THE TURNAROUND BLOG

September Graphic Novel of the Month: The End of the Fucking World by Charles Forsman

9781606999837

This year sees the debut of Channel 4 and Netflix’s co-produced TV adaptation of Charles Forsman’s nihilistic comic The End of the Fucking World. Fittingly, Fantagraphics have released a new edition to coincide with the TV show’s arrival which is a perfect chance to discover or rediscover this modern classic.

The comic follows James and Alyssa, two teenagers living a seemingly typical teen experience as they face the fear of coming adulthood. Forsman tells their story through each character’s perspective, jumping between points of view with each chapter. But quickly, this somewhat familiar teenage experience takes a more nihilistic turn as James’s character exhibits a rapidly forming sociopathy that threatens both of their futures. He harbours violent fantasies and begins to act on them, while Alyssa remains as wilfully ignorant for as long as she can, blinded by young love.

When you read TEOTFW, words like cynical, nihilistic and bleak immediately come to mind. Yet despite this jaded tone, it’s a very hard comic to put down. By nature, most comics about teen life I have an encountered tended to have a nostalgic quality. Whilst not always happy, they usually have a positive outlook. TEOTFW has none of that. From beginning to end, the lead characters James and Alyssa have an extremely blunt approach to life in general which goes beyond the narration (although that may take the biscuit in that department). Despite the dark direction that the comic goes, there is an enduring and almost at times witty quality which will keep your attention. James in particular is so matter of fact about the troubles he faced in his youth. From his early killing of animals to the perfectly rational decision to stick his hand down the garbage disposal unit in the kitchen sink (making me glad we don’t have these in the UK) to his turbulent relationship with his father, it’s shocking just how little any of this impacts him.

This apathetic approach to life makes him a perfect contrast to Alyssa who fits the rebellious teenager archetype. In the narration department, hers is far more introspective and thought out going against the blunt storytelling James provides. Alyssa appears to be attracted to James due to mistaking his blunt and man of few words nature as silent and confident strength whilst also feeling he needs someone to look after him. This mismatch is doomed for failure as both seek to gain some control of their life, but Alyssa’s impulsive attitude and James sociopathic approach to life lead to incredibly bad decisions such as squatting in a rich man’s house that turns very ugly when he returns. It’s a fascinating look at how some people should just not mix.

Forsman uses a simple cartoony style that enhances the feel the comic is going for. Panels go by without showing huge leaps in action and the characters show the bare minimum of expression whilst in some cases showing none at all. You’d think given the plot that it wouldn’t be impossible to crank up the bleakness anymore, but the art really adds to the cynical edge.

If you can’t wait for the TV series to hit, the original comic is well worth your time. Any fans of great comics should take the opportunity to check out this bleak, funny at times but mostly cynical take on teen life.

  • Posted by Leo

The End of the Fucking World is published by Fantagraphics on 7th September 2017 (£17.99,  Hardback, 9781606999837)

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