This is the ethos of most “Retail Is Hell” comedies, from the classics to the not-so-classics. In a new web series set in a comic book shop, viewers are told that retail is even more insane when your customers are a gaggle of awkward, anti-social, man-children with a tenuous grip on reality.
Or, as they’re more charitably known as, comic book fans.
Issues: The Series follows a young man named Zeke, who in the first episode embarks on his first day as a clerk at a comic shop, and must quickly learn to deal with wacky customers and even wackier co-workers. Lighthearted wackiness abounds, so if you’re going to enjoy this show, that better be your thing.
The cast includes a burnt-out manager, a mega fanboy, a silent ex-marine, an over-it cashier, and one of those cute punky comic girls who always appear in fictional comic shops. The early, 10-minute episodes mostly concern Zeke’s gradual acceptance into the employee clique, with some indications that a super-villain of sorts may be found in the store’s long-absent manager.
I’m not a fan of Issues, but I really don’t feel motivated to give it a hard time. It’s filmed in a real comic store in Lawrenceville NJ, has some strikingly young crew members, and the writer/director/creator Scott Napolitano’s affection for the subject certainly shines through. But in this case, it’s that love for the subject material that may be holding this series back.
The customers that produce eye-rolls and gapes from the staff really aren’t that bad, and certainly aren’t awful or bizarre enough to produce laughs. There’s much talk about how hard it is to be faced all day with an unending line of crazy customers, but the long takes and slow exchanges of dialogue make the store seem anything but busy.
The set up for Issues seems to be “Clerks in a Comic Shop,” but where the comedy in Clerks was based on genuine misanthropy and characters we could relate to because they hated their jobs, the creatives behind Issues seems reluctant to make anyone on their show seem unlikable or edgy. Comedy, like drama (or comic books), is about conflict, and there’s no conflict in this show.
At least not yet. There are flashes of good writing and characterization, and several in-jokes that nerds (presumably the show’s most important demographic) will appreciate. The trick is to cut out everything else. If these episodes had been five or four minutes long, I would be a lot more willing to stick it out through these introductory chapters. But as it is, tens of minutes is a long time (practically an eternity in internet-minutes) to wait for a series to get moving.