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MINIMUM WAGE #1 Review Roundup

The notices are still coming, but here’s what’s been said so far.

Bleeding Cool (Hannah Means Shannon)

I knew a little bit about what Minimum Wage would entail as it returns, from interviewing writer and cartoonist Bob Fingerman once the news broke about the series from Image, but since I wasn’t reading comics that much in the 90’s, this is a treat for me to see Minimum Wage in single issue format in this new incarnation. In the interim, Rob Hoffman has married Sylvia,  at age 22, and things have…changed considerably since that moment of optimistic commitment. It starts off again as a narrative in the year 2000 (Fingerman prefers to write given a little distance of time and perspective in this fictional narrative with autobiographical elements), and the use of the term “chillax” already had me breaking a smile reading. I’ve had conversations about this word in parlance with friends. I note that because that’s what Minimum Wage has always done even when it was not acceptable to do so in comics—makes the reader think, “I recognize that! Yes, that’s my life”. So page one is right on the money for that experience.

Fingerman has not held back on the detailed, lavish artwork for each panel and page. There’s a careful design here with wandering, leading speech balloons that take you into the page space in a unique way. The brilliant dialogue just keeps coming in this issue, and there’s such a real-life feel that I feel like I’m immediately plugged in to Rob’s beleaguered world. Fingerman has a way of keeping you on the page that totally flies in the face of common practice for fast-read overly decompressed storytelling aimed at larger arcs. For that reason you feel comics history in the pages, from comic strip storytelling to the densely packed narratives of self-published ‘zines making the most of space. And yet this is an Image book—no doubt you are getting your purchase price here in terms of engagement and content. The dialogue is also impressively foul while still being funny—like a night out with plenty of identifiable types of friends we probably all have. Not surprisingly, Rob ends up being more of a real human being having real conversations than a party-hound. When he returns home—that’s when we get his explanations for the changes in his life and reflections on the same. The painful but frank discussions he has with himself on the need or use of being bitter as a writer, the vagaries of online dating—it all becomes material to entertain and engage. I had no doubt that Mininum Wage would be a triumphant return this week, but I’m still blown away by the quality and craftsmanship. Whether you read the original series or not, you’ll fall right into step with this story. Pick it up and don’t put it down.

All-Comic (Ian Stephen)

Back in the late 90′s Bob Fingerman ended his slice-of-life story, Minimum Wage, with what felt like a solid ending that either could be interpreted as a sad or happy ending. No matter your feelings on the ending it still felt like an ending to the story he was telling. When it was announced that he would return to writing the tales of Rob Hoffman with a new Minimum Wage series, there was a mix of excitement but also apprehension. The original run of Minimum Wagefelt like a complete story, why mess with it? Well after reading the first issue of this new Minimum Wage series, all apprehensions were abolished.

Personally it felt like Minimum Wage went out on a high note with Rob and Sylvia living happily ever after. However this new run has started off on the polar opposite of that, ending with Rob basically at a very low point in his life, and trying to deal with it all. Even though this is a continuation of an older series, Fingerman writes it very well to the point that a new reader can easily jump in and not feel lost. Sure you may not need to know everyone’s back story but Rob and his group of friends are pretty easy to figure out and also feel familiar like friends you’ve had in your own life at one point in time.

Fingerman’s art has always been very noticeable and on the first series the black and white art still looked very vibrant and live. With a gap of almost fifteen years, Fingerman’s style still has the same feel and it still very much feels like theMinimum Wage you’re used to but you can still see Fingerman’s artistic improvement with many subtleties that just help enhance the story telling. He is able to make all of our favorite characters look aged but still recognizable. Artistically, Minimum Wage still has the same familiar feel fans are used to, but there is a visible improvement on in already great art style.

