Monday, 28 July 2014

The End of the Fucking World Review (Charles Forsman)


First of all - amazing title! Second of all - AMAZING BOOK! 

The End of the Fucking World (or TEOTFW) is about two teenagers, James and Alyssa, who decide to run away from home together. Their journey starts out somewhat romantic then becomes increasingly more desperate and tragic until they become like the modern Bonnie and Clyde. 

I read Charles Forsman’s Celebrated Summer a couple months ago and loved its quietly devastating intensity in such a relatively short comic about a couple of friends whose friendship dissolves over the summer and they never see each other again afterwards. But that doesn’t prepare you for how chilling TEOTFW is, which is a much, much darker read! 

Told in 8 page chapters (these were originally published separately as micro comics) with alternating viewpoints of our two protagonists, we see the same story from two perspectives. James, who we learn early on displays sociopathic tendencies and only gets worse as the story continues, and Alyssa, the girl who falls for him and does her best to turn a blind eye to his disturbing behaviour. 

The story explores the two characters’ loneliness from their remote families to their small town, and the despair they feel at their encroaching adulthood as well as their frustration and fear at their aimlessness and the unknowns of the future. James and Alyssa’s actions slowly become more foreign, at least to most of us, but Forsman reminds us of their humanity and their youth in scenes like when Alyssa meets her estranged father for the first time in 10 years - suddenly, she’s just a kid wanting to be with her dad. Other times, like the title, express the kind of heightened drama teenagers feel - what could be more fitting for a pair of desolate teenagers than to star in a book entitled The End of the Fucking World? 

On a surface level it could be read as a crime drama as the two start out stealing things like cars and breaking into houses to James turning to much more destructive acts. It’s a twisted love story between two people who don’t really understand what love is, having never experienced it before, but feel something - maybe the only thing they’ve ever felt - between them, and Forsman questions whether James, who is clearly a sociopath, is able to find redemption in the end.

Forsman draws the book in the style of Peanuts, almost like he’s bitterly chuckling at the juxtaposition of the subject matter to the cutesiness of his characters’ appearance. It makes the one panel, where he draws James more realistically for the only time in the book, all the more powerful and shocking an image when you see those eyes. 

I hesitate to call a book so bleak “wonderful” but it is enormously entertaining and artistic at the same time - and, yes, that is wonderful. I rifled through this, not because it’s short, but because Forsman told a great story and told it well - he genuinely knows how to build the tension in a comic so perfectly that you’re breathlessly turning the pages by the end, wondering just how it’ll play out. And it surprises you too, in the best possible way. 

Both the story and the characters have stayed with me days after putting the book down - it really is an immersive and unforgettable experience. If you adore comics that tell a great story and pack real emotion in them, The End of the Fucking World is a howl of raw fury at an uncaring and empty world from a truly original creator.

The End of the Fucking World

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