Growing up isn’t easy. As if figuring out the person you’ll eventually become isn’t hard enough, you’re saddled with school exams, acne, wait-why-is-hair-growing-there-now experiences, and the most harrowing (and rewarding) journey of all: relationships. Relationships with parents, friends, significant others, ourselves–our youth defines us. Dave Baker and Nicole Goux seem to understand this better than most and capture this confused series of adolescent moments wonderfully in Fever Coast: A Fuck-Off Squad Story.
Following the Los Angeles-based exploits of a group of skateboarding, arcade dwelling, music playing kids –Clark Hobbs, Vanessa “Jimmy” Trujillo, and Megan Tran–Fever Coast drops in on a day in the life of the titular Fuck-Off Squad, showing these characters navigating an incredibly accurately rendered LA, as well as the turmoil in their respective lives.
Told primarily through the POV of Clark Hobbs, the main entry of Fever Coast begins at a women’s basketball game (Clark’s mom coaches and Clark was forced to attend…grades, man). Sitting in the bleachers, Clark likes Instagram post after Instagram post after Instagram post, seemingly meaningless at first, but ultimately looking for an escape. While attempting to find a connection, he’s pressured to keep his grades up, help take care of a grandmother with worsening dementia, and live in a questionable neighborhood (Freddie seems like an incredibly sweet drug dealer, though.) While shouldering these responsibilities, Clark finds time to fuck-off (sorry) with friends.
Fleshing out these characters is Dave Baker’s mile-a-minute dialogue, punctuated by pop culture references and clever captions (“Ironically doesn’t love Hentai” is an all-timer). His teenage characters feel real, which is no simple task. Writing young characters’ conversations is a tightrope act. Some dialogue can come off as pandering, some can remove you from the story (the kind where you think, “Okay, some old white dudes in a boardroom meeting DEFINITELY created this fake teen-speak.”). Luckily, Dave Baker resides in neither camp. His characters talk over each other, trade playful barbs, and most importantly, request their Maniac Cop t-shirt from their lovers. They feel like real people, with real interests, and not cardboard cliche archetypes.
Not only do these characters read authentically, they look the part, too. Nicole Goux captures an authentic LA (Diverse characters and…hey, Family Arcade! Amoeba!) and captures the gang’s day to day life in visually inventive ways. The highlight of the book (at least to me) occurs while Hobbs and company are getting some R and R done at the arcade. The gang gets rendered in 8-bit glory through a lens of Street Fighter, Donkey Kong, The Simpsons Game and more, all alternating between styles while carrying their conversation. It’s a fun sequence that only the medium of comics and Nicole Goux can deliver.
That all being said, Fever Coast isn’t completely flawless. Although this story (and all of the Fuck-Off stories) can be read as stand-alone, this one feels like it ends abruptly. Sure, there’s (great) supplemental material after the main story, but I can’t help but wonder if new and old readers will want more–this is the final Fuck-Off chapter. But who knows? Maybe this is Baker and Goux’s meta-thesis for the whole series; sometimes in life (especially adolescence), we don’t get closure. But hey, at least we have our friends.