Mayfield Eight #1
ChupaComics, September 2017
Writer: Tim Larsen
Perhaps writer/artist Tim Larsen lives in New Mexico and has a stack of yellowed, fragile newspapers dating back to 1974, preserved in his dad’s garage by the dry heat. Whatever his source material is, the result of his research is a mesa sandstone original. The stale and mingled fumes of leaded petrol and cheap beer are improbably conveyed by this independently published comic, “Maynard Eight” #1.
Mr Larsen’s copy for his title reads, “Summer 1974 Albuquerque. On the anniversary of his father’s death -and the day he was born, 17 year old Calvin Ryder is propositioned by a friend to go on a road trip to Mexico. Along the way he needs him to take part in a drug deal. Stuck in the crossroads of a life going nowhere, he has the choice to play it safe, or plunge into the unknown.”
An interesting enough premise, with a nostalgic ’70s twist. But this synopsis vastly underrates the opening pages to the first issue. Set even earlier, in the 1950s, the description of the journey of a young man on his motorcycle, burning with enthusiasm to meet his newborn son, is some of the most poignant writing we have encountered. The narrator, Calvin, describes his father’s sprint towards a stretch of highway called the Mayfield Eight, with such finesse that it could be balanced on a wire. Not a word is misplaced. Even the chatter leading to the man’s happy departure from a diner is highly polished: “Hell of a world to bring a kid into,” says a nameless patron, reading about a new Soviet multi-kiloton hydrogen bombs. And then, “I was told there were three events in his short-lived life he was proud of…” It is refined writing.
The result is horrific and sad. Calvin notes that his dad’s motorcycle exploded, leaving a scar on the asphalt which is there “to this day”, and that his dad’s jacket pocket contained a scrap of paper with the single word, “Calvin.”
Your reviewer concluded reading these pages with a deep sigh. This writing is reminiscent of Greg Rucka’s work on DC Comics’ “Batwoman: Elegy” (Detective Comics #854-860, 2009-2010), and specifically, the heart-wrenching moment when the very young Kate Kane looks over her father’s shoulder and sees the bodies of her dead mother and twin sister. The same sense of character definition through trauma, the serrated economy of concept, is plainly manifested in this title.
Calvin ends up being a bored but fundamentally nice seventeen year old fry cook. Calvin is willing to help out the distraught and clumsy waitress simply because he has a good heart. His friend Lenny, a mechanic and drug runner, convinces him to travel to Mexico on the promise of $200, a waiver of the cost of the repair of Calvin’s Honda, and the promise of casual sex with Mexican prostitutes. But Lenny has seriously miscalculated the men he has cheated of two kilograms of heroin:
Lenny is a silver-tongued liar and, it is plain from the introductory pages to this first issue, doomed. Calvin’s prospects are also uncertain. En route to meet Lenny, Calvin extracts some petty revenge on some bikers by tagging their leader in the face with red spray paint. The angry bikers make a reappearance on the last page, leaving Calvin with few options and the frisson of terror.
Boredom and a vaguely formed desire for sex motivates Calvin. Bone-white desperation will certainly replace that in the second issue. It remains to be seen whether his father’s bad luck is an inherited trait.
This surely cannot be Mr Larsen’s first effort at writing comics. This is sure-footed execution of an engaging premise accompanied by honed writing.
The title is available on Kickstarter.