Remember the hot minute in 2010ish when “Sing” by My Chemical Romance was on the radio a decent chunk of the time, and then also in that episode of Glee? Remember the weirdly awesome video for that song, and the one before it, “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”? Okay, so The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is the sequel to those two music videos. It had a lot going for it: Grant Morrison played one of the main villains, the heroes were pulpy and weird without being too Mad Max, and the songs were catchy. Way, Simon and Cloonan just decided to give us the story they wanted and not the one we felt we deserved. The Killjoys died at the end of the “Sing” video, and the comic picks up with the Girl’s story 12 years later, where copycats and iconoclasts have taken over the desert in their names. There are shades of Blade Runner, Akira, and Merry Melodies, so there’s something for everyone.
I don’t doubt that the story of B.L.Ind and the Draculoids and the Killjoys and Dr. Death Defying could have found a comfortable home in comics for a longer stretch than this. It’s an intriguing and rich world that Way, Simon and MCR have created, and there are many stories to be told there. The one that Simon and Way decided to tell makes sense, but not for a six-issue mini series. If the videos for “Na (x 12)” and “Sing” were the first act, they’ve skipped all the way to the third, leaving us to fill in a lot of blanks. To their credit, the dialogue never feels too too expository, but you still have to do a lot of legwork to catch up with the tale. The pacing of the story just feels like it was a ten-issue series, maybe even twelve, that got under-budgeted into six. With three storylines happening all at once that don’t necessarily convene at all, it stretches the narrative pretty thin.
Becky Cloonan’s art in this series was a revelation to me. I will cop to the fact that when I picked up the first issue and thumbed through it, already knowing I would buy it (big Umbrella Academy fan right here), I couldn’t understand why they had gone with someone whose linework was so loose, and whose facial expressions tended towards innocence. But in the world of the Killjoys, loose and innocent is the way they try to live, except they have ray guns. Her style is just serious enough to tell the story in a good narrative sense (and her panels are so well laid-out the whole series. Well done to her, indeed), but it’s also just cartoony enough to put us in this world where people get addicted to the sun’s radiation, or where there are things that are called “Porno-bots” by all members of society. My only beef in the whole series would be that the Girl is intended to be 18, which I didn’t catch on the first read, as I thought she was something like 13. She skews young. It’s nitpicky.
The series also begs to be read in a collection. When I read the floppies, I was lost from month to month, partly because there were so many plot threads, it was tough to keep track of where they had left off the month before. In a trade like this one, it makes for a good cohesive whole. My pacing issues for the story remain, but at least it’s told well enough for 140 pages to keep me reading and enjoying.
My only major gripe with this collection is that some of the editing seems lazy. I don’t know if they are things that would be fixed in the printed edition after the review copy, but it was dumb stuff. “Condemned” is misspelled on a sign in front of a house; Korse’s agent number is printed differently on his ID badge than it is when spoken. It’s the kind of small things that don’t ruin anything by any means, but when taken together, they can chip away at the cohesive world the artists want to build for us to live in for these six issues.
Coming from a My Chemical Romance fan, True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys won’t scratch the itch you’re looking for in terms of more things that feel like My Chemical Romance. But it’s a pretty damn fun comic, and if you’re into dystopian futures, this is one that’s got a good internal logic, and it tells a fun, if sometimes sloppy story.
Writers: Gerard Way, Shaun Simon Artist: Becky Cloonan Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $19.99 – TPB, $79.99 – Limited Edition Release Date: 5/7/14 Format: Collected Edtion