One of the best books of the latest collection in Zainab Akhtar’s curated Short Box has to be Freddy Carrasco’s Hot Summer Nights. Soon to be released to the wider market by Peow Studios, Hot Summer Nights is all about potential, gathering greedily as much experience as you can in one night before the onset of inevitable change.
Set in the late 1990s or early 2000s, Hot Summer Nights revolves around a group of three young men skating, getting high, sweating, and trying to pack in all they can on their last night before they begin high school. There’s a desperation and a freneticism to the narrative, as if, if they are they unable to grab all they can before dawn, they will have missed out on that last vestige of who they are in that moment.
Carrasco wears his manga and street art influences proudly on his sleeve in his cartooning. Wide-open faces dominate each of his characters, at points only denoted through dots for eyes, no noses, no mouths. And yet there is no lack of emotive power in the blankness that consumes the boys’ countenances. Through deft detailing, Carrasco is able to convey a full range of feeling even as he parses things down to their most basic levels. Excitement and jubilation is as easily read on these boys as is confusion and anger. Carrasco is able to pull out all his cartooning tricks to transmit the full gamut of these boys’ reactions and zeal. He trusts his readers to make the connections by giving us the bare minimum with which to fill in the blanks.
But what is most impressive about Hot Summer Nights is it kineticism. So much of this book revolves around movement, even the sweat that drips from the boys’ faces is filled with potential energy. The skating scenes, as Carrasco renders them, are dynamic and fraught with dynamism and locomotion. The reader gets caught up in the action, feeling the breeze rushing across your face as you follow the boys as they bomb down hills and take tight turns on their boards.
There is also a youthful innocence to all the delinquency in which the boys engage. They are conscious of the demands that becoming “men” (or, in this case, Freshmen) will require of them. No more time for laser-shooting action figures or poorly rolled joints. Everything has to be touched, experienced, done by the end of this one night before new pressures are put upon them. As bildungsroman, Hot Summer Nights is that part of the story that occurs in the first act, right on the cusp between nescience and experience, fecund with that which comes next–the inevitable losses and heartbreaks and horrors that make up the rest of having to “grow up”.
Hot Summer Nights is a moment encapsulated, throbbing and seething with the pregnancy of tomorrow. It’s comic book making at its best and a joy to read.
You can pick up a copy of Hot Summer Nights directly from Peow Studios. I promise you, it’s good stuff.