Review: Rough Age by Max de Radiguès

Earlier last year I took some time to review Max de Radiguès Bastard #1 from Oily Comics. I liked the comic’s flow and Radiguès’ delicate line. Thankfully in 2014 we got a bit more of his work from One Percent Press, a collection of the 2009-2010 L’âge dur, translated as Rough Age. The comic has previously been published in mini form by Radiguès himself, and collected by L’Employé du Moi in 2011.

Rough Age is a series of interconnected stories about the teenagers of a specific class and grade going through high school together. Throughout we see these various characters interact with each other at school and outside of it, their fighting and cheating, their crushes and breakups. Radiguès has a tender sensibility to his work, and the characters, although not all are very likable, are all believable.

And that’s the crux of why this comic works; Rough Age feels true to life. Every struggle seems like the end of the world; a guy plays around the world, hoping that if the next shot goes into the basket, he’ll get the girl – instead, he gets in a fight with a guy and ends up elbowing his crush in the eye right before school pictures. It’s a crisis that feels quintessentially high school. Guys worried about what everyone will think when they find out that their girlfriend in Canada is made up. There are unrequited crushes, conversations about virginity, all of it life-shattering (at least, the high school version of that idea). Radiguès’ simple cartooning and thin line are emotive as ever; in one particularly good scene, Radiguès shows a boy’s delayed reaction to being dumped by his girlfriend. He trashes his whole room, wrecks everything, and ends up as a quivering heap on the floor. The cartooning is a delight.

It’s easy to see how Radiguès set up Rough Age as minis – each page of comics is a standard 6 panel grid except the last page of the mini, which was a 2 panel stinger where a quick joke or punchline would be delivered. The stinger pages are some of the best in the collection, crystallizing stray observances or exposing the foolishness of the characters.

One thing worth noting that I’m not exactly certain how to process: Radiguès’ male characters are all very unique, different faces, head shapes, noses, etc. But all of his female characters have a similar petite olive-eyed beauty. I think it’s noteworthy that Radiguès girls have these large expressive eyes when his boys have pin-dots in comparison.

What Radiguès is delivering in Rough Age isn’t as much profound as it is well-observed. Rough Age is an enjoyable collection of slice-of-life comics that captures the essence of high school, teenage love, and the angst of being caught up in yourself.

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