Review: A Punk Rock Time Machine For Second Chances In ‘Skip To The End’

by James Ferguson

Jonny Wells was once on top of the world as the bassist for the punk band Samsara. That came crashing down when the lead singer, Johnny’s best friend, Kirk, killed himself. Twenty years later, Jonny is barely making ends meet, working as a bartender to feed his drug addiction. He gets a sliver of hope when he picks up a guitar and gets transported back in time. Can he prevent the tragedies in his past in order to save his future?

Skip to the End has a heady concept that you just kind of go with. You don’t know how or why this guitar is now a time machine, but you don’t need it. This speaks to the powerful storytelling at work. Writer Jeremy Holt drops us into this world and we instantly understand where Jonny is coming from and what his life is like. That’s why it’s easy to get caught up in the very idea that after all this heartbreak that there’s even the faintest possibility that he can fix it. Think about any of the mistakes or regrets you have in your life, however big or small. What would you do to get a second chance to make them right?
It also helps that Skip to the End is a thinly veiled retelling of Nirvana’s story, a band most people, especially those who grew up in the ’90s, are familiar with. Although the parallels are apparent, Skip to the End stands on its own with a unique story. Nirvana might be an entry point to the book, but Holt defines it independently, such that you can most definitely read this without any knowledge of the real life band.

We relive some of Johnny’s biggest moments with Samsara, partially through time travel and also through Emily, his Nar-Anon sponsor. Holt deftly weaves these into the story without it sounding like a history lesson or an exposition dump. Letterer Adam Wollet does a nice job guiding us through all of this. There are times when it seems like there’s a large amount of text, but it flows well in a very conversational nature.
One thing that wasn’t clear to me through Skip to the End was who knows that Jonny was in Samsara. If you were in one of the biggest bands of the ’90s, I feel like more people might recognize you or at least be aware. This is explained away by some comments from folks saying they thought he had died, but in the age of the internet, I’m not sure how much I buy that.

Artist Alex Diotto brings out the inner turmoil and heartbreak in Jonny’s life. You can see how the world has worn this man down in how he carries himself and looks at others. It’s not that he has a chip on his shoulder. It’s more like his shoulder has been broken and he’s just trying to stand upright again. You can see how his demeanor changes when he discovers the guitar’s ability. Suddenly he holds in his hands the power to break out of this cycle of despair.
Colorist Renzo Podesta differentiates the past from the present with different palettes. The modern day is gritty and grimy. No amount of cleaning will scrub some of this dirt off. While the past isn’t that much shinier, it’s powered by hope since Jonny realizes he has a second chance in these key moments. This is spurned on by the guitar which seems to glisten with a strange power from the first time it appears on the page.

Skip to the End delivers a powerful story of regret, hope, and second chances. It’s fueled by the energy of the ’90s punk rock scene, yet stands on its own as a solid book. It’s a real life drama perfectly blended with just the right amount of sci-fi to fill you with wonder. The time travel piece is presented in such a way that you not only believe it outright, but you want to believe it with all of your heart.
Skip to the End from Insight Comics is currently available at your local comic shop, bookstore, and Amazon.

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