Writer: Terry Blas
Artist: Claudia Aguirre
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: Surely Books
In Lifetime Passes, a group of teenagers concoct a sinister plan: to score lifetime passes to a local amusement park by bringing a series of elderly people along for a day in the park (and hoping they’ll croak while they’re there, thus earning complimentary passes for the more youthful surviving members of their party).
With a series of clever twists and turns that you won’t see coming, Lifetime Passes offers an incredibly strong overture for the Surely Books imprint from Abrams ComicArts.
While the setup may seem macabre, the follow-through on Lifetime Passes is executed in a more sensitive and tender manner than you might expect. After a fair amount of set-up, which includes establishing the backstory of the amusement park (this takes some heavy expositional lifting, but it will all be worthwhile), the graphic novel begins digging more deeply into the individual characters.
That is to say, the graphic novel starts digging in more deeply into most of the individual characters. While the protagonist of the story, Jackie, gets to better know Phyllis, one of the elderly women who becomes an element in their plan to get lifetime passes, and her friend Daniel, two of the other “friends” who are part of Jackie’s group are sort of douchebags.
But this is wholly intentional, and moreover, while it sounds great on paper to ensure that every character is a fully fleshed-out and thought-provoking individual, as you may have noticed in your day-to-day interactions with humanity at large, many people lack depth and nuance.
When Jackie’s realization that certain members of friend group may be jerks arrives, it’s counterbalanced by the realization that, in spite of the manner in which they met, she can actually build a legitimate friendship with Daniel.
A Ghoulish Plan
Another thing that worked well in Lifetime Passes is the no-punches-pulled nature of the basic premise: a group of teenagers tries to capitalize off an elderly person’s death… and to specifically capitalize off it by receiving a lifetime pass to an amusement park.
While some of the kids may have more sympathetic motivations than others, there’s no way around this plan being outright ghoulish! But Lifetime Passes is well aware of this, and plays to it well, especially when it comes to the excellent ending.
Another manner in which Lifetime Passes excels is the fact that every element of the narrative feels en media res. You get the sense that these characters (and for that matter, this theme park) have been in operation for a fair amount of time before the reader opened the book.
This is true for the main characters like Jackie and Phyllis, but it’s also true for the shallow members of her friend group, as well. Hey, just because you lack personal depth doesn’t mean you haven’t been up to something in your past – particularly when that “something” involves being a reaction video celebrity.
Meanwhile, the art is incredible, with Aguirre especially excelling when it comes to the outfits for the characters. In addition to Jackie’s incredible t-shirt collection, there’s also the fact that she’s prone to re-wearing certain pieces of clothing (some more often than others). This fantastic detail provides both character texture for Jackie as well as verisimilitude for the story – especially since, if you’ve spent any time an amusement park at all, you already know that repeated sartorial decisions are just part of the landscape.
Furthermore, Aguirre’s alacrity for depicting setting once again shines through in Lifetime Passes, in a very different way than it did in the science fiction graphic novel Black Star, but just as effectively.
With an intriguing premise, thoughtfully developed characters, and top-notch follow-through, Lifetime Passes is a must-read graphic novel… Just be sure your safety restraints are securely fastened, and your hands and arms remain inside the ride vehicle at all times.
We wouldn’t want anyone getting hurt, would we?
Lifetime Passes is available now at your local bookstore and/or public library.