"The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon
Illustrated by Becky Cloonan
2013, 162 Pages
Trade Paperback released on May 20th, 2014
There are a whole mess of stories out there that depict a pretty horrible future ahead of us. Whether we get overrun by vampires or dinosaurs or vampire dinosaurs (I'm going to copyright that idea right now) or just blow each other up in a nuclear holocaust, the outlook seems pretty grim. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is another such tale of a dystopian society waiting for us in the years to come, but there's a glimmer of hope in this one.
Written by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, the comic centers on The Girl, a young woman that was saved by a gang called the Killjoys from the evil megacorporation Better Living Industries (BLI). Years later, the Killjoys are dead and gone, BLI has taken over the nearby Battery City, and The Girl is trying to figure out her place in the world. Can she find the power to put an end to BLI once and for all?
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What I didn't realize when I dived into The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys was that this is actually the final chapter of the story. This started as Danger Days, an album from Way's band My Chemical Romance. The Killjoys appeared in music videos for "Na Na Na" and "Sing" with the comic finishing up the overall plot. I wouldn't have known this if it weren't for the afterword provided by both authors. I had no trouble understanding the story without this information upfront. I've since gone back and listened to the album and watched the videos. They serve to enhance the book a great deal.
What's interesting regarding the comic is the title characters barely appear. The book is set some years after they died fighting BLI. Their legend lives on, although it is somewhat misinterpreted by the survivors in the desert outside Battery City. They realize that they need to fight, but don't know why or how. It's the cool thing to do and they want to be cool. Any level of hope that these people would have had has been completely eliminated by BLI. The Girl represents the first glimmer of hope that has been seen since the Killjoys died.
Battery City itself is like something out of Blade Runner or THX-1138. All of its inhabitants are strictly regulated by Scarecrows and Draculoids, which serve as BLI's enforcers. The people are told what to do, where to go, and when to do it. It's a depressing life. This is a stark contrast to the rebellious nature of the desert and the survivors getting by out there.
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Artist Becky Cloonan's design of the Draculoids is rather unsettling. They're shown in white suits with crude vampire masks covering their faces. They reminded me of a futuristic version of Michael Myers from the Halloween franchise. The mask makes them appear soulless and it seems to drive them insane once it goes on their head. A woman is forced to put one on early in the comic and she sees giant spiders coming to attack her instead of her significant other.
The entire world of the Killjoys is pretty impressive. Cloonan bounces between the wide landscape of the desert and the claustrophobic walls of Battery City. The former has no boundaries, but is made up of whatever the refugees could put together, while the latter is broken up into the rich BLI folk up top like the Jetsons, and the rest of society living in the bowels of the city. (This is how I imagine the rest of the people in the Jetsons lived. That's why they had houses that were on giant poles up in the air.) Despite being on a strict schedule with Better Living Industries watching over them, the people in Battery City are living like hobos.
My only real issue with Killjoys is that the end feels a bit rushed. The penultimate chapter builds to a big faceoff between The Girl and BLI, then it's all over in just a few pages. There are pieces of the story that feel unresolved, such as a lost porno droid and a giant robot called Destroya that sort of come out of nowhere in the final act. I would have liked to see more background on BLI and how it rose to power, but I'm not sure that's necessary. You don't need to know that for the Killjoys to fight the power.
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is a true multimedia experience, branching into music, videos, and comics. The trade paperback specifically shows what people are capable of when their backs are against the wall. It reminded me a bit of Orchid, another Dark Horse comic written by a musician (Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine), in that a sliver of hope appears in a young girl set to take on an evil empire and impossible odds.