Monday, 21 March 2016

Youth is Wasted by Noah Van Sciver Review

Youth is Wasted is a collection of short comics by Noah van Sciver taken from his series Blammo from between 2010 and 2013. And, like most anthologies, the stories are a mixed bunch in terms of quality. 

The best comic here is 1999 which I’ve already read/reviewed as a standalone comic (available cheaply on Comixology - recommended!) so I won’t go into it here but I think I would’ve rated this collection higher if I hadn’t already read this. 

Like 1999, the majority of van Sciver’s stories feature lower-middle class twenty-somethings, or “poor young losers” in the artist’s words, struggling to get by, grudgingly adhering to society’s dictums while quietly resenting them. They make for some grimly humorous comics like Because I Have To, where a young man who lost his younger brother a year earlier in a car accident helps a lost little girl on Halloween find her older brother only to be accused of being a pedophile. Or Abby’s Road and Who Are You, Jesus? where in both stories the guy thinks they’re using the woman only to discover the reverse is true. 

From the fairly decent come stories that are forgettable or plain boring like the trio of Brothers Grimm adaptations that are presented in an elaborate children’s book-style, or Punks v Lizards which is basically what you’d expect from the title: punks with weapons fighting large lizards.

Roommates is an amusing two-pager about two roommates, one of whom doesn’t know how much the other resents him. Some are just bitter like It Can Only Get Better where van Sciver loathes how cartoonists in the 19th century were far better paid than they are today, or nihilistic like The Easy Life where the protagonist contemplates turning his back on society altogether. 

Like many anthologies covering several years, the reader can see how the artist’s style and (if they’re talented creators which van Sciver clearly is) the quality of the stories have evolved over that time. The earlier comics are smaller both literally in terms of the panels on the page and the scope of the stories while the later ones show bigger images and more ambitious, complex narratives. 

Besides 1999, there are a few very decent shorts included that fans of the artist or the slice of life genre will enjoy. It’s not van Sciver’s best book but it’s interesting to see his style and comics storytelling sensibilities evolve to the heights it’s reached today. 

Noah’s brother, Ethan, himself a cartoonist over at DC Comics, writes a charming introduction, ending with: “The world is a sweeter place because of the cartoons that my little brother draws.” I agree!

Youth is Wasted

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