SPX Pulls: The End of the Fucking World 1 - 11 / by Patrick Smith

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Before going to SPX this year, I polled a few people I knew with more of a background in alt/art/whatever-the-hell-you-wanna-call-‘em comiX to give me some recommendations for books and creators I should check out. One of those people was former Spandexless contributor Alec Berry who, among other things, told me to check out the Oily Comics table and in particular Charles Forsman's The End of the Fucking World series of minicomics. I remembered Alec pretty clearly talking this book up before when he ran the Spandexless Reads column, in which I believe he said something along the lines of “This is why I read comics.” A quote concerning that is…quite a statement if you’re familiar with Alec's writing. For myself, the stuff that inhabits the spectrum of why I read comics has Carla Speed McNeils Finder on one end and Rick Remender and Tony Moore's FrankenCastle on the other, so that’s where I’m at if your wondering. With that being said, though I have to agree with Alec's previous assertion that these are damn fine comics. The series primarily focuses on two teenagers, James and Alyssa, as they run away from home to presumably find something better. The overall story of TEOTFW is still one that’s being fleshed out, but at its core it’s about two people who hate their pasts but also are so scared of their futures that they cling to one another for support even when they should be running away from one another at full speed. Overall though, it’s a story about extremes and the kind of nihilistic worldview that only a teenager could have, while also adding on certain discerning touches that separates this book from so many other teenage melodramas. For one thing, it shifts perspectives from James to Alyssa from issue to issue, which not only allows for each character to be fleshed out in interesting ways over the course of the story, but also allows the story to be interpreted differently from those two unique, albeit screwed up, perspectives.

I don’t want to give too much away, but to say James and Alyssa are damaged people would be an understatement. James in particular is a character defined by extremes, which are documented in detail within the very first issue. As the series progresses he goes deeper and deeper to the point where, if it weren’t for a few fickle points of morality, he may very well be irredeemable. Alyssa is equally damaged and angry at the world, but at the same time she has more potential to have a better life and frame of mind than James could. But in an almost classic young love situation, she sticks with him because he’s her first love, even though he couldn't care less. As an added bonus, there’s also some potential supernatural weirdness that Forsam only hints at, and he might not even follow through with it, but the fact that it's even there is a pretty interesting detail to the book's overall world building.

As for Forsman's art style, particularly how he draws his character's faces, it is very reminiscent of Charles Schultz. Since writing that sentence I now realize I am not the first person to make that comparison, but I actually think the Peanuts connection goes a little bit further than mere aesthetics. I have no idea if Schultz is an influence on Forsam or if my reading of the material is correct (I could probably look it up but I’m writing this on my lunch break so you’ll excuse me if I’m less than thorough) but Peanuts was always a strip that had more than a little bit of melancholy in it, especially in its later strips, and to be honest I could totally see James and Alyssa as stand-ins for some Peanuts-esque characters. Hell, James could easily be Charlie (humorless, too much time in his own head, kind of needs therapy) and Alyssa could be Sally (in love with a boy that has no interest in her and YES I know Charlie and Sally were brother and sister and that doesn’t really work but DAMNIT that sort of goes in line with this comic's general darkness so just go with it!). Granted I’m probably reading too much into it, but the idea that the kids in Peanuts grew up to be screwed up misanthropes amuses me to no end.

The only real problem I had with these things was just how quick a read they were, even with the added caveat for myself that I read all current eleven issues in a row. Even then I was done within twenty minutes. That was my fault really, given my inexperience with most minicomics, and I ended up poring over each issue several more times to make sure I got everything straight the first time, but at eight pages a pop each issue of TEOTFW could easily feel unsatisfactory in some way. Yet somehow, Forsman makes every installment work exceptionally well, to the point where no one aspect of the production of the comic feels like it came up short. A lot of the minicomics I’ve read have always felt like they were made by artists who were still figuring out how to make comics, but TEOTFW is the first one that feels like it was made by a master of the form.

TL;DR: The End of the Fucking World 1-11 are solid comics that manage to use the eight page minicomic format for all that it's worth.

The End of the Fucking World is created by Charles Forsman and published by Oily Comics. You can buy physical and digital copies here.