David Lapham’s Juice Squeezers made an incredible debut in Dark Horse Comics Presents. It was the first time in a while that Lapham had written and drawn a story of his own and what a world he created. The basket weaving club is actually a gang of “Squeezers” aka scrawny kids that crawl underground to kill giant bugs. That’s right, giant bugs. Leave it to Lapham to create a world that is strange and yet grounded in reality. This issue begins with our squeezers pulling an all-nighter against some giant dung beetles. The kids emerge by the school dumpsters. What Lapham captures perfectly is how children act. The leader of the group Eric has a crush on the only girl in the group, Lizzy; he’s obviously awkward around her since he attempts to ask her out at the worst possible times. As she’s exiting the small vent hole he begins asking her only to be interrupted by Marko the team goof. Their club administrator Mr. Kettleborne finds them and tells them to clear out before the principle spots them, but not before he informs them that someone has purchased Valley May Farms. Everyone but Lizzy lets out a troubling “Ohhh.” She asks what’s up with the farm and we learn later that the farm is a hot spot for the bugs and the site of a huge bug/human battle.
At first glance you might think that this is Goonies meets Starship Troopers and maybe it’s a little bit of that. For me it’s just something new. At times it was like Aliens only with children. Other times it was like an episode of the Twilight Zone. There’s no one vibe that I get from it, but there is freshness to it.
Lapham creates an incredibly realistic world. It seems ridiculous at times like when Mr. Kettleborne explains the battle in which he lost his eye; it’s almost as if you’re waiting for this to be the delusions of one man, but it’s not. Even the explanation of why the farm was suddenly sold was realistic and believable. Lapham does some incredible world building with this story.
Though the “Squeezers” are a team, this is not a team book per say. Lizzy is the main character; from there it’s like a pyramid of support characters. No one is unimportant, but they all play their roles. Marko was perhaps my favorite character due to the fact that he’s an asshole. I don’t know if he also has a crush on Lizzy, but he’s a disruptive dickhead every chance he gets. At one point he says he’s so tired he’s seeing giant squirrels and really I just wanted them to leave him for dead though he was alive and kicking. Just because I hate him doesn’t mean he’s not my favorite. All of the characters are very realistic and may even remind you of people you know or knew.
I’m a huge fan of Lapham’s artwork. I enjoy his style and it’s great to see him return to illustrating. Seeing his work colored is also a treat and Lee Loughridge does a great job making the colors pop. The small town setting is perfect for the art as it doesn’t require Lapham to spend a ton of time filling the pages with extra buildings and details. It gives the story a seclusion that plot needs and again plays into that Twilight Zone feeling. Lapham’s bugs are pretty damn awesome. They’re not creepy, at least not to me, but they are rather cool to look at. The one page splash of the Dung beetle was very cool and again had a TV show vibe to it.
I really enjoyed this issue. The world that Lapham has created is very strange, but interesting. I can’t get enough of the characters and really the secrets that the town holds. I think Lizzy is going to bust that open and we might find out that the world we know is a bit different… well different and filled with giant fucking bugs.
If you’re a Lapham fan this issue and series are a no-brainer to pick up, but if you’ve never had the chance to read his work this is a great place to start. I had high hopes for this series after its DHP premiere and this first issue didn’t disappoint. Pick it up!
Writer/Artist/Creator: David Lapham Colorist: Lee Loughridge Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/31/13