There is plenty in this first issue of Minimum Wage for readers both new and old to enjoy and also relate to. The great part of Minimum Wage is that even though this series has always felt so personal almost anyone can relate to it. Fingerman is great at making stories that are grounded yet very entertaining. The concept of the “slacker” was a very popular idea that many people used and also abused but not many of those people could follow with what happens next, but Fingerman pulls it off quite well here. Any fans that were concerned about returning to Minimum Wageshould have their worries extinguished with this first issue and hopefully new readers will enjoy this enough to continue to read on and even read the older material. (4 stars)

Pop Culture Maven (Steven Howearth)

I sadly have not read Fingerman’s Minimum Wage Comics and after reading this issue I am kicking myself for it. The plot synopsis from Image Comics is, After a nearly 15-year hiatus, BOB FINGERMAN’s edgy, critically-acclaimed title returns as a monthly. When last we left Rob and Sylvia they were exchanging vows at the altar. Three years later (in Rob’s world), much has changed. Rob has a cell phone. He’s 25. And oh yeah – spoiler alert – he’s single again. Oops. Living again with his mom, it’s get-back-on-the-horse time as the daunting prospect of dating looms large as a horny Kraken. This is a slice of life story that we have all experienced in one form or another. We all have a little or a lot of Rob in us. The one thing that I noticed when I was reading is that I needed to take a much leisurely pace when reading this book. It’s not that it’s too dense, it’s that there is a lot of story and you really need to take in the amazingly detailed artwork in every panel. I honestly don’t know how Fingerman crams so much detail into both the story and the art and keep a schedule. He notes in the back that he is going to be doing this book in six issue story arcs. And if this first issue is any indication it’s going to be a great six months of reading. It’s hard to find a story in comics today that tell this slice of life and on top of that do it so well.

Is this book worth your time and money. Hell yes! Fingerman packs so much into both the story and art that it’s a steal for the $3.50 cover price. If you are looking for a truly original book, then look no further. Minimum Wage is a book that everyone should be reading. This is what comics can and should be about, life and how we all get through it. Very Highly Recommended! (NOTE: Image has released the Maximum Minimum Wage hardcover of the previous comics. So now we can all catch up to this great story)

Mulitversity (Vince Ostrowski)

“Minimum Wage” is a story of survival against some of the most ubiquitous of life’s numerous obstacles. 15 years after its last run ended, it’s as funny, and true, and bittersweet as ever. Emphasis on the bitter.

After a nearly 15-year hiatus, BOB FINGERMAN’s edgy, critically-acclaimed title returns as a monthly. When last we left Rob and Sylvia they were exchanging vows at the altar. Three years later (in Rob’s world), much has changed. Rob has a cell phone. He’s 25. And oh yeah – spoiler alert – he’s single again. Oops. Living again with his mom, it’s get-back-on-the-horse time as the daunting prospect of dating looms large as a horny Kraken.

“You can’t go home again.”

Whether it’s the pain from an old wound or literally going back to your childhood hometown, “going home” can be difficult. You can find comfort there, but you can just as easily find things that remind you of bad times. And you can just as easily discover that you can’t recreate the good times you were looking for. Growing older only makes this fact more difficult to grapple with. But grapple Bob Fingerman does, with all of this stuff, over the course of “Minimum Wage” #1. Why, just look at the cover. That sayseverything that needs to be said about pain and disappointment in one perfect image.

Fingerman’s original run of “Minimum Wage” stories from over 15 years ago wore the “slacker” subject matter on its sleeve, but held within it a deeper core of emotional toil and self-deprecation. It’s main character, Rob, toiled in the porn cartooning business while barely getting by paycheck to paycheck. Image Comics’ “Minimum Wage” #1 revisits Rob, still churning out porn comics, but now a divorcee back in his mothers’ home. This isn’t the life he imagined for himself, but I doubt he’s all that surprised that he’s there. Over and over, Rob has to deal with images and motifs from his past – whether it’s the passing mention of his ex-wife Sylvia’s name or drawing porn cartoons surrounded by the four walls of his childhood home. And while he can try to laugh it off or keep up appearances, inside he’s as neurotic and downtrodden as ever.

