At the End of Your Tether — Part 1 Review
Young love and Extreme Texas feelings
June 26, 2019 at 9:05 am
At the End of Your Tether, Issue 1, is a phenomenal start to what will be a very mysterious, extremely Texas telling of young romance in the 90s. Adam Smith knocks it out of the park with a story setup that will have you checking the release date for Issue 2, and V.V. Glass’s character work and Hilary Jenkin’s emotive brush strokes evoke youth and Extreme Texas feelings in the best possible way.
Before I get into this review, some caveats — At the End of Your Tether is written by Adam Smith, who is an extremely talented and lovely human, and a good friend of mine. We worked on a comic called LoveRunRiot together, and I think the absolute world of Adam and his writing. When I read Part 1 of Tether, my very first thought was “THIS IS GREAT; I CAN’T WAIT TO BRAG ABOUT HOW TALENTED MY FRIEND IS!!!” So, now you know — Adam’s my good pal and I’m here to brag about how great this book is.
I’ve seen At the End of Your Tether billed as a “teen crime noir,” and that feels right to me. The first issue introduces Ludo and Arlo, two Texas teens in the mid-to-late 90s whose relationship gets torn apart by an army parent’s relocation. But Tether isn’t a simple love story — as Ludo finally races towards a reunion with Arlo after a long separation, he learns that Arlo’s been missing for weeks, and the story shifts into high gear.
I’m from Texas, and I deeply appreciate its characterization here — the elotes, the flat scenery, and the struggle vegetarians have in this state. As consumers of popular media, we get so many stories based in New York, LA, etc, and I’m stoked that a small town Texas army base is such an integral part of this story.
While Tether’s evocative portrayal of Texas life gives a layer of depth to character motivations, the characters themselves are the real draw of this story. We see both the origin of Ludo and Arlo’s relationship as well as their lives after they’ve been torn apart (at least, we see Ludo’s), and that parallel makes us root for these kids even more. We see the blissful devotion Ludo has for Arlo dissolve into a directionless anxiety after he has to move away, and the page composition takes on the heavy workload of navigating the reader through those time jumps.
You don’t just root for our protagonists — my favorite characters are Ludo’s parents, Benny and Myriam. Benny is a motorcycle mechanic whose bike shop has failed, and Myriam is a buff, caring super-mom who is a soldier and a boxer. The mutual respect and support that Ludo’s parents have for each other is on frequent display throughout Issue 1, and it’s everything I want in a fictional relationship.
V.V. Glass does an amazing job bringing this whole cast to life. Characters are expressive and dynamic, but the line work is precise and delicate. The panel layouts themselves have the tricky task of jumping between points in time, but they never manage to lose the reader or seem like unnecessary bits of exposition. Hilary Jenkin’s painterly coloring style really shines during some of the most dramatic moments in the issue, especially at the beginning when some unknown (as of yet) folks set fire to a small clearing. The clarity of the brush strokes in the flames is both visually stunning and ominous, evoking a sense of otherworldly power.
The stakes in At the End of Your Tether are relatively small, but it never feels that way — not to Ludo and Arlo or Ludo’s parents, and not to us, the readers. Tether has two more issues left, and I’m excited to see more of Benny and Myriam’s amazing relationship, more Extremely Texas things, and more star-crossed young love.