What if “The Smoking Man” from X-Files was a real person, and his daughter found out what he did for a living?
The daughter of an assassinated globalist kingpin breaks out of an internment camp and leads her fellow escaped prisoners in a battle against an elitist conspiracy of shadow governments, megabanks, and military juntas in this edgy and subversive political thriller.
I’m right on the fence when it comes to Young Terrorists. Much in the way of the comic’s publisher Black Mask, the issue veers between meaningful polemic and silly schlock. I’m not yet convinced the series will remain entirely coherent by the end, but for now, the surprising depth is enough to keep me hooked.
The first issue of Young Terrorists means to advertise its difference, being an 80 page spectacular of a young libertarian group fighting back against shadow governments and faceless corporations who are destroying the world. Given the extra page space the comic covers a large swath of the USA, as several story threads slowly come together and coalesce into the route the series will be heading.
The series juxtaposes this with cutaways to satirical takes on Alex Jones and his ilk*, who the comic posits as not really being any better than those they claim to fight, just exploiting people’s fears in a more direct way. These sections sort of work as asides to the main story and an expression of the comics themes and the crude, blunt way they address the audience is amusing at times. But it also sums up the entirety of the comic quite well.
I say that, in that Young Terrorists wants to be an angry and insightful attack what it identifies as the ills of modern society. It really is sincere in that aim, but then it clashes with the presentation. You see, Young Terrorists, alongside all the above, wants to be ‘edgy’ and ‘real’. So into discussions about failed states and prison industrial complexes we throw characters with names like (I kid you not) ‘Baby Fucker’, mindless clones who have sex with one another (for… reasons?) and a fight scene that ends in a literal climax for many of the observers. All set in modern day America.
Add to this a panel layout and art style that feels very rooted in late 90’s/early 2000’s music videos and you can see that Young Terrorists wants to be the comic form of Hunter Thompson meets Quentin Tarantino. Does that mix of higher and lower pop culture quite work? Not exactly, but the earnestness within such extreme tonal clashes is intriguing.
With many other conspiracy thrillers out there content to ape 100 Bullets in style, maybe it’s time for a comic that doesn’t take itself as seriously.
*If you’ve never encountered Alex Jones, just imagine the most paranoid conspiracy theorist imaginable, crossed with the mind of a savvy businessman.
Young Terrorists is available from Black Mask.