By Holly Interlandi, Sally Cantirino, and Marissa Louise
Can rock ‘n’ roll save your soul? Maybe, and that’s the question that follows around our two main characters in the premiere issue of Last Song. This issue focuses on Nicky and Drey and the pages serve as a love story between two young men and rock ‘n’ roll; no super powers or other-wordly shenanigans. This is a story about what happens when you try to go for that lifestyle, with all your hopes and dreams wrapped up in this one single image of success. The story from Interlandi feels raw and authentic, like she kind of knew these two guys who did this and decided to write a story about it afterward. This book really stands out right now because it’s an authentic story about people trying to attain happiness and success through rock, which compared to other comics on the shelf, may seem pretty predictable. This first issue proves Last Song is anything but tame, predictable, and boring.
The first issue of Last Song is jumbo-sized, 68 pages, but the story unfolds quickly as it jumps around between 1980’s in the Los Angeles indie rock scene. Interlandi writes so intimately about this scene with great detail given to the fans, the bars, the music, and the characters who influence the rock ‘n’ roll scene by determining what is hot and what is not. Clearly, our main characters, Nicky and Drey, are hot. Interlandi has these two characters play off perfectly as wannabe rock gods. They’ve been best friends since childhood and now both decide to test their luck in Los Angeles chasing the dream. These two, and their perfectly dependent lifestyle together, is the true heartbeat that gives this book life. Everyone knows a pair of friends like this one, with consistent Drey always finding solutions and solving problems who balances out the free spirit of Nicky who is perpetually looking to fill the void his dad made. As we see them go from optimistic youths to becoming slowly corrupted by the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, it is a painful and slow process that Interlandi make sure to point out through constant character touch points between the two.
This book has a very punk feel to it (yeah, I know it is about rock and roll, but hear me out). The whole story from Cantirino is in black and white with only shading and design to give the story shape. The story does not follow a single stream flow, rather it jumps between years and follows a static page lay out that keeps the reader on their toes. That is punk. The creative team of Cantirino and Interlandi felt enough power in their art and writing to not hide this story behind the usual bright colors and standard comic format of 32 pages. This book feels different. The raw story that is just begging to let you down the entire time with the earnest artwork that feels completely appropriate. This book is not filled with trite dialogue or cardboard constructed characters that fall apart, but has real characters and real artwork. This book is not like other books on the shelf and that is a very good thing. Honestly, what is more punk that going against what everyone else is doing?
The art style of black and white decision does seem pretty ballsy; there is no hiding with that art style. Cantirino proves herself up to the challenge by completely delivering a solid book filled with art that feels authentic and original, much like the story. The character work around Drey, Nicky, and the accompanying band members is perfect and relatable. Everyone knows a bassist like Charlie, the guy who wears his hair in a completely unflattering way, but somehow manages to make it work for him. The detail given to the facial composition of every character is very fitting, particularly with Nicky and Drey. The distinction and detail given to them makes it easy to follow the story as we skip around through time, Drey has a strong, solid, straight nose with small eyes that are slightly too close together. Nicky has the unkept yet perfectly arranged hair that always seems to fall into his eyes. His eyes are brighter, slightly more open with a nose that bridges out. A particular character detail that really will strike a chord with you is the freckle detail on the band’s female drummer, Alex. The subtle yet aggressive nature of the littlest things like freckles make this character feel authentic and different. These details and small, yet big decisions around character design help to really bring to light the characters and build a story around them. If there is a fault to find with the art work it is only with the use of perspective. When an artist has such crazy detailed work like Cantirino, it is hard to keep that up in certain perspective shots. When that detail is lost for the sake of perspective it kills the entire purpose of having it to begin with.
Last Song is really a work of love from both Interlandi and Cantirino to the rock ‘n’ roll music scene and to that enduring essence of what that lifestyle symbolizes. The carefree yet crippling nature of being a young, celebrated, indie musical icon is depicted in such tender loving care in this book that it will make you feel like you know the ending, but still need to read it anyway. This has been a true labor of love from writer Interland; specifically, over 15 years of laboring love. This story has existed in some form in the writer’s mind for a long time, and it was not always planned out to end up in comic form. The final version of this story feels like the way it was meant to be told, in grainy black and white pages with a great story unfolding through unconventional page layouts and purposeful dialogue. This book may not have all the flash and pizazz of others on the shelf, but it makes up for it with earnest dialogue and powerful art.