In the lead-up to Young Liars ending on (I believe) August 19 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 #1, “At a Thousand Miles an Hour,” by David Lapham came out at the beginning of March last year. Not his first Vertigo project (the graphic novel Silverfish had been released already), it was a bit of a coup for Vertigo since it’s his first ongoing since the unfinished Stray Bullets (something Lapham addressed in the “On the Ledge” feature he wrote for March 2008). Originally created as a Vertigo revamp of the DCU Bulletgirl (or whatever her name was), it became something different since Grant Morrison did a revamp (of sorts) in Seven Soldiers with the Bulleteer. Probably the best thing that could have happened, actually. I almost didn’t buy the first issue of Young Liars and, when I did, it didn’t blow me away:
I picked this up partly because I meant to last week and didn’t, and partly because of reviews I read online. The reviews were really mixed, but all seemed to suggest that this was worth looking at nonetheless. And it was. I’m not sure exactly what I think about it yet, though. The issue has both good and bad elements. I find the character of Sadie interesting as she has no impulse control and Danny’s influence over her is intresting. But, honestly, not much else in the issue does anything for me. I don’t find myself caring about anyone else — and even with Sadie, I don’t care much, I’m more entertained. This book, though, seems very much about flawed types, rather than flawed characters. The supporting cast are all drawn very broad (and I don’t meant picture drawn, just to be clear) with nothing really new or original about them. That, of course, could easily change. I’m torn on picking up the second issue. I guess we’ll see what my mood is like when it comes out.
David Lapham would, later, agree with this assessment by having a character comment on how everyone in this first issue is just a stereotype or cliche of some sort. And it’s true, there are no real characters here yet, and this is a weak first issue in most ways. However, knowing what I do now and where it goes, I can see that Lapham does begin planting the seeds for later issues here. But, first, here’s the basic rundown of the issue:
Danny Noonan is in love with Sadie Hawkins, a violent, gleefully happy woman with a bullet in her brain that has affected her memory, morality, and impulse control. Danny and Sadie were going to start a band, but Danny pawned his guitar and Sadie doesn’t sing anymore. In this issue, she beats up various guys for harassing a friend of theirs, Annie X (former teen model who is now a skeleton basically). Another friend, Donnie, is a cross-dresser and heroin addict, while Sadie’s best friend Cee Cee is a groupie (and at odds with Danny). Sadie is the daughter of the owner of the Brown Bag, a Wal-Mart-like store — and that family is messed up. The issue ends with the last member of the group, Runco trying to get the group to help him go search for lost treasure or some bullshit, but he calls Sadie’s father/the men working for him (the Pinkertons) and arranges to turn her in for a reward.
A lot of this issue doesn’t seem to go with later issues, especially the tone here. However, we get a few hints like when Sadie tells a doctor about her father:
HE’S AN INFERTILE ALIEN SPIDER FROM MARS WHO BELIEVES ONLY I CAN BIRTH HIS BRAIN-EATING ALIEN CHILDREN TO MUTATE AND SPREAD ACROSS THE ENTIRE PLANET.
We’re meant to take this as a joke since she’d just been shot in the head and is suffering brain damage, but this will become a central part of the series soon enough.
Danny’s narration here is not to be trusted since a lot of it will be later revealed as lies. Yes, the title of the comic is very important. He doesn’t tell us who shot Sadie (though provides a big clue) or how exactly they came to New York and he does leave out a lot. Here, he seems to control Sadie as she does what he says, trusting him implicitly — probably her biggest failing throughout the series. The Danny/Sadie dynamic we see here is another central element of the series, something we’ll see over and over again no matter how things change for these characters — and things DO change.
I can’t really blame anyone who read this issue and stopped getting the series, because it’s not that strong, is full of types instead of characters, and bears little resemblance to what the series became later. That said, it does contain some important pieces of information. Not onyl that, but David Lapham draws it quite well. We see his use of the eight-panel grid popping up here quite a bit, though he does experiment a bit with page layouts in this issue. For the most part, he’s very consistent throughout the series, preferring the eight-panel grid or three equally-sized panels stacked atop one another. Issue 16 displays these two standard layouts very, very well, but we won’t be getting to that until August 17.
As well, take notice of the cover, which, for the first six issues, act as the first panel of the comic (but remember, this series is non-linear much of the time) and the shape of the image is that of an album cover. The shape comes into play for issues 8-12 (issue 7 being the sole stand-out of the first year) where they act as album covers (quite literally in issue 12’s case), whereas, for the first six issues, they’re panels. I love it.
See you tomorrow at the same time.
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