Over the last few weeks, while traversing the streets and corners of the blogosphere, I have come across numerous reviews of the new series from Dave Lapham, Young Liars. I have read a lot of those reviews, agreed with some points but in general have had a differing point of view. I also found some common threads and patterns in those reviews which I am going to highlight here and thus explain why Young Liars is so damn good, and why you should read it.
One pattern that I have repeatedly seen among reviewers who don't seem to like Young Liars is the fact that they are big Stray Bullets fans, going to the extent of saying how many hardcovers they own, how they discovered comics through Stray Bullets and so on. One would think that this is something going in favour of a comic written by Dave Lapham, but it doesn't seem so. I personally, haven't read Stray Bullets but I do plan to do so, whenever it is actually complete. But that is neither here nor there. The thing that strikes me is the fact that these reviewers aren't really looking at Young Liars as a new series. Instead they see this as another series that Lapham is doing instead of doing Stray Bullets. Now I have nothing against people wanting a creator to complete a series, but Lapham clearly was not making money on the series and he needs to do something that lets him have an income. He's not shying away from it, he wants to do it, but not at the expense of incurring a financial burden on himself.
This inevitably takes me to the second of the common threads I see in these reviews. The inevitable comparison of Young Liars to Stray Bullets. I believe that this is an incredible disservice to Lapham. I have read through reviews that have gone to the extent of comparing structuring, storytelling and themes between the two series with a bias towards Stray Bullets. And by bias I mean the attempts of the reviewers at saying this is not Stray Bullets. Of course it is not. It never set out to be. Lapham did not name it Stray Bullets, because its not. Its been a long time since Stray Bullets. In between Lapham has done projects with DC/Marvel, with mixed reviews, and learned lessons. Many reviewers try to point out the fact that Stray Bullets started out slowly building up layers upon layers of story but they forget the fact that Lapham cannot follow the same model as Stray Bullets, because it did not sell. Thats one of the underlying aims in the different writing style he uses here where the first issue, for lack of a better phrase, is organized chaos. Its his attempt to introduce the cast as quickly as possibly to the readers with highly energetic storytelling as the introductory scene of the female lead was. This becomes even clearer from the fact that this same scene was used in the previews to the book. Meaning Lapham wanted this scene upfront to tell his prospective audience what they were in for.
Another point was the presence of cliched characters which made it difficult to sympathize with them or root for them. I ask this. In this day and age where almost every possible character has already been shown in one form or the other cliches can hardly be escaped. But as opposed to most creators, Lapham manages to make these characters more real. He peels layers off them as the plot progresses while at the same time tries to drown us, the readers in a cauldron of lies. The second issue was an example where the familiar story of an innocent child's life in a not so innocent neighborhood goes remarkably awry. But its not so familiar after all. Because the "innocent" child seems to be not so innocent and not so normal inspite of his surroundings. On the other hand Sadie Dawkins seems to be more familiar to us. She is that tragic heroine that we are familiar with. But we know that is not true because of what she is going to become eventually. And all this while we listen to a song written by Danny Noonan, talented song-writer.
Its crazy, its full of lies. Its going at a thousand miles an hour and I am strapped in. Hope you join me as well.