Saturday, November 28, 2020

Comics Commentary: Last Song #3 (Black Mask, 2020)

This is a Media Diet Comics Commentary video review of Last Song #3 (Black Mask, 2020). Unscripted, unedited. Just a guy talking about comics.

Audio only.

Transcript below...

Today we're talking about this comic: Last Song. It's #3. It's published by Black Mask, and the creators are Holly Interlandi and Sally Cantirino. Interesting thing about Black Mask Studios: They're based here in LA, just on Sunset Boulevard, and one of the three partners in the publishing company is Brett Gurewitz from Bad Religion and Epitaph Records. This comic about a rock band is published by an imprint that has a lot of experience with rock bands.

It's a great comic. It's an interesting read held up to Holler #2 because both are rock and roll comics. This one's set in the late ‘90s. Parts of it are in Seattle. Parts of it are in LA. Interlandi and Cantirino do a really good job capturing the dynamics of a band, the relationships of band members, and the impact that stresses can have on a band—as well as stresses from outside the band: just your general life and the impact that that has.

The comic art is relatively narrative and straightforward, and the comic itself is relatively narrative. There's a lot of story, a lot of talking, not a lot of description or captions—mostly to set the scene, where they are: airport, Holiday Inn, stuff like that. The artist's style, Cantirino’s style, reminds me a little bit of a cross between Paul Pope and Jessica Abel, as odd as that might sound. 

It's an interesting read. My favorite parts of the comic are the live performance moments. Let's see if I can find a good example of one of the live performance moments. We've got a scene there from one of the shows. I think that's largely because I really miss going to shows during this pandemic. I miss going to hear bands play. There's another scene from a show. Capturing the band's performance, as well as the the band's rehearsal is really interesting.

It's also interesting because it incorporates aspects of rock journalism. Here's a faux interview or article about the band. There are other parts of the comic where that comes into play. There will be magazine covers or content from a magazine to move the story along, to show you what's happened recently and how it fits in. Here's some rehearsal shots, for those of you who've been in bands and had practice or rehearsal. Here's another example [of rock journalism]. It might even be the same piece that we just looked at.

It’s really neat to see aspects of the rock press come into play. Here he's at a coffee shop and they're actually looking at and referring to an article together. Another neat scene is when they're at SeaTac, the Seattle-Tacoma airport, and he goes to a Hudson News or some newsstand. This is Nicky, the lead singer and driving force behind the band. You see some of the other magazines there on the newsstand, including NME, and I think I saw a reference to Alternative Press elsewhere in the comic.

A neat representation of live performance, rehearsal or practice, rock journalism, but my favorite part of the comic is this sequence focusing on Nora. Holly and Sally, thank you very much for this sequence of pages. It's just five pages, but it takes us on a journey of how someone discovers a band that they really love, how they track down the records or music for the band that they really love, or at least how we used to—there's the reference to AP that I was mentioning—before the Internet. What it meant to discover a band, track down their records or their CDs, and to really dive into them, to learn as much as you can. 

This story arc, which begins with her being skeptical of most things that are popular, buying used clothes, buying used records, coming across this band that she didn't know about, breaking her rules toward older things or lesser-known things because they were a popular band, but really connecting with the music of this fictional band Ecstasy, being bothered when she encounters other fans. Then, when she goes to the mall with her seems-to-be stepfather, buying another record by them, or a compact disc, I think, at this point and playing it in the car with him. It ended up being a quiet bonding moment between the two of them as they drove back from the mall. That is one of my favorite parts of the comic because, as a music listener and a music fan, as a fan of bands over the years, this experience... they just captured it. They really did.

Not having read the first two issues, I don't know what's come before. I don't know if it's the same band, the same story line, or if each issue is a different band at an end moment in the band's career. This is the story of the dissolution and destruction, or folding of this band Ecstasy. For the players, we've got Nicky, who's the lead singer and guitarist. We've got Drey, who does guitar. The female character is the drummer. Anyway, [Nicky and Drey] end up having a relationship that goes beyond friendship, and it's confusing to the two of them: not out, not experienced with gay partners.

That ends up leading to some tensions in the band. They've known each other since they were pre-teens and teenagers. Later on in the book, one of them ends up having a relationship, just a “normal,” heterosexual relationship, which introduces additional tension. So there are several things coming together to break up the band: The relationship tensions, a member that seems to be addicted to some substances, and some inter-band tension and struggle, as well as some other challenges outside the band. One of the places that they used to frequent and play is closed, and the neighborhood is changing, the scene is changing. This is kind of neat: the way it is now and the way it used to be.

It’s interesting to think about the places that make a scene and how changes in those places can affect the people, bands, and art being made in that scene. A lot of things are coming together to affect the band, which is based in LA.

This is a really neat rock and roll comic. Kind of quiet, not too much rock and roll lifestyle, though there is some visual reference to it. This is the scene that makes me think that one of the members might have a substance abuse issue. It is such a good rock and roll comic that they even include a playlist on the inside back cover as though it were a 90-minute mix tape. Side A comes to us from Holly, Side B from Sally. I've tried to get as close to this as I can in an actual playlist in Apple Music and Spotify. One side's a little more rocking than the other—a lot of ‘90s shoegaze and ambient post-rock stuff. (That probably doesn't really capture it.) Two of the songs I couldn't actually get, so I got as close to them by title, at least, that I possibly could.

An interesting comic! A Brett Hurewitz from Bad Religion and Epitaph publishing company; a rock and roll comic; two strong female creators; art and story that reads well; neat mix of rock band experience, fandom, popular press, the experience of a fan, the arc of discovering a band—and then even some some music that you can listen to while you're reading the comic or otherwise.

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