Last Song #1

by mahargen on July 12, 2017

Writer:  Holly Interlandi
Art:  Sally Cantirino
Publisher:  Black Mask Studios
Show of hands, who here has been in a band at some point in their life?  For a brief moment in college I was the rhythm guitarist (especially funny as I have zero rhythm) for an absolutely terrible group of people/the best friends I could ever ask for.  We had a great time.  While we may never have played for any group larger than ourselves and whoever else was hanging around at the time, the one thing I took away from those days was the experience of camaraderie.  The four of us rarely see one another anymore; time tends to do that to even the best of friendships, after all.  As I poured through Holly Interlandi and Sally Cantrinino’s Black Mask debut, Last Song, a number of those old familiar feelings came bubbling to the surface. 
Last Song is going to be a story told in four parts.  The debut issue is a massive 64 page tome (for the entirely reasonable price of $4.99) chronicling the early days and formation of the LA-based rock band Ecstasy.  Throughout the opening story, we meet the core duo of the band, longtime best friends Nicky Marshall (vocals) and Drey Shannon (lead guitar).  Through some creative, non-linear storytelling we get to see the pair grow up together and eventually throw caution to the wind and decide to pursue the rock and roll lifestyle in LA.  As the story progresses we are also introduced to the rest of the band that develops along the way, bass player Charlie and drummer Alex.  The debut issue takes the band from non-existence to obscurity and then right up to the edge of recognition. 
To borrow from superhero story lingo, this is very much an “origin” issue for the band.  Basic character dynamics are laid out for the reader and the seeds for future conflicts are sewn.  From hick local bars to dingy punk clubs, we are taken on a tour of what it is like to develop as a band.  The exciting part is how down to earth and real the entire process feels.  I’ve known a lot of people in bands throughout my time, and I can see elements of all of those people throughout these pages.  I feel like I’ve met most of them at one point or another.  Of all the themes touched on throughout this book, the strongest seem to be those of mental and emotional stability, as well as the power of music.  Music itself is an unseen character throughout these pages, guiding the characters actions.  There’s also a very familiar darkness that is lurking just out of view, which does not bode well for our characters.  These intangible aspects of the story really drew me in, allowing me to connect with the characters.  Just like some of the best elements of music can be “intangible,” this book benefits from Interlandi’s willingness to put some of herself into the pages.  One of my favorite bands is Gaslight Anthem.  There’s a force behind their music that’s just as great as the driving drums and guitar, nostalgia.  It’s palpable in their end result.  Just like that feeling is stirred up during their music, similar feelings are brought to the surface with Interlandi’s writing. 

I’ll always have a soft spot for black and white comics in my heart.  When I made my first forays into readership back in the 90’s my gateway was the bright colors and action of Spider-Man and the X-Men, but it didn’t take long for me to find my true love in alternative comics.  Sally Cantirino does an amazing job on this signtificant undertaking.  Her style is right at home with the subject matter, not too clean and just dirty enough to make a statement.  She reminds me a great deal of Craig Thompson (Blankets), another great black and white comic artist, only with a sketchier slant to her style.   The panels and page layouts are constantly mixed up, keeping her on game and making everything fresh.  The standard comic fare of word balloons is periodically broken up with large portions of text, but Cantirino makes everything flow nicely together.  I especially enjoy the halftones dots employed to help create a greater sense of depth and shading, adding a dimension beyond the basic blacks and whites of the art.  As I’ve said many times regarding books that are light on action, the ability of the artist to keep a high level of continuity through the panels is very important and I am happy to say Cantrinio does a remarkable job on this 64 page monster.
Interlandi has constructed an intriguing story in these pages, not only developing the beginnings of the band, but also making it clear where the story will be going.  The youthful optimism of the characters does not seem to be long for this world.  I didn’t get too deep into any spoilers for this book, especially with character backstories.  There is a lot I could have touched on, but I feel that would be depriving you, the reader, on some level.  Like a great track, Last Song is something best experienced with little previous exposition. 
If you’re into music on any level, this is a book you need to check out.
If you’re into quality storytelling, this is a book you need to check out.
If you’re into killer art, this is a book you need to check out.

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