POLARITY #1 left us wondering whether we were witnessing events as they occurred or the manic delusions of a bipolar man off his meds (and on a bender). Issue #2 picks up in the midst of that mess (pun intended; Tim vomits on his therapist in the third panel), and we learn that POLARITY isn't a biographical account of a man's struggle with mental illness, but a superhero story cloaked in such a tale*.
Amidst more projectile vomit (which probably belongs in the "bad" portion of this review…), we learn that Tim's bipolar disorder is the expression of his untapped superhuman abilities, and his therapist wants to mentor him towards greatness. There's a surreal quality to this scene, possibly because it's something not generally found in mainstream (or even most indie) comics: two shirtless men having a serious conversation about mental health.
Tim, despite all of his confusion, has a self-awareness rarely found so quickly amongst characters in his situation -- he realizes that he has killed a man, and thinks he should be brought to justice. He's actually been pretty grounded about his moral compass for the entirety of the story so far, a strange and delightful contrast to the fact that he's deeply confused about his own reality and sometimes manic (super-manic, even). The story would come to an abrupt and unsatisfactory end if Tim got his way (unless we got to see his certainly-surreal prison adventures, in which case I'm on board), so he strikes a bargain with his therapist to let the manic fly, with some pills in case of emergency.
It's not even remotely suprising that Max Bemis is a lyricist; the dialogue is quippy and sharp in just the right way. There's also a sensitive kind of realism to Tim's simpler, not-manic thoughts, particularly with lines like "So we do. And it's pretty freaking great."
Jorge Coelho's art is both straightforward and reckless; it fluctuates right along with Tim's mental state, and verges into surrealist territory at times. I'm into it.
* This, of course, presumes that we don't get a bait-and-switch at the end of the series. It's not out of the realm of possibility that this entire issue was a fever dream of Tim's.
All comics are, in some form, wish fulfillment, but this issue packs it in to the point of oversaturation. The high concept is positively fascinating, and the parts of the book that deal with Tim's emerging power set and tentative grasp on reality are brilliant, but the things Tim actually does in his new role as "superhero" border on cringeworthy. It's not that reducing shallow hipsters to blubbering jerks, exposing the hypocrisy of an indie pop star, or spanking a bully into submission aren't satisfying victories for an underdog, it's that Tim -- via his evolution into a superhero of sorts -- is no longer an underdog. The punishments he's dealing out seem like a waste of his abilities; are telepathic eavesdropping and slapping around high school jocks really at the top of the list for someone who just realized he's gifted with superpowers? Maybe, but I'm hoping for better in Issue #3.
POLARITY is still an interesting read, especially with the new twist that the story involves superpowers, but Issue #2 just doesn't bring it as strongly as Issue #1 did. Half the story awaits in the remaining two issues, and I'll be keeping up just to see how much of this was real and how much was the product of Tim's fluctuating brain chemistry. I'm hoping to see him truly step into the hero role he's been set to play; the payoff will be much stronger if he ditches the shallow stuff and do something of significance.