SKIP TO THE END by Jeremy Holt, Alex Diotto, Renzo Podesta, Adam Wollet, and Tim Daniel
Insight Comics' SKIP TO THE END is a love letter to Nirvana but it's also a love letter to the people who lived past Nirvana. With gorgeous art and sensitive writing, this story captures the exact feeling of replaying a moment over and over in your head. Though the ending and certain characters could've been fleshed out more, SKIP TO THE END is an excellent read.
87 %
Moving and Real

If you’ve ever struggled with PTSD, you know how much the past can consume you. Your mind keeps plunging straight back into the moment of trauma. Sometimes you believe you’re really there, and other times it’s just a nagging thought ruining your day. But either way, that memory is forever present, often more real than the real world. Certainly, this is the case for Jonny Wells, former bassist of the grunge band Samsara and protagonist of Insight Comics’ SKIP TO THE END.

Kirk of Samsara and Kurt of Nirvana

Image courtesy of Insight Comics.

Written by Jeremy Holt with art by Alex Diotto, coloring by Renzo Podesta, and lettering by Adam Wollet, SKIP TO THE END is a love letter to the famous grunge band Nirvana. And the comic does not hide this fact whatsoever. The sad story of Samsara frontman Kirk is nearly identical to the life of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, complete with drug addiction and suicide. However, what sets SKIP TO THE END apart from just a historic retelling is that the story doesn’t stop there. To this day, Kurt Cobain’s death is often glamorized. It was after his death that the term “27 Club” (the club of artists and performers who died at 27) became popular. It’s practically a rite of passage to be known as an artistic genius — live fast and die young.

Venom: A Metaphor for Addiction

However, SKIP TO THE END focuses on the friends and fans of “Kirk” 20 years later, still struggling to recover from the mess he left behind. In particular, there’s Jonny, who hasn’t touched a guitar in years and works at a bar to fuel his heroin addiction. He befriends Emily, facilitator of the local Nar-Anon group, who idolized Kirk in her teen years. Jonny decides to get back into guitar as a way to distract himself as he quits heroin. However, the guitar he uses turns out to have a strange power. It brings him back in time to the memories associated with the songs he plays. Going back again and again, Jonny looks desperately for a way to change the fate of his long-lost best friend. But can he save Kirk or will he just get absorbed into a new addiction in the process?

One Skips Forward To The End; Another Skips Backward

Image courtesy of Insight Comics.

This plot is deeply interesting in many ways. For starters, the time travel elements strongly resemble the PTSD that Jonny struggles with. Previously, he relied on heroin to block out the memories of the past. Now that he’s quitting, however, all those memories are flowing back. Jonny deals with this problem in a pretty typical way, minus the magic.

As a PTSD survivor, I too would constantly relive my memories and play them out differently, looking for the ending where I could’ve prevented everything. I was twisting and turning my past like a kaleidoscope, examining it from every angle. Jonny does this too. He writes notes to examine different points in his friendship with Kirk, seeking out the exact moment where he could’ve saved him.

Ultimately, it’s a tragic story, with multiple characters trying to take responsibility for a death none of them could have prevented. And, without giving too much away, the ending is a big mindscrew. Themewise, I think it works very well with the rest of the story. However, there isn’t enough set up for it, so it felt very abrupt when I was reading it. In my opinion, for an open-ended conclusion to work, the reader needs to have some idea of the possible directions the ending could go in. Otherwise, the reader winds up feeling like they’re not intelligent enough for the story. That’s how I felt with this one. But aside from my issues with the ending, SKIP TO THE END has a gripping story with a lot of emotional truth to it.

Legend of Korra and PTSD

An Icon and the People He Left Behind

SKIP TO THE END does some interesting things with its characters as well. Jonny feels like a real person who’s struggling with a very real illness. Like addicts in the real world, he has periods of time where he’s doing better and periods where he’s doing worse.

His facilitator friend Emily feels like a warm person who you can open up to, but she certainly has her flaws as well. Normally, I love nuanced deconstructions of the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl archetype, which Emily absolutely comes across as. However, in her case, I feel like she gets off a little too easy for some of her mistakes. I wish we could’ve seen more of her life from when she was an addict. That way, her later actions might make a bit more sense.

The final major character, Kirk, is pretty much an enigma. But that’s ok. It makes sense that no one really knows him because, as Jonny learned from Kirk’s suicide, he really didn’t know him. And he doesn’t know what would’ve prevented Kirk from doing what he did. Kirk’s actions as a character feel more like inevitable fate than actual choices, which is definitely how Jonny and Emily see it.

Color, Music, and Memory

Image courtesy of Insight Comics.

Of course, we can’t talk about SKIP TO THE END without discussing the art. Which, by the way, is absolutely phenomenal. I knew I had to read this comic from the cover art alone. Kirk’s giant form, an explosion of color, looming over Jonny’s small, gray figure… it speaks louder than words. The artwork inside does not disappoint either. Diotto gives everyone in the cast a killer grunge wardrobe and puts immense detail into Jonny’s time travel notes in his room.

One of my favorite things, however, is the transition between present and past as Jonny plays his song. The way Diotto’s line art fades into nothingness while Podesta’s colors take over the page lets you know magic is at work here. It’s beautiful and, visually, it looks the way a nostalgic song feels.

Don’t You Dare SKIP TO THE END

SKIP TO THE END is a graphic novel with deep emotional intelligence. For those who’ve struggled with PTSD or addiction, this story captures the experience very well. Both literally and metaphorically with magic and time travel. Though the ending is a bit lacking, SKIP TO THE END can make for great common ground to start a discussion on mental health with friends who might not get what you’re going through. Plus, it’s a gorgeous book. I’d say give it a read.

SKIP TO THE END hits shelves on June 12, 2018. Find your copy here.

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