By Dustin Cabeal
I’ll save you from the boring “I love Clueless” to speech and just jump right into the question I asked myself the entire time I read the new graphic novel from BOOM! Box/BOOM! Studios…
“Who is this for?”
After reading the entire thing, I can confidently say… I'm clueless, and I wish that were an intended pun, but it’s just the truth.
The story is broken up by the seasons. No idea why exactly other than it makes easy time markers, but it never plays into the focus of the story at all. I’m pointing this out because so many stories use this cheap device so that they can reset the story a bit and it’s just obvious and annoying at this point. No one cares, just go to the next part of the story and leave the seasons out of it… Especially when you’re taking place in Southern California where there are only two seasons “Hot” and “Hey, we actually got rain.”
The book quickly visits the status quo of the movie, the reason being that it wants to blow up the status quo. One of two teachers featured in the movie challenges the class to find who they are going to be in the future and this confuses and distresses Cher. Who is she? She goes on a quest to find herself and ends up losing Josh in the process. Meanwhile, Dionne tells her over and over that her real self is great the way she is, which goes into Dionne’s story of not being listened to or respected.
Then there’s Tai… They had jack all to do with Tai. She inherits an apple farm and has to choose between the apple farm and art school. What could have been a difficult choice and a relatable story about doing what you want and doing what you feel you need to do, ended up having a shallow ending in which both sides worked out perfectly.
That’s the fatal flaw of the entire book, it’s obvious what each girl is going through, and it’s more obvious how it’ll be solved. The answer each time is, it just works out in the end. By the end of the story, the status quo of the movie is re-established making the journey with each character feel pretty pointless. Dionne’s story has moments of greatness, but when it’s rushed back to how it was before… What was the point? What did she learn? Murray learned not to call her woman and respect her… At least that’s what his excessive dialogue tells us, but it’s never shown. It’s just happy ending words to conclude the story.
Reading this gives you the impression of how good the performances were from the movie. Very little of their personality came through, and it ends up reading like the poorly crafted TV show that popped up after the movie and impressed no one.
The artwork is the only saving grace, but even then it misses so many easy marks that it’s hard to compliment it fully. The main issue is that so many of the outfits from the movie are recycled throughout the book. Including Cher’s workout outfit of all things. These characters were fashion gods of the 90s, and now they’re wearing the same old shit? I call bullshit on that. The other problem is when they’re not wearing recycled outfits the character look like Barbie dolls or Sweet Valley High book covers. It misses the mark on capturing the era.
Which goes into my next strange problem with the art, it looks a bit dated. It looks like it’s intentionally trying to capture the art and printing style of the 90s and that’s not something anyone should strive for. The coloring is awkward and has this strange watercolor/extra splashes of paint all over it. In one panel there’s a floor that’s tan, but instead of any texture or detail being added it’s just given weird paint strokes of a darker tan. It’s like that throughout the entire book and it never once was a welcomed visual.
So who is this book for? There are empowering messages for teen girls that now live in 2017 and regard Clueless as a classic. They’re living in a different world and will likely have a different response to this material. The book and styles are intentionally dated meaning it’s for a nostalgic generation that would love to revisit the past, but the story doesn’t capture that past or add anything of particular value to it. It seems like it’s just for fans of the film, but I have to wonder, being a fan myself, if anyone will get anything of value from reading this story. I know I didn’t.
Clueless: Senior Year
Writer: Amber Benson & Sarah Kun
Artist: Siobhan Keenan
Colorist: Shan Murphy
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Box