This anthology series about the CBGB rock and roll venue is going to be the sort of thing people will say they read monthly when they really caught it in trade then hunted the singles down on eBay like old 45s. It looks at punk rock history in a punk rock style of comics. Anything goes, art styles change like chords in a free-for-all jam, and the word needs to transcend the scene; it needs to become the voice. It’s been a solid anthology and this month sadly brings it to an end, though happily a good one.
Kelly Sue DeConnick gets the major part of the issue and that’s a good thing because she makes every page count. The tale starts with a young red head, Tex, about to leave New York with her husband and two kids. When a song starts up, one her child is listening to, pivotal memories flood back. New York, and CBGB, have provided highlights within her life. Leaving them is hard, but she realizes that it’s safe and natural to eventually move away from those things that once defined you. It doesn’t mean they won’t still have defined that part of your life forever more. It’s a sweet tale of family and life through location and love.
DeConnick does a sneaky writer-type turn as she starts each scene with a number as she counts along with the song, one to six. It’s a fun little beat to the tale that helps us watch Tex’s life fly by just as fast as she’s seen it go. Blink and you’ll miss the most important stuff, but once one thing is gone the next thing is on you. Life is nothing if not a highlight reel from start to finish. This story feels like the perfect way to end the CBGB love and it wraps up the vibe of this series well. It kisses us goodbye and promises to never forget us.
The last story works as a coda to the entire enterprise, though for me it’s not quite as effective. Lieb’s story is about an agent from the future being sent back into CBGB to collect data and catalogue what the place was like. He comes from what seems a sterile future and while he finds the little music box relatively unremarkable at first he soon warms to its human glow. It’s a touching tale but it is missing a certain something.
Having the narration come from this pragmatic lead makes the entire tale feel empty. Describing CBGB in anything but poetry and promises does not capture the mood that permeated the scene. It might describe the literal aspects but those were not what made the venue what it was, there was something more to it than that, something ethereal. Something you could only ever feel, not capture. For this, the tale seems to miss a beat but it does show us the inevitable future; a time where no living veterans of this musical shrine will be around to communicate exactly what it was. We’ll only have echoes of experiences, and this comic series.
CBGB comes to an end and it’s been a fun ride. This issue has a very solid and sweet send off via DeConnick, even if it does overstay its welcome with the final tale. The art here is expressive and varied and to have experienced this mix tape of creators and stories has been a pleasure. If you like music, this comic should be great for you but if you like experimental comics, pages that try something different with structure and form, then this series is for something you should be sampling. CBGB, it’s been emotional.