Sequential State – the comics criticism archive of Alex Hoffman

Review: Lovers Only #1 by Cathy G. Johnson, Mickey
Zacchilli, and Sophia Foster-Dimino

The Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF) is thoroughly in the
books at this point, and after two weeks of vacation & work-inflicted internet
exile, I’m finally digging into some of the books I got at TCAF. Last year I
wrote a show recap, and I’m avoiding that this year, other than to say that the
best day of TCAF was the day before the main show opened. This year, Youth In
Decline, Space Face Books, and 2d Cloud had a reading of their show releases at
the dive bar next to The Beguiling, and despite AV equipment malfunction
troubleshot by Ryan Sands, the reading went really well. One of the books at the
reading was Lovers Only #1 published by Youth in Decline in collaboration with
Price Tapes, Mickey Zacchilli’s publishing effort.

Lovers Only #1 is 32 pages of teal and burgundy risograph
comics with a full color cover. Each cartoonist has a short story centered on
the theme of “teen romance.” I think many people look back at high school nostalgically,
remembering the happy memories and sweet things. But teen love is complicated
and hurtful; relationships grow and shatter as people try to find their way
amongst the mess.

Johnson’s comic feels like the dourest of the three in the
book, but it’s also the contribution I found most emotionally impactful.
Johnson keys in on something unique to teen relationships, which is the
corresponding relationship teens have with their parents. Parents’ expectations
of their children shape and ultimately end a burgeoning friendship that Johnson’s
main character has a crush on. Johnson also accesses the emotions surrounding
being confused by those expectations and your own feelings, especially with
regards to mental health, gender, and sexual orientation.

Zacchilli’s comic is complicated with regards to teen
romance – at its core, it’s a story that reminds me of those “which guy/gal do
you like best?” conversations that so often popped up around the cafeteria
table, but it also a story of bullying and exploiting friendship in unhealthy
ways. With Zacchilli’s frenetic style and wry sense of humor it’s also the
funniest of the three comics.

Foster-Dimino ends the book with a comic that avoids the
trappings of “high school” but unlike the other two comics in the anthology, calls upon a very specific time and place. The Killers’
Mr. Brightside plays on the radio as two girls sneak off to make out at the
beach.  Foster-Dimino’s main character is
full of self-doubt and loathing; despite having a very intimate encounter with
this friend J, she seems adrift.

What’s interesting about Lovers Only #1 is how each of the
contributors accesses a very complex and emotionally fraught time in many
people’s lives. These stories all hinge on the turmoil of teen life, the
confusion and uncertainty that seems inescapable during high school. The earnestness
and awkwardness, the growth, the pain, all of that is here in Lover’s Only #1. This
is a bittersweet book worth your attention. Recommended.


Youth in Decline youthindecline is a publisher of comics and zines. You can
find more of their comics at their website and get copies of their artist
monograph series, Frontier, which debuted its 8th issue at TCAF.

Mickey Zacchilli spideretc, Cathy G. Johnson cathyboy, and Sophia Foster-Dimino sophiafosterdimino are cartoonists and illustrators. Here are links to their websites;

Mickey Zacchilli

Cathy G. Johnson

Sophia Foster-Dimino

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