Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. This week, Stefania recommends the first volume of BOOM! Studios’ ‘The Backstagers’, available now in trade paperback.

Cover to 'The Backstagers' TPB. Art by Veronica Fish/BOOM! Studios

Cover to ‘The Backstagers’ TPB. Art by Veronica Fish/BOOM! Studios

By Stefania Rudd. The Backstagers, Vol. 1, or as I like to call it, a trade paperback in four acts. Each act is one issue of the fantastic and whimsical series set in the universe of a private all-boys high school theater program. Its focus? Those who work behind the scenes, the St. Genesius stage crew also known as The Backstagers.

We are introduced to this world through the eyes of this hallowed institutions newest adept, Jory, who is tasked with finding an extracurricular activity to bide his time while his mom works. He inquires into joining the Drama Club but soon realizes that — considering the star-wattage of twin actors, Kevin and Blake McQueen — his station might be better suited working alongside the welcoming and genuine fellas of the backstage crew.

Teamed with Hunter, Aziz, Sasha, and Beckett, Jory soon learns that being behind the curtain is more than just a matter of gathering props and building sets. Extraordinarily strange (and, at times, extraordinarily scary) things are happening here. Good thing the stage managers, Jamie and Timothy, know the score and guide Jory when things really start getting weird.

Writer James Tynion IV takes a subject rife with nostalgia (the kind that only high school theatre could conjure) and puts a twist on it to make it more dynamic and interesting than it already is. Here, the Backstagers can encounter anything — be it something banal, or something beyond their imagination — and the next day their experiences are completely different. Each day holds new possibilities. They have to work together as a team, each character with their own set of strengths and shortcomings. A well-rounded corps of friends, united together, prepared for the unknown.

Interior page to 'The Backstagers' TPB. Art by Rian Sygh and Walter Baiamonte/BOOM! Studios

Interior page to ‘The Backstagers’ TPB. Art by Rian Sygh and Walter Baiamonte/BOOM! Studios

Together they overcome obstructions set in their way — tool mice eating through the sets or echo spiders stalking the paint room when a backdrop demands new colors. They often articulate their course of action, their worries, their fears, their humor — the dialogue is always casual, natural, delivered with flow. There is trust here. There is also room for romance, punctuated by the budding romantic intrigue between Jory and Hunter or the palpable crush Beckett has on Bailey. Their lives feel more robust because most of us have been there. Prepare to blush.

Rian Sygh’s cartoonish artwork and Walter Baiamonte’s vibrant coloring intertwine. They bring these characters to life. Emotive expressions burst at the panels, each with their own sense of drama, subtlety, and sincerity. Dreamy eyes well with emotion and personality takes shape. The Backstagers are familiar because once we were them.

The first four acts of this series leave us dangling from the rafters, breathless. February 2018 promises to set the stage for more sensation, more heart. Explore the enchanted world of The Backstagers.

BOOM! Studios/$14.99

Written by James Tynion IV.

Art by Rian Sygh.

Colors by Walter Baiamonte.

Letters by Jim Campbell.