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Sep 12, 2013

REVIEW: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #4

Most great comics have an “oh, crap” moment (as I emphasized in my column about Sci-Fi scope). Sometimes it takes a few issues. Sometimes it’s right there on page one. KILLJOYS #4 waits to give you that gasp until the last BLI advertisement page—a world-building series of fake ads and public service announcements that serve to indicate just how massively influential this “Better Living Industries” has become.

No spoilers on what the “gasp” moment is—although it could be argued that the issue contains several of them, as the corporate monsters seem to gain the upper hand, both in Battery City and in the colorful world of masked outlaws. Androids Blue and Red are headed outside the city, beyond the limits of their batteries. Korse, once a mindless BLI drone, is made vulnerable by having a lover. The Girl puts on a fake punk persona to ride with Val Velocity only to wake up in the middle of the night and find out that he’s off to kill… well, someone important.

The themes are obvious: you’ve got gung-ho hero wannabes so obsessed with being “cool” that they forget what the legendary Killjoys ever stood for. You’ve got a creepy mob mentality, and all the danger that brings. And you’ve got the case of a tie-in record (My Chemical Romance’s DANGER DAYS) that actually adds to the reading experience—because when the DJ’s classic monologue comes back in the pages of this comic for an emergency broadcast, it’s pretty goddamn exciting if you recognize it.

This is not a perfect or transcendent story, but it is a wholly resonant one. The kind of story you want to tell your kids, because the symbols are so glaring and its flawed protagonists are so overdrawn. It’s a paradigm of many comics that have come before it—yet so distilled and perfectly rendered that you can’t fault any of the creators for treading down old paths.

“Batteries don’t bleed and robots don’t cry. It’s a better way. A safer way.” This is a sentiment expressed many times in the pages of literary excellence: 1984, BRAVE NEW WORLD, NEUROMANCER. Good science fiction gives us this android vs. humanoid conflict, and KILLJOYS does so in turn, blasting you with its bold colors, misguided revolutionaries, and poetic DJ beat poetry. It’s not something you’ve never read before, but it’s better than anything you have recently.


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