If this pandemic has done anything, it has made us all think about the effects our actions, and the actions of others, have. Increased hand washing, face masks, and social distancing have made us consider the domino effect of simple actions like going to the supermarket or getting the mail. It has also, if you’re anything like me, lit a rage fire in your chest when you see people making decisions that don’t consider others. And so, reading “Youth” #1 while in quarantine is a totally different experience than it would have been if I had read it in February or in [insert appropriate time for this pandemic to be mercifully over]. The decisions of Frank and River in this series would be disconcerting in the best of times, but today, they instantly change the tone of the book in a flash. Keep reading for our spoiler-free review.
Written by Curt Pires
Illustrated by Alex Diotto
Colored by Dee Cuniffe
Lettered by Micah Myers
YOUTH is a coming of age story that tells the story of two queer teenagers as they run away from their lives in a bigoted small town, and attempt to make their way to California. Along the way their car breaks down and they join up with a group of fellow misfits on the road. Embarking together in a van travelling the country they party and attempt to find themselves. And then something happens…
YOUTH is Larry Clark’s KIDS meets CHRONICLE. X MEN by way of FRANK OCEAN. It smashes together the violence of coming of age with the violence of the superhero narrative–as well as the beauty.
Part of the comiXology Originals line of exclusive digital content only available on comiXology and Kindle. This title is available as part of comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading.
Part of what makes “Youth” #1 so interesting is that it is presented from a very particular standpoint. Frank and River hate their current lives, and so are rebelling against that, and it is unclear whether or not the story is being told via their particular viewpoint, or if the actions are through the lens of an omniscient narrator. Frank(lin) works at a burger joint, and gets harassed by a customer in what seems like an incredibly aggressive, inappropriate way. Is that really what happened? Or did Frank project his anger and hatred onto this customer, who likely talked down to him, but not in the extreme way presented here?
Same with River; is his stepdad really this much of a prick? Or are we just seeing how River sees him? The book never exactly makes that clear, and it is all the better for it. Curt Pires has written the two main characters to be instantly liked, but also instantly distrusted. They make decisions that can only be considered both poor and hasty, but they are making them for pure reasons. It is hard to not root for them, even if it is abundantly clear that they have no idea what the fuck they are doing.
These two characters are (obviously) young and angry, and decide to blow up their current lives and embark on a journey to the unknown. As it is unfolding, they are to be rooted for, but also are crying out for someone to parent them in the broadest sense of the word. No one is there to shake some sense into them, and it shows.
Alex Diotto’s art sets the tone for this title by being full of restraint and emotion. His work is not overly detailed, and gives the dialogue a lot of space to inform what we’re looking at in any one sequence. The colors by Dee Cuniffe follow a similar style, with color being used as a splash upon the action, rather than worrying about getting every single part of the t-shirt shaded with the proper hue. That may sound like a backhanded complement for both Cuniffe and Diotto, but it is not intended as such. The splashdash nature of the plan that makes up the central crux of the book is perfectly rendered by their art. These are kids who don’t have time to think things out, and their artwork reflects that beautifully and accurately.Continued below
The colors, especially, evoke mood and tone so much more than we see in many modern comics, where the color art is used for accuracy and realism and not for expression. Coloring can alter tone more than almost any other comic element, and it is so impossibly underused in creative ways as of late. Cuniffe is doing really special work here, and the colors elevate the comic in ways that make it almost impossible to imagine it without.
Diotto’s panel construction is such that very little is presented as a centered, focused piece of attention. The issue moves fast, and so the art follows, with action often happening slightly off-center, allowing the impression that the reader is moving along with the comic, and making the book feel more dynamic due to it. River and Frank are running on adrenaline (and cocaine), and the composition of the pages gives you a small, non-narcotic, taste of what they are feeling.
The book ends on a cliffhanger that comes out of nowhere, and allows the reader a true ‘holy shit’ moment. Pires introduces a facet to the story that doesn’t, at all, match what was presented for all but that final page. That, alone, would make the final few pages interesting and unique, but mixed with how the stakes just keep on raising, it makes that last page pop in such a surprising way.
Overall, the first issue works on almost every level and, with the series already being adapted by Amazon Prime, it is clear that this is a story that can resonate with readers for a few reasons. Whether you’re young and on the lookout for adventure, or old and can’t imagine living this way, “Youth” #1 is a visceral trip through young adulthood.
Final Verdict: 8.3 – An exciting and nerve wracking debut issue.