Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #208 by Drew Barth

Ending at the Ending

Apocalypse stories abound. The world ends in one of a dozen different ways and people need to live through it. But what’s most significant between these stories is the timing of them. When does the apocalypse happen and when is this story occurring? Are we right at the edge of things going bad? Are we a couple weeks in where we can still trick ourselves into thinking things could go back to normal? Or, are we like Once Upon a Time at the End of the World by Jason Aaron, Alexandre Tefenkgi, and Lee Loughridge and teetering at the edge of the end?

We start here at the end of things. Much of the planet is a barren waste with molten plastic and garbage taking up much of the land. Fauna has been warped beyond recognition into strange forms of tentacles and carapaces while greenery simply doesn’t exist outside of the toxic. The world has ended, but there’s still some people around. This is the story of Mezzy and Maceo—a hardened wasteland survivor and a kid who has been living out the end times in a skyscraper filled with candy and cannons, respectively. After Maceo lets Mezzy into his tower, we get a glimpse at just how different their lives have been as well as the similarity they have in their lack of contact with other people. But this tower isn’t something Mezzy could live in and Maceo can no longer standing living alone after talking with someone for the first time in years. 

The final two pages of this first issue may as well be the start of the final issue as we’re flung decades into the future to see Maceo as an old man and the final stages of the world violently churning above. And this kind of bookending of the series creates an interesting dynamic between the reader and the creators. We now have a strong idea of where this entire story is taking us—at least to some extent—after just being introduced to this world and our main characters. It’s giving us the series’ end as a stinger to help draw us back into this world if we weren’t feeling too sure about the beginning. It’s the idea of the final page stinger taken to its logical conclusion: if the final page of the first issue doesn’t hook you enough, why not try for the final moments of the entire series?

At its first issue, Once Upon a Time at the End of the World has set up the ending of its world very well. And the team of Aaron, Tefenkgi, and Loughridge have crafted a story for this world that can’t help but make you want to see more of, even as the characters teeter right on the edge of the end of all things. It’s the kind of apocalypse you want to see through to the end. 

Get excited. Get ending.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.