Dead End Kids #1
Source Point Press
Writer: Frank Gogol
Artist: Nenad Cviticanin
Frank Gogol is back with a brand new project – Dead End Kids. After successfully crowdfunding and releasing his first project, GRIEF, the author has decided to step up his game. Contrary to the anthology format of GRIEF, Dead End Kids is 3-part miniseries – a coming of age murder mystery.
The story follows four teenagers – Amanda, Tank, Ben and the narrator of the book, Murphy. Each of them has their own set of really frustrating problems that they have to navigate through. Fortunately for them, they have each other to make life more tolerable.
However, good things don’t last. The book starts with the death of one of the teens – Ben. The officials have declared it an accident, but Murphy isn’t so sure about it. Thus begins their search for the truth.
Seeing that this is only the second commercial release by Gogol, and seeing that both of his books cover similar themes, it’s hard not to draw some comparisons between the two. GRIEF was an enjoyable book that dealt with a pretty heavy subject. The anthology format definitely helped it out, at least in my opinion, since I’m a fan of the format. It also set up some interesting characters and stories, ones that could easily be explored in the future. But, with that being said, I had my gripes with it. For starters, some of the stories were pretty basic and cliche’ed. Mr. Gogol tried to tackle a really heavy and hard topic on his first try, and the lack of experience in writing really showed. Also, the art was something I would call passable, at best.
This time around, he is way more nuanced. Every single character introduced in this book is overly tragic, sure, but the core of the story isn’t as on the nose as the first book was. Despite all the tragedy thrown at the characters, they are (mostly) left some breathing space. I say mostly because the two suspects introduced in the book are really awkward and dull. You can sum them as an angry grieving grandpa and a bully. Their placement feels forced and too artificial. It’s obvious from the get-go that their only function in the story is to get blamed, before getting off the hook because they obviously didn’t do it.
Nenad Cviticanin is on art duties. He did a lot of work on GRIEF and the boys obviously developed a nice working relationship. His work is… decent. It’s definitely better than his work on GRIEF. There is enough detail in the world of Dead End Kinds, and there is a nice sense of depth to the panels. The colouring is also decent and has a good vibe to it. I do have some gripes with the art, though. For starters, the faces, and character designs, in general, look so generic and flat that you have a hard time seeing who is who. There was a moment in the book when I couldn’t understand which character was Ben, and which was Murphy. I had to go back to the start of the book to make sure which one he was because they looked so much alike. And still, I struggled.
Another thing I’d like to criticise is the lack of polish. I understand that Source Point Press is a small, indie publisher, but the editors should definitely look out for mistakes a bit more. Some of the speech mannerisms are outright confusing and – for the lack of a better word – cringey. It is possible that the author decided on his own to write some of those down, sure. But I’m not so sold on the idea that someone would, consciously, write down “Go screw, you crazy old bastard. This’s got nothing to do with you”. Pretty wild.
There is one aspect I am really fond off – the pacing and flow of the story. The book starts in medias res, with a couple of shots if the snowy backdrop and a splash page of Ben’s lifeless body in the water. The book then goes 24 hours in the past and introduces us to all the protagonists of the series. They are all given a single page to relay the most basic info about their lives and who they are. And even though the characters have overly tragic backstories, they have a nice introduction.
With only one comic book in his repertoire, Frank Gogol still has a long way to cement himself as a mainstay figure in the industry. Dead End Kids is definitely a step in the right direction. Even a simple thing like some additional polish and finishing touches can have a huge impact. Looking forward to the next issue.
Frank Gogol still has a long way to cement himself as a mainstay figure in the industry. Dead End Kids is definitely step in the right direction.