So here’s something that will be a surprise to no one: I’m a massive fan of the television show Community. Or at least I…..was? No, that doesn’t fit, I’m still a fan and probably always will be. But I think it’s safe to say that, like a lot of people, I’m the kind of fan that’s concerned. For those unaware: over the summer Community creator and showrunner Dan Harmon was unceremoniously let go by NBC, leaving Community’s fate in the hands of two men whose history with this sort of thing is, er, complicated. The Harmon thing is weird for a couple of reasons; for one, show runners get replaced all the time. It’s a high stress job, and whether they step down of their own decision or from network pressure, for them to do so a fast turnaround for a show runner isn’t that odd and in most cases it’s never even noticed. Of course Community is not like most cases, a good portion of what made Community work as well as it did can be directly attributed to Dan Harmon. This isn’t to say we should downplay the immense talent of the show’s writers, directors and cast, but Harmon’s personality is so intertwined with the show it’s hard to ignore.
And I think that’s key in why I enjoyed David Yoders A Fan Comic About Community so much, because he clearly thinks along the same lines and chose to sort through what a lot of us have been feeling with a comic that, if not an acknowledgement of a lot of people’s fears, then at the very least a worst-case scenario for the direction Community might go without Harmon steering the ship, with a good dollop of meta-commentary thrown in for good measure. The actual plot of the comic is split into two disparate but equally important parts. On one hand you have the character of Abed meeting his maker in the guise of an angelic Dan Harmon, and on the other you have the rest of the cast of characters dealing with the fact that their college campus is being swallowed whole by a whirlpool of clichés and general hackery that has destroyed countless TV shows before it.
Yoder’s art lends itself well to this kind of story. It could easily fall into a sort of caricature, given that he’s taking characters portrayed by real people, but he uses just enough attributes that you know who these characters are while still putting his own spin on them. Plus, he actually uses the fact that this is a COMIC about Community in some pretty interesting ways and in a very Community type fashion the story gets to a point of being slightly meta in terms of its’ existence as a fan comic. The whole thing, though, is funny throughout while at the same time illustrating the kind of hack nonsense a television show like this could take.
I suppose the only really problem I have with it is that Harmon comes off as slightly idealized in this book,. The man is sort of known for being a prickly personality under the best of situations, but for the story Yoder is trying to tell it works pretty well even if his parts with Abed basically play like one of those scenes in The Simpsons where Homer talks to God (look I had to get one pop culture reference into this thing). Overall I had a blast reading this comic, and for those of you who are fans of the show just like me or just fans of fan-made art, this comic would be well worth your time.
TL;DR: A Fan Comic About Community is funny and spot on representation at a “Worst Case” scenario for a legitimately good television show which manages to become a legitimately good comic in its own right by the end.