Indie Comic of the Year award in 2011 (which it totally won). Very Near Mint feels like an astoundingly well put together amalgamation of Clerks Animated, Scott Pilgrim and real life conversations that most comic book fans have had with their friends at one time or another. The first volume of the series hooked me and left me wanting for more, and thankfully I have finally gotten my hands on Very Near Mint Volume 2! So does Volume 2 hold up to the acclaim of the first book?
The short answer? Hell yes. Very Near Mint Volume 2 is every bit as amazing as Volume 1. I would even go as far as to say it surpasses the first book in the series by measure of sheer awesomeness. But this review isn’t a fluff piece, and I’m sure you’re all wondering why this book is ‘so amazing’ (which it is). So lets dive in and look at just what makes Very Near Mint every comic book readers new favorite indie title (and trust me, it will be by the time you’ve read it).
Let’s recap really quick! For those of you that haven’t read Volume 1 (reviewed here), Very Near Mint is the story of Colin and Sam; two 20-somethings that own a comic shop called The Splashpage. In Volume 1 we were introduced to the characters and set up for what looks like a much bigger story than one (or even two) volumes could possibly contain. Business is good at The Splashpage, until one fateful Wednesday, the delivery truck carrying that weeks new comics catches fire and they are left without any of their new stock for the week! Their customers are sent into a frenzy because their new books aren’t in and what’s worse, a brand new super sized comic shop has just opened up across the street (which is appropriately named Across The Street Comics)! To top it all off, they find out towards the end of Volume 1 that *SPOILER ALERT- HIGHLIGHT TEXT TO READ* their new employee Nate is actually behind the whole scheme! He set their truck on fire and opened up Across The Street Comics in order to drive them out of business over a personal vendetta! He even goes as far as to buy their apartment building just to evict them! *END SPOILERS* So clearly things aren’t looking good for Colin and Sam, who are now forced to rise to the challenge and take on their new rival! And all that was just Volume 1!
I don’t want to delve too deeply into retelling the events of Volume 2 here, because then it would take away all the fun (well, not ALL the fun, but a decent enough amount of it) of reading it yourself. I CAN say that hot chick cosplay, secret alliances and comic convention adventures await in Very Near Mint Volume 2! Volume 2 picks up with a prequel story for Volume 1, setting up the origin of our villain soon to come. After this brief glimpse into the past we’re brought right back into the present where our two heroes are still dealing with the events of Volume 1 as best they can. After a few well though out plans (and a one or two less thought out plans), it seems that our heroes have hit rock bottom. How can The Splashpage possibly compete with superstore Across The Street Comics? It looks like we’ll have to wait until Very Near Mint Volume 3 to find out!
Very Near Mint creator Justin Peterson found his groove with VNM V1, and carried on with it seamlessly in VNM V2. The artwork is snappy and cartoony in the best conceivable way, but also feels considerably more fluid and realistic than many stylized comics do these days. His style fits this story perfectly and brings it to life organically in a way that very few books have managed to pull off in recent memory. I personally can’t seem to get enough of Peterson’s amazingly animated facial expressions that are strewn throughout the book.
Aside from his superb artwork, Peterson’s writing is better than ever with Very Near Mint earning it’s place amongst the elite list of ‘comics that actually made me laugh out loud’. It really is just that funny. The comedic tones in Very Near Mint all feel very natural and are reminiscent of the sort of things you would expect to hear in the everyday world of a comic shop. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Peterson spent a considerable amount of time hanging around or working in one at some point in his life, because as someone that has worked in a comic shop, I can tell you that there is something significantly real about the way that the people in and around the shop are portrayed. The people attending the comic convention towards the middle of the book were also pretty spot on. Maybe another case of art imitating life?
I’d also like to mention that Justin released a smaller comic in between Very Near Mint Volume 1 and Volume 2 entitled Uncanny Very Near Mint #1, which featured several short stories by Justin Peterson and featured artwork from Lee Bretschneider, Tara Abbamondi and Peterson himself. Uncanny Very Near Mint was a great read that acts as a prequel of sorts to the main Very Near Mint series and gives readers more of the back story behind several of the series main characters. We see how Sam is first introduced to his future nemesis, the reasoning behind Colin and Mackenzie’s break-up, and how Colin and Sam came to work at (and eventually own) The Splashpage! Uncanny VNM also contains my new favorite Stan Lee cameo of all time (trust me, perfect comedic timing).
Overall, Very Near Mint Volume 2 (and the series overall for that matter) is a lot of fun. More fun than most books on shelves these days actually. If you’re a fan of comics, geek culture, and things that are generally awesome, then Very Near Mint is the book for you! I cannot recommend this book highly enough. You can snag your copy here at the official Very Near Mint Facebook page! Don’t forget to follow series creator Justin Peterson over on Twitter!