In the lead-up to Young Liars ending on September 2 with issue 18, I will be rereading the 17 issues already out and discussing them at a rate of one issue per day. I haven’t reread any of these comics since they came out, so it should be fun. Spoilers, of course. Let’s dance!
Young Liars #13, “Rock Life,” by David Lapham begins the final story, one that takes place in Browning, Arizona, a community founded by the Brown Bag chain of retail stores. “If it ain’t in the Bag, you don’t need it!” Here’s part of what I had to say when I reviewed it for CBR, giving it 4.5 stars:
Johnny Jukebox lives the perfect life. He’s a rock star. He parties every night. He lives with a woman he’s in love with. He has sex with other women and his girlfriend doesn’t care. His best friend from high school is still his best friend. He’s never heard of Danny Noonan. He looks just like Danny Noonan and his girlfriend is Loreli, the sister of Sadie, who Danny went to find last issue. So long Johnny Jukebox?
Young Liars #13 reads like an episode of The Prisoner, with the audience very much aware that nothing is right and the protagonist slowly comes to the same realization. Who can he trust? Who’s a victim? Who’s a warder? And, so, he slowly pushes back, begins to test the limits of his new world to see just how far he can go. One day, he tramples Loreli’s rose bushes and the next day, they’re back. What if he were to burn his house down? What if his best friend, Kenny were to get his head beaten in? How far can he go until the illusion won’t hold, until the true nature of the world must reveal itself?
Unlike The Prisoner, Johnny/Danny is no clever, scheming, dedicated Number Six; he’s a slacker rock star who seems more amused by the idea that everything he knew was wrong than pissed off.
The first part of this issue has Johnny living in ignorance of his true identity (if indeed it is his true identity), shacked up with Loreli, living the rock life. His best friend (and bandmate) Kenny is around, they throw awesome parties, life is good. Although, Johnny is bored and hates the town. When he noticed that the rose bushes that he ruined were replaced the next day, it alerted him to something wrong about his and Loreli’s life together in Browning. As he narrates at one point: “NOBODY ELSE GOT AWAY WITH STEALING, BEATING, VANDALIZING, AND DOING BASICALLY WHATEVER THE HELL THEY WANTED.” In issue 16, this immunity will be explicitly addressed, but it’s enough to make Johnny question his reality — and why doesn’t he (or anyone else) remember what life was like before they came to Browning?
Young Liars is about identity and this issue raises the third identity of Danny Noonan that we’ve seen in as many issues. There’s Danny Noonan, Danny Duoshade, and Johnny Jukebox… which of them is real? Is any of them? All of them? Lapham also comments on the idea of moving to a new city, forging a new identity, and forgetting the past: making a clean start. But you can’t — the past will always come back. The past will always be a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and ruin that whole new life you’ve created for yourself. Honestly, Johnny Jukebox is everything Danny Noonan and Danny Duoshade ever wanted: he’s a famous rock star, he parties every night, he does whatever he wants, and he’s with Sadie. What’s wrong with that? Why does he have to question it?
What is humanity’s obsession with the concept of objective truth? When will it learn that there’s no such thing as this series illustrates clearly — all there is is a series of interconnecting subjective realities that form an ever-shifting collective objective reality. Objective truth is what everyone agrees it is. Today’s truth is tomorrow’s lie and vice versa. In this issue, we see Danny give up everything he ever wanted… for what?
But, is it everything he’s always wanted? He’s living the rock life and isn’t happy. There’s no downside, no struggle, no problems… so it’s all downside, all struggle, all problems. Life is too good. It’s all been handed to him and it’s unsatisfying.
Besides, saviour of Earth is a bit cooler than being a rock star, right?
See you tomorrow.