Make no mistake, Young Terrorists #1 is a tough pill to swallow. And it’s meant to be. At 80 pages, it is also quite the horse pill, but that too is with good reason. Writer Matt Pizzolo, in an afterwordwhere he first shares a personal horror story regarding an occasion on which he came under attack from Big Government, says, “These days, I can’t look at news scares that go viral, public humiliations, and even some social media memes without wondering who is behind them … does the money track back to Big Pharma, arms manufacturers, massive agribusinesses? … House Of Cards’ Remy Danton is the new Smoking Man and he’s more terrifying because he’s real … I love a good revenge story. Usually revenge stories are about hunting down some crime family or street gang. Well this is my revenge story … a revenge story against the interconnected lattice of corporations, governments, and white collar jackals who make this world a more and more difficult place to do the right thing. Nothing in this book is true, but it’s all True.”
In crafting his revenge tale, Pizzolo and artist Amancay Nahuelpan go straight for the reader’s throat. They don’t hold back in depicting a midnight shade of the black side of the world most people don’t want to think about, but should. Homelessness, abduction, slavery, torture, abuse, police brutality, and the destruction of the middle class are all addressed under the harsh light of interrogators Pizzolo and Nahuelpan. Good writing and good art should challenge the reader. It should make you think. It should aid in changing your perspective about the world in which you live. Pizzolo and Nahuelpan showcase good writing and good art of the highest caliber in Young Terrorists #1. They decided to make the first issue such a massive tome so they could properly introduce all the important characters, but following issues will shrink down to a more standard 32 pages.
The book opens with a young father pushing a baby carriage, singing to the child within. He is approached by a man in a hooded, black sweatshirt who kills him and runs off with the crying baby. Flash forward 15 years later. An elderly man in suit and tie waits in line with his bodyguards at a coffee shop. He is approached by a woman. They speak mostly in English, but they briefly exchange lines in an Arabic dialect. The man, Gregor Solomon, one of the most powerful men in the world, dies under mysterious circumstances. At the same time, his daughter, Sera, an intelligent and beautiful young woman interviewing to enter Yale, get arrested for having weapons in her locker at high school. Instead of being taken to the local jail, she is taken to a high security military prison where she is beaten and tortured. Thanks to earlier training from her father, she is capable of adapting to her new circumstances and she becomes a hardened, brutal fighter until she is finally able to escape.
Then, Cesar is introduced. He is a young, homeless hitchhiker who, when we meet him, is being forced to perform oral sex on a truck driver to pay for his ride. Cesar steals the drivers clothes while he is showering and then makes a run for it, only to be caught, beaten, and stripped of the clothing. He is now naked and alone on a cold, snowy night in the wilderness. In a fit of despair and madness, Cesar blows up an abandoned fast-food restaurant. Police soon arrive on the scene and begin to beat him, but he is rescued by a man who has the words “Baby Fucker” carved into his chest. Baby, as he is called, hates the police because he was arrested falsely and throne into prison. The cops carved those words into his chest to ensure that he’d be given an extremely hard time behind bars. Several other characters are introduced before Sera and Cesar cross paths in a safe-house run by Sera. Throughout the entire story arc, secret organizations are profiled, clandestine operations are hinted at, and an unknown puppet master pulls at strings Sera seems determined to sever.
Pizzolo’s script is well executed, and, as stated above he doesn’t hold anything back. The opening pages depicting the armed abduction are simply brutal. Pizzolo perfectly orchestrates the scene playing up the happy domestic moment of the father taking his child out for stroll, happily singing to the baby, while the hooded figure approaches silently. This is followed by a short lull as we enter the coffee shop, another scene of comfort and normalcy, only to have it get flipped upside down by the mysterious attack on Gregor Solomon. This formula is followed throughout the book, as the reader is assailed by brutal action, is then given a brief moment to recover, and then is assailed by yet another scene of ruthless cruelty. Again, all this is in an effort to make a point about the state of the modern world. While the title, Young Terrorists, has a tie-in with the story itself, it also describes what the book does too. Terrorism is meant to get the attention of a nation, to let that nation’s people know they are not safe. In the same way, Young Terrorists is meant to get the reader’s attention and let them know they are not safe, or at least not as safe as they think they are. It gets attention by forcing the reader to see aspects of the world they would probably rather continue to ignore. Pizzolo should be applauded for taking this route.
Amancay Nahuelpan’s art is simply beautiful despite the subject matter it portrays. While some artists may have gone with a rough, sketch-like approach to fit in with Pizzolo’s gritty script, Nahuelpan uses stark, black lines and hard edges. Every figure, every prop, every backdrop is clear and precise. This almost gives the effect of looking within the pages of a glossy magazine rather than a comic book, but then that is precisely what Nahuelpan is going for. This actually fits the script perfectly in that it is meant to present all the world’s hardship and nastiness in the harsh light of day. Too much sketchiness and too much shadow would hide what Pizzolo wants his readers to see. A nod should also be given to colorist Jean-Paul Csuka who uses bright reds, yellows, greens and blues to the same effect as Nahuelpan’s drawings. Sera’s nude fight scene on pages 22 and 23 and her first meeting with Cesar in the showers on pages 66 and 67 are excellent examples of how Csuka’s coloring complements and enhances Nahuelpan’s art.
In short, Young Terrorists #1 is a must read for a mature audience. There are things that go on our world that most of us turn a blind eye to each and every day – a case of “If I don’t see it, it does not happen.” Sometimes we need to be reminded that our Western world is not the happy, clean and disinfected, freedom and equality for all place we may think it is. Sometimes, we need a writer, an artist, who will shove the real world in our faces and make us acknowledge it so that maybe, ultimately, we can change it. Kudos to Matt Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan for having the testicular fortitude to produce a title like Young Terrorists.