Fingerman navigates these emotional waters even better than he did in the ’90s. “Minimum Wage” #1 has plenty of chuckles in it (mostly due to Rob’s neuroses or the absurdity of his friends and co-workers), and the emotional highs and lows feel natural. Rob is a real person (and probably quite close to Fingerman himself) and so he sees the world in a realistic way. Rob’s struggle to get over his lapsed marriage, his loneliness, and his artistic hump doesn’t ever approach melodrama, because real life rarely approaches melodrama. “Minimum Wage” #1 is so true to life that I can imagine parts of it even hurting a little bit in the reading. I know they did for me. Usually, we take things in stride as best we can. We endure. And though right now he prefers the company of a bouncer rather than his ridiculous friends trying to “score with chicks” and sometimes needs a moment to catch himself in a moment of weakness, Rob endures.

I’m not sure what Fingerman has been doing over the last several years. I like to think that “Minimum Wage” never ended, in his mind. He’s been living and thinking and working this all out to a stunning return. One thing is for sure, his already signature cartooning has improved in nearly every aspect. And the original was already terrific from a visually comedic standpoint to begin with. While the look is certainly recognizable and totally cartoony, the personality in the characters is a little more subtle. There’s a little more detail to the caricatures. In the early dance club sequence, there’s an added cartoonish aspect to the way the characters move through the club and view the people around them. Fingerman makes some very specific visual jokes about the type of people looking for tail in a nightclub and the sorts of people that fall for their pickup lines.

But when it comes time for the introspective moments that have Rob out of sorts, Fingerman visually sells this as a man broken, rather than playing the whole thing for laughs. Life is enough of a tragicomedy without playing these moments up even more. Beyond that, Fingerman’s eye for comedy is more assured than ever. A scene at the porn magazine he draws for has a tremendous visual comic rhythm to it as colleagues bustle in and out of the scene, tossing jokes off here and there. Later when Rob takes a big step into the dating scene, there’s some truly funny encounters played with an equally nice rhythm.

“Minimum Wage” #1 proves that Bob Fingerman is nowhere near short on stories to tell. Rather, it’s proof positive that he’s more willing to be emotionally raw and honest than ever, while never losing sight of the essential comedy of life. It’s early in 2014, but “Minimum Wage” looks like it’s well on its way to being one of the sharpest looks at the human struggle that mainstream comics will produce this year. Not bad for a comic that seeded its roots in the very specific ’90s landscape of Indie Comics. It’s more relevant and personal than ever.

Final Verdict: 9.0 – Buy. How do you put a score on something like this though?

Go Collect (@DocBenway)

Fingerman’s return to Long Island and the remarkably honest world of Minimum Wage is a welcome addition to Image’s ever-growing stable of comic book studs.

The Good

After reading this one it’s hard to avoid sounding like a mouth-breathing fanboy. Before gushing about the book, I need a couple of sentences to give kudos to Image for putting this one out. Although Image is technically an independent publisher, this is book looks and feels like a really, really independent book. It is impressive that they would get behind a project like this one. Bob Fingerman is an amazing talent and lost none of his edginess. His dialog is sharp, but not so clever or overthought to puncture the believability membrane. Fingerman drops us into the practically-divorced reality of Rob Hoffman, a man-boy shuffling through the fog of learning to live without someone he shouldn’t have been with in the first place. I enjoyed every moment of Rob’s adjustment to the impact of the internet on his life: notably online dating and threat of digital pornography to his adult cartooning career. This is more than a realistic portrait. It rings of an honesty that is rarely found in main stream books. What of the art work you ask? Fingerman’s pencils are more cartoon than modern comic and the combination of steel blue with traditional black and white shading adds tremendous depth to each panel. Buy this book. Buy one for a friend. Let this industry know we know a good thing when we see it.

The Not So Good

I have nothing. Nada. Nothing to complain about or to wish for. I even love the lettering . Okay… racking my brains… got to have something to say that I didn’t like…. Ah, I got it. Time for the critic’s classic cop-out: this book is not for the squeamish. The humor is raw. This is a depiction of how real people interact with each other and sometimes they aren’t politically correct, socially aware or kind. This isn’t one to read with the kids. If witty discussions between semi-fictional dudes about female nether regions would trouble your modern sensibilities, then I suggest leaving this one on the shelf.

