Trouble with Comics, Christopher Allen Reviews Young Lions

Christopher Allen Reviews Young Lions

Young Lions

Writer/Artist - Blaise Larmee

Self-published. $10 USD.

I’ve had this gem for a few months now, always turning up somewhere around the house or in my backpack. I guess I was hoping for that perfect time to review it, when the book had fully crystalized for me. Finally, I realized that wasn’t going to happen, and that’s fine.

Young Lions isn’t so much about a specific thing that I can tell, but it does deal with how things sometimes don’t quite work out, and how a moment of shimmering magic, pure love or perfect harmony can become ennui, discord or heartbreak before you know how good you had it. Wilson, Alice and Cody are clever, attractive young people who are a tight unit, but there’s something missing. They try on different ideas and theories like sweaters, and it’s with this blithe spirit they become involved with Holly, a pretty blonde who’s part lost soul, part muse, part wood nymph, part siren. An unschooled rustic original, open and guileless yet not giving anything away that would reduce her. Is she a pawn, a mascot, a sacrificial lamb, a catalyst or passenger?

A hipster party leads to a road trip to Holly’s old hovel, a romantic interlude, quiet anguish. As Wilson tells Cody early on, “Like many dreamers, you mistake disenchantment for truth.” Cody tries to take a picture of Holly at one point, but admits it didn’t come out well. It’s so hard to capture a moment accurately, and moments with Holly resist capture completely. She doesn’t know the way herself, but can at least show them how to push forward and combat inertia.

Larmee does a lot here that works so well, yet seemingly so offhandedly, that it’s hard to tell how much calculation really went into it. For example, leaving the book in reproduced pencils is not just pretty but adds to both the ethereal beauty of Holly but also the sense that the characters are in transition, not completely formed and adult yet. The extra detail given to the pattern of Wilson’s sweater or the shine on his eyeglass frames is not just tactile but creates a game between reader and creator as to whether more important information is being conveyed in softer background pencils, the darker lines and patterns merely distractions. 

And what to make of the rosy circles on Cody’s cheeks, often created by Larmee’s inky fingerprint? At first I thought it was a kind of clown makeup affectation of Cody, intoxicated by art and performance, rather than just blushing. I kind of prefer the former interpretation even if it’s wrong.

The character designs are marvelous as well, with all four very childlike with their large heads, slender limbs, and lack of obvious adult sexual characteristics. There’s the way the latter pages seem even less distinct, Larmee withholding those precious concrete details to grab onto, emphasizing how the bonds between the group are already slipping away. The use of song lyrics as commentary on the action and tart, physical counterpart to the dreaminess is very effective as well. And I don’t even want to ruin the Yoko Ono thing, other than to point out it’s but one more of many wonderful elements a reader can derive meaning from or leave alone. For a book that on the surface seems rather casually put together, it’s actually rather stuffed with any number of meanings, and doesn’t read quite the same way twice. Stunning and invigorating.

—Christopher Allen

  1. troublewithcomics posted this
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