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It's Only Teenage Wasteland #1
Dark Horse Comics

Comic Books

‘It’s Only Teenage Wasteland #1’ establishes emotional stakes before revealing its apocalypse

At its very, very best, apocalyptic fiction is about genuine human experience.

The world of post-apocalyptic fiction is densely populated, even if the worlds within that fiction are not. It’s wasteland after wasteland, a whole panoply of wastelands, each of them with their own unique horrors and world-ending inciting incidents. There are plagues and zombies, there are demons and darkness. The ways in which the world can end are multitudinous, never as finite as the ticking clock of human existence.

At its core, however, apocalyptic fiction is at its best when the reasons for the apocalypse—the nuts and bolts of ending things—are never in turn the reason for the narrative itself. The story should never be about the zombies; instead, the zombies should be about something else altogether. In Romero’s Dead series the zombies are about violence perpetrated by man, or about the mindless violence of consumer culture, or about the ramifications of the nationalistic post-9/11 fear state.

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It's Only Teenage Wasteland #1
Dark Horse Comics

At its very, very best—and this is a rarely reached zenith—apocalyptic fiction is also about characters, about the earnest and genuine human experience. The loss of life inherent at the end of the world is made viscerally real by ensuring those losing their lives are not simply interchangeable and meaningless bodies but actual people whose loss can be felt.

'It's Only Teenage Wasteland #1' establishes emotional stakes before revealing its apocalypse
Dark Horse Comics

In the first issue of It’s Only Teenage Wasteland, out this week, the creators boldly forego their apocalypse altogether in order to establish its stable of teen-comedy characters, a crew of not-quite outcasts bumbling their way through their adolescent awakenings. Using quick high school shorthand, they make strikingly rich sketches of characters in a remarkably short span of time, ensuring a set of emotional stakes.

Our central character, Javi, is a Zach Morris sort of narrator, freezing time to introduce characters and concerns. While this omniscience frames the story well enough, it’s Javi’s insecurities that make him relatable—his unconfirmed sexuality, his underdeveloped social self—and his inherent kindness, as illustrated by a lack of social mobility cynicism when he invites his bullied friend, Fogleman, to his unchaperoned party.

It's Only Teenage Wasteland #1
Dark Horse Comics

It’s only after the characters are firmly endeared to the reader and the protagonist cleanly established that the book turns toward conflict and, just beyond, the apocalypse. It’s a gamble for a first issue: only four or so of the thirty-odd pages of this first issue deal directly with the novelty of the coming apocalypse, and even then, only obliquely. The Teenage Wasteland is only alluded to, a flash forward in the opening pages and a mysterious event in the closing.

It's Only Teenage Wasteland #1
Dark Horse Comics

The abstract hooks of that apocalypse—artist Jacoby Salcedo populates the end of the world with strange, otherworldly geometric oddities—are exciting enough to drive a reader to the second issue, but it’s in the establishing character work that It’s Only Teenage Wasteland is at its most promising. There’s an implication that the creators have a much more distinctive, personal stake in our narrative than providing warm bodies for some coming violence.

Rather than explaining to us what this apocalypse is about, it wants us to know who it’s about.

It's Only Teenage Wasteland #1
‘It’s Only Teenage Wasteland #1’ establishes emotional stakes before revealing its apocalypse
It's Only Teenage Wasteland #1
Refusing to dive into the apocalypse until the characters are in place, Teenage Wasteland promises an end of the world with a heart on its sleeve.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Takes care of its characters.
Keeps its narrative mysterious, but filled with hooks.
Scratchy artwork perfectly establishes each character's energy and personality.
Deals in teen-flick tropes as shorthand rather than cementing unique events.
8
Good
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