Sean Maher's Quality Control

Friday, August 26, 2005

Teenagers From Mars: A declaration of comics war

I'm not sure just how long Rick Spears and Rob G have been working together - I know they're still doing it, since Dead West came out just a couple weeks ago, and Filler not long before that. My impression is that they got started with Teenagers From Mars, and that would make some sense, as the book has all the markings of new talent arriving on the scene with a fist in the air and a manifesto screaming from their lungs.



It's very much a first book, with all the naiveté and fire and guts and charm that implies. I enjoyed reading it quite a bit, and in one sitting - the fucker moves at lightning speed.

The story's a simple one - the fiery young comics-lovin' kids are Just Trying To Live and the evil, stodgy authority figures are Keeping 'Em Down - but the commaraderie and vitality of said kids is convincing and heartfelt enough to keep it feeling new. It's summed up pretty well by the dialogue quoted on the back cover:

"So, you get in fights a lot?"
"Yeah."
"You always get your ass kicked?"
"Yeah."
"Aren't you ever afraid?"
"No."

Honestly, I wanted to be condescending to these characters. I wanted to respond to the mayor on a rampaging campaign against comics by rolling my eyes. I wanted to shrug at the punk kids' anger, and think to myself, "Whatever, they're just punk kids." I've spent enough time on both sides of the spectrum to believe that nobody's got a convincing argument.

But I didn't need to respond to the book that way, and while Spears and G don't go out of their way to avoid portraying how silly the conflict can be, the point isn't about authority - the heart of the book isn't there. It's about sticking by your friends and never flinching. Take a lickin' and keep on tickin', as the feller says.

The earnestness makes this hard not to respond to. Several times throughout the story, one Comics Warrior launches to the defence of a brother in arms and it's sweeping and exciting and heartening every time. The nightmarish mob scene at the pinnacle of the Evil Grownups' war on comics is sickening and foul.

So this is an anomaly. My cold, black heart thought itself dead to manifestos of this type; I was ready to start dismissing Those Damn Kids as foolish and careless and dumb. What makes this book work - for me - is that it doesn't argue with me that they are all those things; instead, it argues that that's far from all that matters.

It's got a fine take on what does matter, and much to my surprise, Teenagers From Mars got me all worked up.







Enjoy the weekend, everyone - Theme Week returns on Monday!

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