Camden is just like many teens: smart, but unmotivated, sounding out his morals, and crushing on his best friend. As such, he’s willing to go along with Jeremiah’s schemes, even as those schemes get more dangerous and Camden is usually the one left to deal with the consequences. But in the end, that’s what friends do, and growing up is learning how to navigate weird situations. The kids are all right.
Lonesome Era is an incredibly nostalgic feeling coming of age story. It’s set in the 90s in a Midwest town, and while this is marketed towards young adult readers, I feel like adult readers will understand the nostalgia of reading this more than teens, because it reflects a different landscape of adolescence than we have now (yes of course there are still many similarities, but this is before cell phones and social media, says this old person reviewer). There’s even something nostalgic about the book itself, because it’s small enough that it feels like reading a comic strip out of a newspaper or a flip book.
There’s a certain innocence to the art style that is reminiscent of classic cartoons and comics that adds to the feeling of nostalgia, especially since the art is all rendered in black and white and not full color like many Western comics. However, the art is still very effective at conveying the emotion of each scene and establishing distinct landscapes, despite being simple lines and basic shading.
In terms of red flags, there are several instances of drug and alcohol use, pretty consistent use of curse words, and occasional slurs. Considering this is a story about two teens trying to find their identities, it’s not terribly surprising they try several tactics, including using words considered taboo and actions equally taboo, but when paired with the art style it can be a little jarring at first. However, since it does use slurs it can be a difficult book for some readers to get through.
As a physical object, Lonesome Era is an unusual size, at only seven inches tall and about the same in length, but thankfully is a fairly thick book so it won’t just fall off the sides of bookshelves or disappear in a book drop. The shape also makes it ideal for readers who want to feel that they’re making quick progress of a book, since it doesn’t take long to get through a set of pages.
In a lot of ways, this kind of story is much-needed because, yes, there’s a character who comes out, but it’s only part of the story and part of a still-evolving identity for that character. It doesn’t feel like just a story about coming out, and it’s not a situation where everything is terrible for that character; life is confusing, and so much happens that it can be hard to process everything. But he finds a way, just like we all do. There’s something very everyman about these characters that’s incredibly effective. I would recommend this book for people still trying to get into reading comics, especially those who like the kind of dark humor of shows like Adventure Time.
By Jon Allen
Iron Circus Comics, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Teen