The Bottom Line

Fingerman has outdone himself. This book is raw, alternately hilarious and depressing, hopeful and forlorn and most of all honest. Get on board now so you can be cooler than your hipster friends (unless your hipster friends are too hipster to read a book with more production value than a photocopied fanzine). (5-stars)

Comic Spectrum (Shawn Hoklas)

Minimum Wage provides maximum enjoyment.

Minimum Wage is the everyday story of Rob Hoffman.  Rob is simply struggling.  He’s going through a divorce, living at his mom’s house, and is desperately looking for love…again.  He’s a likeable character that’s not a slacker, but is unfortunately not finding a whole lot of success in life.  It’s an entertaining read by creator Bob Fingerman, who after a ten plus year hiatus from the series, comes back with a new number one issue from Image.

I haven’t read the first series that takes us through Rob’s marriage, and I had no problems picking this issue up and enjoying it without any of that prior knowledge or history.  All you need to know is that he’s separated from his wife as he’s going through a divorce, and he’s dealing with it the best he can.  He has some ups, but mostly downs.  He’s an endearing character and that’s because of Fingerman’s writing.  He uses heavy dialogue that’s both witty and funny.  Although at times Rob’s internal dialogue seems forced, it’s still humorous and entertaining.  There’s a lot to read in this issue, but it’s never boring, or feels like its too much.

Fingerman’s art is just as strong, if not stronger than his writing and that’s saying something.  There’s plenty of detail on each page, and although his characters are not realistic, you soon learn to accept the style and embrace it as the world they’re in.  He uses a color palette of black, white and blue which also contributes to the overall mood and look.  Rob always seems to stand out a bit more in his solid black t-shirt, keeping the focus of your eyes on Rob as it should…its his story.  The ending sets the stage for a dramatic and funny second issue.  There’s a lot to like within this first issue and you don’t need to know anything from the original series to pick this up, enjoy it, and laugh. (Rating: 4/5)

Sofa King News (William Murphy)

Minimum Wage Returns Under Image, Providing Interesting Autobiography

Since Harvey Pekar’s pioneering series American Splendor, autobiography has been a staple of alternative comics. Autobiographical comics run the gamut from inspirational (e.g. Persepolis) to egotistical crap. Sadly, the latter is so prevalent that it’s hard for the average family comic shop to hope to sell a new autobiography. But my latest trip has given me hope in the form of a porno-sketching loser named Rob Hoffman. In Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage #1 from Image Comics, we have a more than competent contribution to a genre that can always use new blood.

Minimum Wage originally ran in the Nineties (now bound as Maximum Minimum Wage) and until now was published by Fantagraphics. Image Comics has adopted the title and given it mainstream attention, continuing the story. Minimum Wage # 1is a semi-autobiographical take on the day-to-day life of a character named Rob Hoffman. Like all great autobiographies, Fingerman’s work is brutally honest and includes sides of the characters that they aren’t proud of. Our protagonist spends the pages of Minimum Wage recovering from the tremendous changes in his life and struggling with professional and personal failures, both real and imagined. The comic features a broad cast of characters just caring enough to be likable and just selfish enough to be realistic. Fingerman’s dialogue smacks of genuine conversation, awkward pauses and all, rather than the  snappy dialogue of many a contemporary satire.

We also get a pretty good chunk of story and character development for a first issue. Fingerman doesn’t just meander for a few pages and hope we care enough to buy another issue. We get enough of Hoffman’s life to justify an investment of our time and money. Fingerman’s caricature-esque art style fits snugly with the world he’s building and also has a unique emotional flavor to it that’s refreshing.

