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Jul 8, 2013

ARTICLE - The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #2 advance review

I guess there's an inherent frustration in any adaptation of something thoroughly enjoyed.

In the case of My Chemical Romance's Killjoys concept album, I very much appreciated the story and themes presented. It wasn't a perfect album (not even close), but even if its lows were incredibly low, its highs were just as high, and the album left some room for the listener's imagination; room that I immediately filled with images of a punk cadre facing off with jet packs and ray guns in the desert against an evil petroleum baron.

In a sense, I wasn't far off. As the Dark Horse comic book extension of the story relates, the original Killjoys were musicians waging a kind of artistic and religious guerrilla warfare with a bland, repressive corporate government. So maybe there aren't jet packs, but there are certainly ray guns involved, and a desert wasteland as well. But none of that is really the focus of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.

Instead, we follow a girl who was the original Killjoys roadie, a girl that the Killjoys had claimed would be the savior of mankind. Now, though, she's merely a nomad, and her wanderings through the desert, in search of food for her and her cat, have once again gained her the attention of the followers of the deceased Killjoys.

  There are also a few other threads to the story: a couple of pleasure bots, Red and Blue, that dream of being free; a corporate Scarecrow, an assassin named Korse, who is modeled after Grant Morrison and is dealing with professional troubles spawned from personal qualms; a DJ who is trying to keep the Killjoys followers alive.

  However, I never get the feeling that any of these focal points are nearly as interesting as what I'd imagined this series would be. None of it measures up to the zany fun and excitement I pictured when I first heard DJ Doctor Death-Defying come across my radio waves, like Iggy Pop in Hardware. It's all pretty boring, actually, and, apart from several clever scenes, fairly patronizing and ham-fisted.

  There's a problem with pacing, as well. Not all of the plot threads have to intersect in a story to make characters sympathetic, but certain threads here seem so far removed at this juncture that I'm left scratching my head. Why not hold on to the Red and Blue vignettes until later, or devote a full issue to them? The way their saga is sort of scattered around wantonly in the first two issues of this mini-series makes it difficult to care about either of them, or anyone else in the book, for that matter.

  Overall, Killjoys is a fractured narrative, and while some of that may come off as beat or avant garde, especially with the lyrical, syncopated quality of Way's dialog and narration, even more of it comes across as accidental and amateurish. I get the sense that Killjoys is attempting to paint a holistic representation of its setting, Battery City and the wastes surrounding it, but what it achieves is a tonal and thematic mishmash: a bit of main story here; dribs and drabs of something else there. It's not exactly something you expect from an Eisner-winner like writer Gerard Way, who was also the frontman of My Chemical Romance. In effect, Way ends up giving us a story that not only feels unfaithful to fans of MCR's album but also unfaithful to his own vision.

  Where Killjoys redeems itself a bit, though, is in its visuals. Becky Cloonan, Dan Jackson, and Nate Piekos litter Gerard Way's Battery City with the kind of nuance and wonderful strangeness the scripting lacks. The book's interiors are bright and scintillating with an energy that's completely underutilized by writers Way and Simon.

  Ultimately, Killjoys is worth picking up just for Cloonan and Jackson's art and for Piekos' brilliantly outside-the-box lettering, but if you're looking for a sci-fi story to really sink your teeth into you might think twice about devoting any time to Way and Simon's script. It's a series that seems meant only for stroking the egos of the die-hard MCR fans who might see a little of themselves in Killjoys' superficially punk/goth/emo/hipster caricatures; an overly long and laborious thank you card and farewell to those devout fans from Gerard Way himself, albeit with its own price tag.

  "Bad news, tumbleweeds," indeed.

  The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #2 hits comic stands on July 10, and can also be found on the Dark Horse digital comics app.


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