By Ben Boruff
Innocence, as a concept, intrigues me. If innocence if inexperience, then children must be innocent—unless they have experience. But most children do not fully understand the experience they have, which is why juveniles are treated differently than adults in legal proceedings. So the majority of juveniles must be innocent, right? Jonas McCluggage's Follow the Leader does not answer this question, but it does offer several nuanced portrayals of innocence.
Follow the Leader is also filled with restless mobsters and young cannibals.
Again, the concept of innocence intrigues me.
Follow the Leader's second issue reads like a bloody version of a William Blake poem. Depictions of naiveté and purity permeate a narrative that, at its core, is a commentary on youth and acceptance. Larranceville's local park is a carnivorous Neverland filled with hungry Lost Boys.
This issue focuses more on plot than theme, which means that the story moves faster than the first issue. By the end of the first issue, the tone is set and battle lines are drawn, so the second issue spends much of its time filling the story’s framework with narrative plaster. Characters become more layered, and the city of Larranceville evolves from a blurry background to a multifaceted suburban ecosystem. Most importantly, McCluggage dedicates several pages to the cult that lives in the park.
McCluggage humanizes several seemingly “feral” park-dwelling characters, but the ominous “hunger” of the first issue does not disappear. Though readers learn names and backstories of several previously unnerving characters, a sinister presence still flows through this issue. McCluggage peppers the issue with reminders of Larranceville’s oppressive evil: One panel captures the worried face of a battle-hardened mafia leader, and the corner of another panel is inhabited by two yellow eyes and a crooked, belligerent smile.
On its surface, Follow the Leader is a story about the friction between the mafia and a cannibalistic cult, but most readers will find more than escapist entertainment in the comic’s pages. The narrative explores significant issues like longing and innocence, and it does so with an impressive level of empathy. Though the young cultists are ferocious, they are naïve. The mafia is both aggressive and tired. Readers are not coerced into connecting with any specific character. Instead, McCluggage fans the characters out in front of the reader like a deck of cards and says, “Pick one.”
Follow the Leader #2
Writer/Artist: Jonas McCluggage