Dumbing of Age Book Three continues to expand the comic’s cast and plot arcs, and introduces its most serious storyline yet. The third book is called Your Stupid Overconfidence is Nostalgic.
Book One, reviewed here, introduced the main characters, all reboots from an earlier canon. Book Two introduced other characters, and followed up on Joyce’s assault while introducing Ethan Siegal, her new and closeted boyfriend.
Book Three is available for purchase here.
DUMBING OF AGE BOOK THREE: RECAP
Dorothy and Walky wake up, and Dorothy discovers that Walky only has one pair of shoes. He lost said pair when kicking them down the hallway the previous night, and now he has to ask Danny for a pair. Mike seizes the opportunity to embarrass Dorothy, and the truth comes out that she and Walky are now dating.
Ruth mocks Billie during a sensitive moment, and Billie can’t handle it – she yells at Ruth and asks for “some stability”. Ruth’s response is to slam her against a wall, then kiss her. Billie rejects her point blank, understandably.
Joyce and Ethan go on a double-date with Dorothy and Walky, and Dina shows up mostly by chance. After watching Walky and Dorothy be cute, Joyce kisses Ethan – and it’s her first kiss. She and Dorothy talk about their fears and frustrations in the bathroom.
After Joyce and Dorothy come back out into the restaurant, Ethan thanks Joyce as his new girlfriend. Amber and Danny find them, and Amber almost outs Ethan, but instead they have a charged conversation outside. Amber tells Ethan to go tell Joyce the truth, and he agrees. He comes out to Joyce as gay, and it goes mostly well – she’s somewhat intimidated by how normal he looks, but ends up identifying a lot with his desire to avoid temptation. They continue dating, keeping each other off the “path of sin”.
Later on, however, Billie starts to think that something might be wrong. She pulls the fire alarm and breaks into Ruth’s room. She finds Ruth passed out, having drunk herself half to death. They talk, and Ruth reveals that she knows about the DUI that disqualified Billie from the cheerleading squad. She also reveals that her parents were killed by a drunk driver, which started her complicated and terrible relationship with alcohol.
Billie suggests that they quit alcohol together, and after some thought, Ruth agrees.
DUMBING OF AGE BOOK THREE: FRESHMAN FAMILY WEEKEND
The freshmen have their family visit at the end of the first month of the term. Joyce’s family are just as religious as her, which causes problems when they run into Dorothy and her family. Joyce she doesn’t take too kindly to being dragged away from her new best friend, so her family takes it to Jesus.
Amber’s father appears in her room, much to her distaste. After a heated argument, she punches him, and runs. Blaine chases her, but Ruth stops him. She tells Billie to go after him, while she tries to find Amber and check in on her.
Amber, while hiding from Blaine, pretends to be Danny’s girlfriend. Technically, she is – since she and Amazi-Girl are the same person – but Danny doesn’t see it that way. After she impresses his family a little too much, he says they can’t hang out anymore.
Walky’s parents insist on meeting Dorothy, and ignore Sal fairly quickly. When they meet up with Dorothy’s family, Walky manages to impress them by knowing the Dean and Congresswoman DeSanto.
Joyce and Ethan’s family meet each other, and Ethan starts eyeing her older brother Joshua. Joshua leaves before things get more awkward, but Ethan, Joyce, and co. run into Walky and Dorothy’s families at the fountain.
Joyce rebels against her family – and stands up for Dorothy, with Christian scripture. Meanwhile, Ethan and Joshua have a conversation about Ethan’s sexuality – and Joshua’s. As they’re leaving, Joshua texts Ethan a link to their writing site, where its revealed that she’s trans, and her name isn’t Joshua – it’s Jocelyne.
Sal and Walky meet up again, and the truth comes out about Sal’s bitterness against her family. She believes the reason he’s the preferred twin is because he’s whiter.
DUMBING OF AGE BOOK THREE: REVIEW
Dumbing of Age Book Three introduces two of my favorite plot arcs of the comic so far – Freshmen Family Weekend, and Ruth’s suicide attempt.
Freshmen Family Weekend is a climax of sorts. It brings together several plot lines at once, and brings them to a new stage. Walky’s met Dorothy’s parents, but now Sal is challenging him on being the favorite. Joyce has rebelled against her parents; but she’s still trying to ‘fix’ a gay man, and even with his permission, she knows at some level that it’s wrong. And for the first time, the readers see Amber become Amazi-Girl on screen. No matter the reason for Amber’s choices, Amazi-Girl is not healthy.
Dumbing of Age as a comic starts comedically, but with each book becomes darker and darker. Ruth’s suicide attempt – drinking herself to death in a locked dorm room – is a pivotal point for this, as Billie and Ruth’s alcoholism stops being an entertaining black joke and starts having very real consequences on people’s health and safety.
Finally, the plotline I had the most quibble with – Ethan’s sexuality – goes in interesting directions here. While I’m still not a fan of Amber and how she handles things, her self-confessed issues with rage paired with her demanding that Ethan out himself to a homophobic fundamentalist makes it clear that the comic is not giving her a free pass. In turn, Sarah calls out Joyce’s homophobia, and while both Ethan and Joyce seem okay with a loveless relationship, the comic’s stance on it is very, very clear.
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