:: Article

Nothing is true

By Mat Colegate.

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Young Liars: Daydream Believers, David Lapham, Titan 2009

The clue is in the title. More on that later. David Lapham‘s Young Liars sits a little bit uneasily in the current comics landscape. It’s not a superhero comic (although it is. A bit) and it’s not a woe-is-me-look-at-what-I-found-in-the-jumble-sale self-pity fest (although it is. A bit). Rather Lapham has taken Burroughs’ central dictum of “Nothing is True, Everything is permitted” and used it to weave a perplexing tale of teen angst, alien invasion, ultra-violence and obsession against a none-more-rock’n’roll back drop. If that sounds a bit confusing then that’s ‘cos it is. If it also sounds a teensy bit self-conscious well, it’s that as well.

Young Liars is told, almost but not quite exclusively, from the viewpoint of Danny Noonan, bad guitarist, fuck-up and all round self-pitying bell-end. At heart it’s an obsessive love story: Danny wants the girl. That the girl, Sadie, is a sociopathic semi-superhero with a bullet lodged in her brain (that Danny may well have put there) isn’t the only thing complicating matters. Add her billionaire father and his team of psychotic private detectives, a possible alien invasion by spiders from Mars (that’s actual spiders. From Mars) a gaggle of hangers on ranging from spoilt rich kids to anorexic ex-models, and the fact that Danny could possibly be a deluded washed-up rockstar rapist, and you’re still not close to quite how many twists and turns Lapham has packed into his tale. That you cling on for the ride is down to the relish Lapham obviously has for bringing this bundle of madness together. He’s having a load of fun playing with your head, detourning your expectations just when you least expect it. Every time you think that the story has settled down, off it roars again, into the night, leaving bad four-colour fun-vibes in its wake.

For all it’s bug-fuck lunacy, Young Liars retains an admirable directness. Part of this is down to the art. Lapham tends to illustrate his own stories and his work on Young Liars has a superb four-colour clarity. It looks fast and loose, but never rushed, bringing much needed stability to the story. Also Lapham handles his tale with a lightness of touch that never allows you to dwell for too long on details. It ends up taking on an almost stroboscopic quality, something that’s playing on your eyes. A bad dream or hallucination. If you’ve missed a trick, never mind, there’ll be another one along in a minute.

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There’s a lot of rock’n’roll in it too. Every issue comes with a recommended listening section, consisting of two songs to accompany the action. The selections are a who’s who of nominally hip indie-punk from down the ages, ranging from TV on the Radio to Suicide. What stops this from sliding into self-conscious hip-dom is the fact that Young Liars feels like rock’n’roll. It’s fast, dumb and fun. Y’know, fun? Like getting drunk and hurling yourself into a wall. Or vomiting into the letter box of the local Conservative club. Fun.

Lapham has filled Young Liars with unreliable narrators. All the characters (with the exception of the touchingly innocent Sadie) lie, cheat, steal and abuse each others trust. That he manages to make you keep reading despite all of his characters being basically unlikeable is a testament to his confidence as a writer. It never feels like the story has run away from him. Like a close-quarter magician, Lapham shows you all you need to know using all the tricks available, skillfully keeping the complete picture hidden.

As I said at the beginning, the clue is in the title. In a story where everyone is lying, constantly, then what is to stop Lapham from having his cake, eating it and then setting fire to the whole sweet trolley? What’s to stop him incorporating teen romance, body horror, comedy, guns and football hooliganism? Nothing, that’s what, and it’s this unpredictability that makes it the best comic on the stands at the moment. A monthly hit of pure back-brain adrenaline, regular as clockwork.

Vertigo have just published a trade paper back reprinting the first six issues. I heartily recommend it. I can’t guarantee that it’ll all make sense at the end, or that you’ll come out of it not feeling that you’ve wasted a large portion of your life that could be spent, I dunno, trying different breakfast cereals, or breeding ants or something, but I can guarantee that you’ll have dug the ride whole.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mat Colegate is 3:AM Magazine‘s Comics Editor. He is a magician and poet who lives and works in London. His writing has been featured in the blogs Mindless Ones and 20 Jazz Funk Greats. His first collection of poetry Black Triangle Scrapings will be published later this year.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, April 3rd, 2009.