Life Between Panels

illus. by Ethan Young. 384p. Dark Horse. Apr. 2018. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781506704746.
In this omnibus of Young's self-published webcomics, a semiautobiographical homage to his terrible 20s, aspiring cartoonist Ethan has recently dropped out of art school and is living with his tyrannical father and his well-meaning but overbearing mother, who has multiple sclerosis, in their Upper East Side apartment. He's also fostering 11 cats. Things get even worse when he's dumped by his high school sweetheart and fired from the Humane Society. Soul-sucking freelance gigs tear him away from his true passion: drawing comics about a superhero called Crusader Cat. As Ethan strays further from his creative passions, the world of Catropolis devolves into a postapocalyptic nightmare. Young blurs the lines between real life and fiction as Ethan enters Catropolis to become the hero of his own story. He must find integrity in his art, conquer self-doubt, and fix his increasingly strained relationships. Young's dynamic illustrations are heavily influenced by superhero comics—Ethan imagines himself "hulking out" at his boss and kicking a parking meter that has the face of his ex's new beau. Though the action sequences are entertaining, the moments of introspection are even more effective.
VERDICT While there is some mature language and alcohol use, teens, particularly those interested in the arts, will enjoy this touching depiction of the painful, awkward, but ultimately enlightening journey of young adulthood.–Anna Murphy, Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn

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