Divalicious! vol. 1 – T. Campbell

3 out of 5

Once it gets past its ADD scripting style – which can’t seem to settle on a conversation for longer than a panel (or even half a panel) – T. Campbell and artist Amy Mebberson’s Tokyopop printed Divalicious is actually a suprisingly balanced comedic look at the life of a Britney-era popstar.  Our star, Tina Young, has a history that mimics and blends those of her real life peers, while also bringing in more modern (at the time of publication – late 00s) influences of social media: starting out as an American’s Got Talent-esque notable, she’d also star in a Disney-esque TV singing show with other future fictional stars, then start out in a pop band before launching her own solo career.  We pick things up with Young in her youthful singing prime, her pseudo manager Shaquille dealing with her tantrums aimed at competition Bit Fencer, as “track by track” (aka chapter by chapter) one attempt after another is undertaken to bring her stardom to the #1 spot.  Eventually, after a few chapters of random shots at the lifestyle, Campbell (and Young) find some plotty throughlines: she gets a boyfriend via rapper Chaddy G; Shaquille tries to resolve his affections for Tina with the challenge of managing her, often while drunk; and a rival management agency launches a nefarious campaign to snatch up every popular singer through manipulation, which stirs up legit conflict and a cliffhanger ending…

What’s interesting throughout is the way Campbell manages to poke fun at Tina (and scenedom) by laughing along with her and not at her: she’s not the brightest bulb, but she’s not an idiot; she’s not an icon of purity, but her excesses aren’t played for laughs – rather, the character (and Campbell) celebrates her openness.  This fairness ends up making her likable, and makes it satisfying when the story starts shaping up to be a story, and not just random events.

Campbell also has a superstar in artist Mebberson, who packs the pages with requisite manga touches while also giving the characters her own unique sense of personality, and the pages an appreciable sense of motion.  Because she’s already apt at stuffing jokes and whatnot into the background, when Campbell’s writing is more haphazard, Mebberson ends up doubling that effect… so the duo definitely work together best in the book’s latter half.