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posted November 5, 2013
Youth In Decline, comic book, 32 pages, 2013, $8.
Ordering Numbers: Available Here
It's rare for me to be around enough people reading comics that I catch wind of someone else's opinion of a work before I get to it myself. For some reason, though, floating in the back of my mind regarding the Hellen Jo issue of Ryan Sands' spotlight anthology Frontier
was a random idea expressed that this was a great little comic book but that the lack of a narrative was a strike against it: that this was a series of images more than it was a story.
Perhaps my contrarian hackles were raised in advance, but I read the issue as a cohesive narrative front to back -- just one that worked through a general impression rather than told a linear story as it happened to one or two characters. As the map in the inside back cover indicates, it's the exploration of a landscape rather than a fable. Jo draws "the girls [she] admired and despised on the playground," gorgeous young women, confident and assured, the kind that give each other automatically stylish haircuts and have a comfortable relationship with modest amounts of spilled blood. My favorite part was a shift into even more stylized portraiture for about six pages in the second half, as if Jo wanted to rid the stage of props and communicate these characters' basic way of moving through the world by facial expression and tilts of the head.
I would enjoy a more standard narrative from Jo for sure, and have enjoyed such work in the past, but basically anything this artist wants to do I'm going to respond to with some level of interest. This may or may not be true of Ryan Sands as a publisher and facilitator of this material, but the lean approach and the tone of the accompanying interview feel promising as he circles around his initial choice of targets.