Sometimes you read something just at the right time. Y’know?
I’ve just finished the first trade of David Lapham’s Young Liars. It’s been a bit of a comedown week, so far. I made the bold claim, as Sunday turned into Monday, that I’d had “the perfect week“. The comedown means a few days of feeling unfulfilled and apathetic and confused as to why – generally pretty darn emo. This is pretty common, I presume.
Young Liars is nasty. From the first couple of pages, there’s a sense that the writer’s voice is just a little off. I’ve never read Lapham before, so presumed it just wasn’t very well-written. Finishing it, I’m not so sure. I never finished the first issue last time I tried to read it, and I thought I had the measure of the series- the standard Vertigo formula: scratchy indie art, a varied collection of quirky ne’er-do-wells, a splash of Ennis gross-out weirdness. And a lot of Music References.
And it stays that way, mostly, for the first and second issues. Normal people, weird circumstances, just on the edge of believability. The Vertigo trademark. But at some point around the second issue it takes a plunge into surreality, and deep deep unpleasantness.
It’s an incredibly densely told story. There were a lot of double-take moments where I had to go back and reread a page. The narrative is constantly chopped up, disorientating, dropping chunks of explanation into holes made three issues back. Like I said, the narrator’s voice is just…off. And honestly? It left me feeling sick. Looking back at the cover, I can’t believe how misleading it is. I’m promised “a firecracker of a book”, Sadie bursting out and asking me, am I ready for this? It’s called Daydream Believer, for God’s sake.On the other side of the book, most of the supporting cast remain merely a bunch of 2-dimensional pricks (with the exception of Big C who wins the prize for most Eye-Gougingly Sad Moment) but our central couple, Sadie and Danny, are master sadists. Any sympathy for either character goes totally unrewarded.
A Parental Advisory: Herein lies explicit content. There’s sex and violence and, anytime you think about enjoying either, there’s a steep plummet into guilt. There’s a lot of usage of the phrase ‘spreading her legs’ until it becomes the most foul obscenity I’ve ever read.
The climactic scenes with the Pinkertons (no, I won’t explain) killed me. Lapham makes some bold choices and all the pain comes together between the big moments. Somehow there’s suddenly a lot riding on the lives of these characters you have absolutely no sympathy for. These scenes just hurt.
And, now, I don’t feel any less weird and emo. The book was never cathartic. But just getting through it- surviving- felt like an achievement and I reckon when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be totally out of this comedown funk. And then it’s All-Star Superman time.