Blaise Larmee sent me a copy of his debut graphic novel, Young Lions, for review. There's an excerpt, taken from the opening pages, up on the Arthur blog, and what's there covers a decent amount of ground. The drawing is appealing, in a fake-CF style, while the story concerns itself with young people that consider themselves to be making art. There's little bits in that opening that suggest these characters are meant to be mocked, and are not meant to be objects of reader-identification. Or at least, that's what I hope, despite there being clues that is the author's genuine milieu.
That post I link to when I use the phrase "fake-CF style" is Blaise defending his right to draw in a style that readers will identify with that artist. There's a long comments thread where some dudes get mad at biters. It's worth pointing out that the drawing in Young Lions is appealing in its evocation/invocation of a stolen style. It's all human figures, sometimes stripped down to something that approaches contour drawing, or capturing a background as minimalistic as possible. Sometimes there are no backgrounds, just a character in space. The vibe is that every panel is drawn from life, and if it isn't; but is just able to capture a sketchbook's casualness and energy, that's impressive.
In Young Lions, we get kids talking about art as magic. This comes up in that conversation about people using CF's style as well, but it seems more appropriate there, partly because of the fantasy element, but partly because CF is just a really great storyteller, and in his narrative voice you can feel a spell being cast, drawing you into the fictional world. (This is why I associate CF's comics with the songs off the Kites record Peace Trials, actually, because of voice and incantation.) There is no such spell being cast in Young Lions, sad to say. All the characters' talk seems to just be ego.
There's a part of me that reads the drawing style as an indication of "taste," with the implication that the artist has the discretion to not draw a straight-forward boring autobio comic about twenty-something hipsters. This encodes a type of critique over the scenes where the characters listen to High Places and "Love In This Club." This could be a misreading on my part: One of the allures to this style of art is that it looks easy. It could be used here for the same reason Jeffrey Brown chose to draw his comics the way he does: The simplicity might just mean simplicity, it might not mean "magic." This might just be a dull comic done by a former art-student who took his four years to learn what looks good, rather than the meaning that makes things ACTUALLY good. It could just be a variation on an Austin English comic.
To read it as literature, rather than a collection of drawings, is to think of the book in comparison to the Tao Lin type stuff I've derided fairly recently, and afterwards saw described as "Generation Zzz." This is sleepytime literature for today's over-medicated youths. People who like that sort of stuff, (or Austin English, or David Heatley, who blurbs the comic) and view certain kinds of art as just being "cool," but don't really appreciate the psychedelic component of it, might like the way Young Lions looks on their bookshelf.