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My Own Little Empire By Matt Martin
AdHouse Books – Scott Mills (w/a)
I remember chuckling to myself when I ordered this and thinking, “Yeah, that’s what the comic book industry needs: another twenty-something writing an autobiographical book about growing up in the suburbs in the ‘80s…” But I ordered it anyway, didn’t I? Because Scott Mills does good work and his name counts for something in my book.
My Own Little Empire deals with themes that are common to nearly any adolescent. Being embarrassed by your choice of music, being enamored with your friend’s girlfriend, having to be two different people in two different circles of friends and the confusion that results when these worlds collide: these are sentiments and concepts that are not, by any means, unique to any one time period or locale. The story that Mills relates in the book transcends generational differences.
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It’s a book that I certainly, however, did not expect to so personally identify with. I come from a town of about 1000 people. I was the captain of my high school football team, crowned the homecoming queen my senior year, and was named Mr. EHS (Elverado High School, my alma mater) during senior favorites. Although I didn’t give it much thought at the time, I was apparently one of the popular kids, despite (or perhaps because of, I don’t understand these things) spending most of my weekdays cutting class to sleep on the football field and most of my weekends playing D&D and Nintendo. So when Joe, the character that I’m taking for Mills’ stand-in says, “Lucksburg is…our own little empire and, right now at least, we’re the reigning kings,” I smiled and thought, “Ah, high school.”
Essentially, the book is about one memorable night, a night that features a Morrissey concert, an acid trip, and a “haunted” (read: abandoned) hospital. Mills’ artwork ranges from barely discernable to absolutely gorgeous, with the median quality falling somewhere on the more positive side of the scale, but his flair for realistic dialogue amongst high school seniors never fails to impress.
In its own way, My Own Little Empire reads like those teen movies that we all remember: Fast Times, Ferris Bueller, you know what I’m talking about. Its events are so glaringly typical that they only exist with this sort of fevered, Technicolor glow in the romanticized remembrances of those who lived them; to anyone else, there’s nothing more that needs to be said than “Ah, high school.”