Hollywood’s recent fad of adapting comic books to the big screen has made a previously ridiculed geek culture suddenly look cool. AMC’s new unscripted venture, “Comic Book Men,” goes back to the basics, set in a comic-book store in which eccentric guests sell unconventional memorabilia. But the creators of the show obviously rely on an audience being as nerdy as themselves, and it alienates those on the periphery.

Comic Book Men

Pilot
Sundays at 10 p.m.
AMC


Set in Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, a comic book and novelty store in New Jersey, the show explores the various layers of buying and selling collectibles and antiques.

The first episode introduces the cast, primarily the workers of the store: Kevin Smith (a.k.a. Silent Bob), amateur film director and owner of the Secret Stash; Walt Flanagan, Kevin’s right-hand man and manager of the store; Mike Zapcic, another of Kevin’s long-time buddies; Bryan Johnson, their homeless-looking friend who hangs out at the store; and Ming Chen, the Stash’s technical expert who doubles as Bryan’s personal punching bag.

The episode includes a podcasted roundtable discussion in which all members of the cast review the major events of the week. Week one featured a competition between Ming, Michael and Bryan at the Collingswood Flea Market — the person who sold the most items got two weekends off in a row. There was also a variety of novelties such as “Thor” posters and an authentic Bob Kane-signed “Batman and Robin” sketch. Check-ins at both the Flea Market and the store are interwoven throughout the show, bookended by the podcast.

The gang also has discussions about more “fanboy” aspects of comic books, like who their favorite heroine of all time is. They also talk about trends that took place in the artistic world, such as the inclusion of hypodermic needles in illustrations in the ’60s and the subsequent removal of these pictures in following decades. While these discussions are fascinating for those who closely follow the industry, there is, again, nothing to offer those who do not have an active interest in comics.

Though the ensemble is multi-dimensional, they often come off as crass and unkind. While recapping an encounter with a woman trying to sell her life-size “Chucky” doll, Bryan comments on her unsightly appearance. “Can we make money off of the mentally ill?” he quips, going for lighthearted laughs but exuding only arrogance and tactlessness.

During the competition at the flea market, Bryan again shows his true colors when he purposely breaks two of the plates Ming is trying to sell. His idea of comedy always seems to be at the expense of others, which quickly becomes tiring.

In this episode, memorabilia including a “Dawn of the Dead” poster and rare copies of the “Detective Comics” arrive at the store for inspection by the staff. Some of these items are a collector’s dream, while others fail to hit the mark. Each novelty item brings in a peculiar seller, such as the same woman who treats her “Chucky” dolls as real people and a man who handcuffs his briefcase to his arm while walking into the store. These characters provide laughs for both the cast as well as the audience, though there is a layer of uneasiness in the humor.

“Comic Book Men” is unapologetically nerdy, creating a haven for those who are heavily invested in comic-book culture. Yet it makes no attempt to include those of us who are not as well versed in the area.

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