That's that then. "Young Liars" has finished and we're all poorer for it. A brilliant, challenging, ambitious, audacious, flat-out insane series that, let's be honest, lasted longer than anyone really thought it would, but is still taken before it's time. Nothing new about that, I've had it happen to me at least once a year for the past decade, that's life in the fast-paced, high-risk, hope-and-pray-quality-catches-on world of professional comic books. Still, that doesn't make it any easier. In fact, quite the opposite. Reading the final issue of "Young Liars" is a knife in the guts, a reminder that this is it, no more next month, enjoy these 22 pages, because that's all you're getting. It's a good thing that David Lapham crafted a brilliant, challenging, ambitious, audacious, flat-out insane comic to end with. Who would expect anything less?
Some may look at the five stars I've given this issue and say that I'm biased since I've praised "Young Liars" in numerous reviews already, blogged about it extensively on Comics Should be Good, and rated it as my second-favorite book in 2008. You would be right, I am biased, but who else besides a fan would still be around for this issue? The brilliance of "Young Liars" #18 can only be appreciated if you have read the previous 17 issues and only those who enjoy the book are going to make it that far. This is not a new-reader-friendly issue, this is not for the average 'heard good things, so I'll give it a shot' reader, this is a celebration of a grand series as Lapham wraps up plots, vents his frustration, and surprises us all as he did so consistently for the past year-and-a-half.
The first two pages are a rallying cry, a scream of anger and sadness, of frustration as Lapham works through this book ending using Danny Duoshade, the rock star alter-ego of Danny Noonan. He addresses criticism, those that didn't understand or didn't appreciate the title, the people who said he was "just throwing crap at the wall to see what sticks." It is a vicious assault that can only come in a final issue like this, one of those rare moments of complete honesty and clarity where you can see the man behind the drawing board and just how much he hates to see his work cast aside. "Maybe the problem is you," he says. Yeah, this is not for the detractors, this is for the fans.
Those longtime readers seeking answers and meaning get their wish, but in the backhanded manner with which Lapham has always provided answers and meaning. After the events of last issue, Danny awakens in the hospital, the ranting of Danny Duoshade to a reporter who looked just like him simply a dream, and prepares, with the help of Loreli, Donnie, and CeeCee, to destroy Browning and the four remaining Spiders from Mars. This section of the issue is rather straight forward although laced with allusions to other states of reality as Danny and Loreli sing a song that was Danny Duoshade's only number one hit, a song he performed with Sadie Hawkins... how do Danny and Loreli know it, then? And, of course, witness the return of 'Sadie Superhero' at a critical moment, because the series couldn't end without her, right?
The exhilarating Browning plot that has run over the past six issues coming to an explosive conclusion, providing a certain amount of closure regarding Danny and CeeCee, and Danny and Sadie in poignant and clever ways. The year-and-a-half of stories culminate in a one page of eight panels as Danny and Sadie wait for the bombs to go off and the universe to be saved. "I love you, too. Whatever your name is." are lines that bring the house down. The little punchline to break the tension before everything ends with a grand statement of one page that made me stop reading and consider. A single page that challenges the entire premise of the series, that makes you question who is behind the statement, what is means ultimately, and wonder if it isn't just one of the best pages you've ever seen.
So much of the power in this conclusion lies in Lapham's art, intertwined with the writing, inseparable. Danny Duoshade's rant is strengthened by the build-up of the reporter approaching his mansion, finishing with a close-up of Duoshade's eye, hidden behind his trademark sunglasses. Or, the lines around his eyes when we see past the glasses for once, that weariness that cannot be conveyed through words alone. Nothing conveys the return of Sadie Superhero like the glee on her face as he decimates a band of Pinkertons. No words could match the look on Danny's face as he applies clown make-up at the end - the mixture of sadness, determination, resignation... conflicting emotions and motivations laid bare on his face.
I've read "Young Liars" #18 three times now, each time learning new things, gaining new insights, reconsidering what I thought was true, and coming to terms with this end. That's what I will miss most about this series: the challenge of it, the demand it placed on me to engage it, to meet it halfway. But, as Lapham indicates at the end, he's not going anywhere, so that challenge may not either.
That's that then. The show is over. The show must go on. "The Death of Good" indeed.