(THE TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS) KILLJOYS
Writers: Gerard Way & Shaun Simon
Artist: Becky Cloonan
Publisher: Dark Horse
WHAT IS IT?
A comic book sequel to the 2010 My Chemical Romance album Danger Days set in a post-apocalyptic California in the year 2031.
It’s Blade Runner meets Mad Max and Apocalypse Now.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Twelve years after the band of outlaws called the Killjoys were assassinated, the megacorporation they fought against is expanding further into their old turf. The desert locals that idolized the Killjoys take up arms, mimicking their bright colors and punk aesthetic, to fight this expansion.
In the midst of this conflict, the unnamed Girl the Killjoys died to protect learns the truth of her upbringing and must decide whether to use her gifts to maximize her own chances of survival or to join the fight against Better Living Industries (BL/ind).
Meanwhile, the villain of the original story struggles with his morality and position within the system and an android fights for the safety and protection of her sick lover within Battery City, BL/ind’s electric metropolis.
You’d be hard pressed to find a comic with as much kinetic energy and genuine excitement. It makes the most out of its setting and takes its crazier elements in stride while never losing a sense of grounded realism.
The aesthetic is wholly unique and achieves a true sense of counter-culture and punk where other similar titles fall short. It’s a successful blending of Western, Cyberpunk, and Harlequin that shouldn’t work but absolutely succeeds.
Simon and Way handle several plot threads with care and are impeccably paced throughout most of the work. The result is a fictional world that feels cohesive and real.
Characters are colorful but never one-dimensional, something Gerard Way sometimes struggles with in his other comics.
Handles complexity of content and characters well. We know who the good guys are and who we’re rooting against, but it still manages to show some logic and good in the bad guys and a degree of ruthlessness and worrying elements in the people we want to succeed.
Becky Cloonan’s art is stunning. I don’t even have more to say about this. It’s a beautiful book even and especially when it depicts the derelict and dirty elements of its world.
Dan Jackson commands every page with his location-specific, sleek color palette. It’s a big part of what makes the book feel alive and lived-in.
Nate Piekos does an excellent job giving distinct voices to characters through lettering. This is especially apparent in the radio captions that appear throughout the book.
The writing has a wonderful, musical pace to it that makes the book a joy to read and gives the characters an extra layer of personality. This shouldn’t be surprising considering Gerard Way’s musical background.
The book tackles hard topics like poverty, sex work, systemic oppression, and crushing bureaucracy and makes them interesting, harrowing, and relatable.
Gives a genuine and well thought out look into homosexual relationships under a society that views them as degenerate. Not that that’s topical or anything… moving on.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The book is maybe one chapter too short. The ending comes suddenly and certain plot threads aren’t as well fleshed out toward the end as others. It doesn’t kill the experience, but it might leave you scratching your head.
There’s some puzzling character design choices that I’m not sure payoff, particularly the portrayal of the leader of BL/ind as a dominatrix. It doesn’t add much and feels more like an excuse to put a whip and skimpy leather outfit on the page.
There’s two characters that you’re either going to love or feel are obnoxious and wish would go away forever. It won’t make you stop reading the book, but they will overstay their welcome if you don’t like them.
Strong language abound. Not necessarily a negative, but DEFINITELY not for all ages.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
There aren’t many books that tackle hard issues while maintaining a real sense of fun and adventure. Just for that, I think Killjoys deserves the recommendation, but on top of that, the art is gorgeous, the writing is quick and witty, and the world is both fantastical and nails that feeling of “too close to home” that cyberpunk should always strive for.
It’s also presents an interesting interdisciplinary experiment that’s worth looking at if only for its uniqueness. A comic book sequel to a concept album is something most creators wouldn’t try and supporting it when it works positively encourages creative risk taking. In addition, if you liked the original album, seeing the world visually will probably enrich your understanding of the source material and grow your appreciation of the story in all its many forms.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Doom Patrol Vol 1: Brick by Brick by Gerard Way & Nick Derrington
Neverboy by Shaun Simon & Tyler Jenkins
Secret Path by Jeff Lemire
If you like the art:
East Coast Rising by Becky Cloonan
X-Statix by Peter Milligan & Mike Allred
East of West by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Gerard Way – Writer
Name Recognition: Aside from Way’s other venture, he’s well known as the creator of Umbrella Academy, which has been adapted into a television series on Netflix. (Season 2 is coming out soon)
Multitalented: Gerard Way was the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, which was somewhat popular. He’s also an accomplished cartoonist and Emmy award nominated television director.
Way and Gabriel Bá are currently working on the third installment of the Eisner award winning series The Umbrella Academy.
Shaun Simon – Writer
Award Winner: Won the Predators and Editors reader’s poll for best flash fiction story for “Snowman.”
Music Lover: Worked as a keyboardist before starting his work in comics.
Working on a comic series called Collapser with Mikey Way, Gerard’s brother.
Becky Cloonan – Artist
Trailblazer: Worked on DC’s Batman in 2012, becoming the first female artist to draw the main line of Batman comics.
Prolific: Has drawn over 50 books for DC, Marvel, Darkhorse, and other independent publishing houses.
Name Recognition: CBR voted Becky Cloonan the 3rd best female artist and 14th best female writer in comics in 2015.
Dan Jackson – Colors
Prolific: Dan has been coloring as a freelancer for Dark Horse Comics for 23 years. If you’ve read a comic from that publisher, you’ve probably seen his work.
Nate Piekos – Letters
Dream Team: Also worked with Gerard Way on The Umbrella Academy
Founded Blambot.com, a website that provides fonts for comics and other creative media
He’s lettered for most of the big comics publishers and his fonts have been used by Microsoft, The Gap, Six Flags and even movies & TV.
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