Having said that, no creator is perfect. Fingerman’s writing sometimes comes off a bit long-winded. And while this is certainly an above-average execution of autobiography, he doesn’t really do anything new with the genre or challenge readers. Also I can’t help but question the relevance this title may have for a general audience. I could certainly relate to Rob Hoffman’s plight but I’m virtually from his demographic. Still, even if you have nothing in common with Hoffman there are certainly worse things to spend your $3.50 on. Issue #2 comes out on February 5th, where hopefully we can see Fingerman continue to develop his cast in this autobiographic comic. (A-)

New Jersey News (William Kulesa)

I have always tried to write less about superheroes than any other genre within comic books. This was because my original purpose in writing this column was to bring the world of comics and the great variety of stories to people who might never have realized that there was something here for them. I think I still manage to keep the capes and cowls coverage to a lesser extent than any other type of comic story, but it is probably true that I have more than made up for that by focusing on a great deal of science fiction and fantasy. Of course, this has sometimes been at the expense of stories that feature none of those elements and are powerful and important. Stories like Jeff Lemire’s “Essex County” and “Last Exit Before Toll” by Charles Pierce. Reappearing on the comic scene is another story like those, powerful tales about everyday normal life, Bob Fingerman’s “Minimum Wage.”

Published in 1999, the original “Minimum Wage” mini-series was retitled at some point as “Beg the Question” and has recently been collected in one volume as “Maximum Minimum Wage.” There is nothing supernatural or fantastic about Fingerman’s story of life, love, and misery. It is a simple story of a man named Rob, his girlfriend, his friends and his coworkers. Nominated for both an Eisner and Ignatz award, the series beloved by a great many fans. Having moved on to other things, it seemed unlikely that Fingerman would ever return to the story of Rob and his friends. That was until some influential people in comics publishing made it happen and we were lucky enough to find the newest “Minimum Wage” on the shelves of comic shops last week.

Fingerman picks up three years after the completion of his previous story and with the simple synopsis inside the front cover he brings every reader up to speed. In one paragraph he also sums up the very essence of the original series and the one you have just begun reading. Taking a marriage and distilling it into a hot, sweaty, anxious affair with no pomp and less circumstance, Fingerman sets us up for the tragic story ahead of us. Rob is single yet again and his friends haven’t changed a bit, his life is on the same path it always was and we are here to commiserate. It’s not all sadness and regret, though, the first issue ends on a hopeful note but one still true to life.

Fingerman’s book is just one of many stories like this in comics today, but it does stand out in quality and the weight of history. It is a story of a life just like mine or yours or any number of the people you know. Reading this story is the equivalent of walking a mile in another person’s shoes through black and white panels and the comic issues are sure to bring a great many trials and tribulations to Rob and his readers as well as a story that will touch readers in a manner than many non comic fans never expected a comic book to.

 Mighty Ink Comics and Entertainment (Meli Kirk)

Cartoonist Rob Hoffman got married – and divorced – young. Now living at home with his mom, he spends his time drawing comic strips for a porn magazine, hanging with his friends, and trying to get over his ex, Sylvia. To help ease the loneliness, he joins an online dating site and after failure after failure, he finally thinks he found someone.

This comic is pretty freaking awesome! This series picks up three years after Rob’s marriage and 15 years after the previous collection, and Bob Fingerman has kept up the hilarity and greatness of the original. The black and white line drawings makes this comic simple, but the detail that’s crammed into each panel is what makes it great. Two Thumbs Up. (rating 5 out of 5)

Comic Bastards (Samantha Roehrig)

Bob Fingerman brings back Minimum Wage, which was news to me. I never read the first series, so I thought I would give this a try. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had only heard minimal things about the comic. When starting to read it the first thing that sticks out is the art. Rightfully so, it reminds me of an Archie comic. It was typical Fingerman, so everything just fell in place from the get go. I love when comics do this especially with familiar writers.

Like I said, I was new to the story but actually enjoyed how real the story was. Sometimes comics try to amplify every little detail. Whether it is with magical realism or trying to make every line a quirky masterpiece. For Minimum Wageeverything just flows like it would in real life. We meet up with Rob, now 25, about to hit da clubs in New York City. He is way out of his element since his recent divorce. Matt, and his other friends, try to get Rob to be more outgoing. The guy is a real dork. He draws porno comics, lives with his mother, and can’t seem to get over Sylvia, his ex-wife. I dig how Rob is on that verge of going off the deep end but somehow keeps his hopes up. It is endearing. I really find Rob to be so relatable. Being around the same age and engaged, I couldn’t imagine getting back into the dating scene. Meeting people at clubs seems very dirty to us old people. Rob doesn’t exactly know how to go about it either. His first drink order is a White Russian, so yeah he is off to a bad start, and I love that about his character.

