Young Hoods in Love

 This item sounded interesting when it came out in 1995, but the $9.95 price tag for a fairly slim volume caused me to balk. Recently my retailer had several copies at half off cover price, so I picked it up. It was definitely worth it at that price, and probably would have been even at cover price.

 It’s a collection of five short stories by Ho Che Anderson, an African-American creator best known in “legitimate” comics for his biography of Martin Luther King, among fans of smut for I Want To Be Your Dog, and among discerning aficionados of superhero comics for his more recent limited series spotlighting the character Wise Son, the Black Muslim leader of Milestone’s Blood Syndicate.

 I remember someone expressing (disappointed) surprise that Anderson was writing and drawing Wise Son: The White Wolf, since they didn’t think he was well suited to a superhero story. No problem, he was told, because The White Wolf wasn’t a superhero story. This is particularly true of the material in Young Hoods.

 The first piece is the one the collection is named after. It portrays an evening in the life of a young couple, lying in bed, taking care of their infant daughter, discussing their relationship, arguing a little about work, and getting ready for a night of… robbing people. The casual banality of it all is a bit unsettling, showing petty crime as just a way of making a living for a young family. And the two characters are believable, ordinary folk. Who’ve found that a night out with a gun is a decent - if risky - living. It’s a good introduction to Anderson’s art, which is not particularly pretty or glamourous, but instead fairly harsh. (Oh, and it includes male and female nudity.) The simple layouts (based on a nine-panel grid) are fairly straightforward, and easy to follow (which is not always the case with him).

 The same cannot be said of “Johnny Angel”, a two-part story which follows. It’s narrated by a dead woman, which places it a little outside the realm of most people’s personal understanding. The layouts and art are often hard to decipher, and following the flashbacks can get a bit confusing. But it’s a haunting story of a search for someone - or something - lost, that draws you in an makes you want to understand it.

This is followed by “The Twilight of Our Years”, a rather creepy - then wickedly funny - short story about a woman visited by two unique senior citizens. Next is “Molly & Madeleine (an urban rhapsody in six pages)” about a young woman trying to fit in, rebel, or something, and a chance encounter with someone who wants to help… or something. Neither offers stunningly profound insights into the human psyche or condition, but they’re both clever and interesting vignettes.

 Most of the last half of the book is taken by “The Jazz Life (or) Portrait of the Musician as a Young Asshole”. This is the most ambitious and involved of the stories. It explores the conflicting feelings of a man torn between two women, a musician torn between two bands… a person trying to figure out who he is, where he belongs and what he wants… someone trying to figure out where he wants to commit himself.

Each of these stories has something unique and interesting to offer. The person who wrote the blurb on the back cover suggests that it’s all about voyeurism, looking in on other people’s lives, particularly the “dirt”. That may be it. All I know is that I enjoyed the peep.

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