Weirdly fun and playful, “Sparta, U.S.A.” is a good companion piece to David Lapham’s late, lamented “Young Liars,” as it also took an off-beat approaches to small town life in places. Where “Young Liars” was more sprawling, “Sparta, U.S.A.” is focused on the small town of Sparta slowly coming apart thanks to the return of the legendary Godfrey McLaine, once the best football player the town had ever seen (and this town runs on football), now a rebel set on bringing freedom to Sparta whether they like it or not.
One of the most interesting conflicts in this issue comes in the form of Wanda, Godfrey’s wife, who has reentered his life and is not happy about the army of ex-girlfriends (though ‘girlfriend’ may be too strong a word for the sort of relationship Godfrey had with most of them) living in the house. She’s particularly unhappy about Nora, the ex that Godfrey proposed to last issue, completely forgetting that he has a wife and kids until they reappeared. In this issue, he tries to appease both sides, but is clearly uncomfortable, wanting to break free of his past life, while unsure how far to go.
The issue begins in a very interesting manner with Godfrey explaining how, outside of Sparta, children come from procreation where a woman gets pregnant and gives birth. In Sparta, children are handed out to families by the Maestro (who hasn’t been seen since Godfrey’s arrival). This story sets up the tension of Godfrey’s family and his present life. After all, if his kids aren’t really his, not the way that he knows kids could be, will he continue to feel an attachment to them? He seems to, but how far will that go? He seems more interested in recruiting Johnny Franks, the latest football hero of Sparta.
Lapham paints a bleak picture of an ‘all-American’ town in this book with the culture of rising via scheming and violence, and the attitude that anything is permissible so long as it isn’t made public. Godfrey returns to make the town into better people, while looking inhuman. Not everything adds up yet, but each issue gives a larger view of the overall picture.
As well, Johnny Timmons continues to improve as an artist. His thick, rough inks give the book an unsettling, not-quite-right look. It’s not as rough as previous issues, much more polished. He sometimes relies on photoreference too much with characters looking overly posed, particularly in straight-on views. Godfrey, in particular, looks like Colin Farrell quite a bit in this issue. But, there is something about most characters tilting their heads or leaning to one side a little. No one seems entirely comfortable in the book, no one confident or too sure of themselves.
“Sparta, U.S.A.” continues to be a comic that pushes things, combining fantasy elements with social commentary with gossipy intrigue. It’s unpredictable and confident in its presentation, an entertaining and insane read.