I am not sure if the whole comic will revolve around his struggles with dating, but it was a strong opener. Having the comic seem like everyday life has benefits too. I don’t think I could dedicate all my comic time to these sorts of comics, but going from zero reality filled reading to one reality reading is a good start.

Rob finally gives up on clubs in order to pursue online dating. It was quite odd having the comic shift from so much dialogue between friends to Rob’s thoughts. It was probably my favorite part though. Rob thinks like all the rest of us, and his inside comments about all the girls he has these one-time dates with brings in that right touch of humor. I will definitely keep my options open with Minimum Wage while I wasn’t blown away; it was hard to stop reading it once I started.

Score: 3/5

CBR (Greg McElhatton)

I remember reading the original “Minimum Wage” comics from Fantagraphics back in the day; a graphic novel and then a ten-issue series in the late ’90s, it detailed the life of Rob, a cartoonist who drew porn comics and had a rocky relationship with his girlfriend Sylva. Over the years, Bob Fingerman’s comic has shown up in a few different collected editions, culminating in “Maximum Minimum Wage” last year from Image. As it turned out, that was a lead-in to an all-new “Minimum Wage” #1, picking up in the year 2000 and showing that not all is well with young Rob. What’s surprising to me is even after all of this time, how quickly Fingerman can pull the reader back in.

The new “Minimum Wage” #1 does everything that a first issue should. It provides some backstory, it makes its characters interesting, and there’s a strong plot progression right off the bat. In two pages new and old readers alike get a sense of Rob’s mopey personality, they learn about his divorce from Sylva, and to a lesser extent the relationship he has with his friends. And from there, the book just keeps on trucking.

At the same time, this isn’t just a retread of everything readers have seen before. After the original “Minimum Wage” was full of Rob and Sylva having sex, the new “Minimum Wage” #1 shows anything but that. Rob’s single, miserable and striking out time and time again. There’s a lot of story potential in a single Rob, even as it makes him hate life more and more. Two things help with this particular angle from Fingerman. First, his friends rag on him enough that it’s made very clear that Rob is indeed being a bit of a baby. Sure, his marriage falling apart is a bad thing. But at the same time, his friends ground the story. It’s a reminder that everyone has these problems, that Rob is hardly a precious little flower. The second thing is that Rob’s dating woes will feel awfully familiar to just about any reader. As he tries the (at the time) new world of Internet dating, it’s easy to recognize a lot of the disastrous dates that he goes on. Fingerman hits them in fast secession, with each single panel being just enough time to dwell on it before moving on.

Fingerman’s two-color art looks nice; the pale blue provides a nice extra level of texture to the comics, and it’s surprising how little Fingerman’s art has changed since 1999. His blocky, clean character designs have come into vogue these days, and he does a nice job of keeping the year 2000 in mind when he draws everyone. The scenes in the club are, in particular, quite excellent. Those of us old enough to remember what people on a night out were wearing then will be having flashbacks, while younger readers will just shake their heads. And in general, I appreciate that Fingerman’s using the 2000 setting to his advantage; not only is online dating gaining traction, but so is online porn. As someone who makes his living selling porn comics to magazines, the revelation that he’s going to probably be out of a job sooner rather than later has quite a bit of bite to it. While I would have loved to see Rob muddling through 2014, having the book set in the past allows Fingerman to get away with moments like this.

“Minimum Wage” #1 is a nice, pleasant start to the series’ return. Fingerman’s plan is to release the comic in batches of six issues, and provided there’s enough demand, after he builds up some more comics he’ll come back with another six-issue story. This was a good first issue; it set the stage well, and it has a promising lead-in to next month’s installment. It feels like the sort of comic where each issue will build on the previous one and make the overall experience that much better, but even on its own this is worth looking at. Check it out. (3 out of 5 stars)