By Jesse Lonergan
Published by NBM Publishing
Before I go too far into this RUview I have to make a confession: recently, and by “recently” I mean a couple months ago, there was an ongoing discussion regarding the place art has in the reviews of comic books, with many people saying (rightfully so) that artists get the shaft when it comes to acknowledging their work in regards to the whole product. As I said, this is a valid critique of…well, critiques. Speaking as someone who is (and will probably continue to be) guilty of this all I can say is that this review will not be the one in which I get my act together.
Good thing too, since here the writer and the artist are the same person, so I don’t feel too bad.
Let’s get it out of the way; the art in All Star is fantastic. As I have stated before, I am growing more and more in love with black and white comics (done right) and Jesse Lonergan’s Sean Murphy-esque art does nothing to buck this trend:
Now compare that to this page from Sean Murphy's Punk Rock Jesus:
Mr. Lonergan’s art style is what would happen if someone told Sean Murphy to cut back on all the extraneous detail. I know that might come off as an insult, but personally I really enjoy the clean and simple lines of All Star’s art. Lonergan doesn’t spend time showing off how great he is by taking attention away from the story. Every line, every shadow, and every face servers a purpose and that purpose is to tell a story.
And, the story is a thing of beauty.
Comic book readers and reviewers (especially the non-professional ones) have an instinctual dislike for jocks. It probably comes from the real, perceived, and expected bullying comic book readers (nerds) experienced at the hands of athletes (jocks), but no matter how easily explained the dislike is, I’ve always been annoyed by it. I first began collecting comics when I was 13, twenty-two years ago, and from then until I graduated high school I read comics, played in the marching and pep bands, was president of my youth group, and became a “five letter man” in high school. Being good at sports, athletics, whatever does not disqualify someone from being a good person, but it is rare to find a genuinely well-meaning jock in comic books unless they were “shown the light” by some dweeb.
All Star throws all of that crap out of the window.
Carl Carter is a senior in high school and rules the roost in regards to baseball. He’s good, and he knows it. If baseball were currency, he’d be the wealthiest man in Elizabeth, VT. The book opens on a baseball game in the bottom of the ninth, two on, two out, two strikes (for those of you who don’t know baseball…you make me sad) and, predictably, our hero, Carl, hits the game winning homerun and hotdogs around the bases. This opening continues to strike me as important since, in other stories, the hot dogging all-star is also a world class asshole to those beneath him. These first nine pages of any other comic would lead into some sad sack of sadness under the bleachers wishing he could be the popular kid. Instead, Lonergan throws the steadfast and boring jock tropes out the window and proceeds to introduce us to a person who pretty much likes and is nice to everyone.
Yea, he’s a high-school senior and therefore an ass who does stupid shit with his friend, but c’mon, if you didn’t when you were 18, you make me sad for you. The difference here is how Carter reacts to the consequences (or lack thereof) of his stupidity. His behavior once he learns of the uneven and unfair punishments handed down to him and his co-idiot and best friend, Edsen. Beyond the annoying habit Carl has of winning baseball games is a kid who is coming to terms with the real world, and how much it sucks.
I think I’ve made it clear how much I enjoyed the story of All Star, but, at first read, the ending rubbed me the wrong way. At first, I thought that All Star suffered from what I call the “Four Weddings And A Funeral” syndrome, that is, great movie up until the last five minutes. When I initially finished All Star, I was very let down about the ending.
Then it rolled around in my head for a few days.
Let me be clear. All Star is not a complicated tale. It wasn’t three days later when I finally “got it” or solved the mystery. No, three days later I was still thinking about the book because I realized that what I had just read almost perfectly describes my last semester / summer before I went off to under-grad. It’s not that first year at college that begins the drift from life-time friends, it’s the last couple months of high-school and over the summer when kids (I’m sorry, I know I sound like an old fuddy duddy, but 18 year olds are kids) begin to realize that the paths they are on will take them in different directions from people they’ve known forever. I remember parts of those final months, and they were not the easiest of times in my life.
All Star made me think about “best friends” I haven’t hung out with in over 15 years, and showcases the heartache the realization of that upcoming loss can have on a young man.
I tend not to care too much about seeing how the sausage is made regarding comic books. Much like music and wrestling, I don’t really follow the “independents” - by “independents” I don’t mean Dark Horse or BOOM!, I mean comics and publishers that it is an event for to be in PREVIEWS – call me lazy, call me a slave to name brands, or whatever, I just don’t have the energy to go looking for comics that I can only get at the one store where the artist happens to know the owner. Ok, yea, I’m lazy. But, I’ll tell you this right now, I’m tracking down the rest of Jesse Lonergan’s books. Not only is the art intriguing, but (unlike so many artists who try) he writes a mean book.
Just in case I wasn’t clear / for the TL;DR crowd – buy this book!