The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
Author: Gerard Way and Shaun Simon
Illustrator: Becky Cloonan
Release Date: May 7, 2014 for comic stores, May 20, 2014 for book stores
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: NetGalley DRC
Genre(s): Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Coming of Age
There’s nothing Gerard Way has created that I love more than the Killjoys. I’ve made this obvious before with my retrospective on Danger Days and a post on my own personal blog before issue #3 came out. It’s probably fair to say I love the Killjoys more than I love most people.
Naturally, I jumped at the chance to review the trade, and boy, am I glad I did. Because the trade has given me a whole new appreciation for the story.
The story is a lot more subtle than Way’s first series The Umbrella Academy. Which is saying a lot since it’s a series about punks living in the desert after America is destroyed and staying on the run from an oppressive corporation, but it really is apples and oranges from The Umbrella Academy. The only similarity between the two is their creator and an instance of the word “BOOM” in issue 6 for both Killjoys and Apocalypse Suite
Instead of following a group of people, it follows three individuals on their own course in Battery City and the zones outside of them. The first one is The Girl, who was one of the central characters of the ‘Na Na Na’ and ‘SING’ videos and is the supposed savior of the ones in the desert. She’s been on the run and living on her own since the death of the Killjoys twelve years prior. The second is Blue, a porno droid living in Battery City that is trying to save her lover Red. The third, oddly enough, is Korse, a high ranking soldier of Better Living Industries that killed the Killjoys years prior. The three characters all have different motivations, but they share a common thread of surviving and learning to live without someone.
However, there’s also a big theme of growing up and finding your own way too. Danger Days was special to me because it was all about being a creator and standing up for what you believe in. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys carries that theme too, but it becomes about seeing both sides and finding your own beliefs in it all. Because while Better Living may not be right, neither is Val Velocity in all his aggression.Which brings me to how the trade gave me a new appreciation for the story because it was almost something entirely different.
In the bonus material, Way and co-writer Shaun Simon talk a little about the original story and about the character of Mike Milligram. Milligram was based off of Way’s brother Mikey during recording of The Black Parade and the story of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys was almost a story of Milligram getting his gang back together to go on a road trip to take out the corporation that his friends formed. Mike Milligram become Party Poison and then Val Velocity, but instead of becoming a story about him, the wind shifted during the course of production of the videos and it became a story about The Girl instead.
And thank the Phoenix Witch that it did. When I read about the story it almost was, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as much unless it had turned into a The World’s End type story where Milligram was basically the Gary King of his friends. Comics are already full of stunted man-children who can’t see the grey areas in life. I don’t want to read that story again. The Girl is so much more relatable than this bitter man holding onto something that doesn’t exist anymore. Not just for me, but for the writers themselves.
My only real complaint about the trade paperback is that we don’t get to hear from artist Becky Cloonan about her work on the story or how it affected her. The work she did with Dan Jackson on colors was beautiful and complimented the story perfectly. The fact that her and editor Sierra Hahn didn’t provide to bonus material for a story where two of the three point of view characters are women just breaks my heart. I have hopes for the big hardcover copy though and I will be sure to do a supplemental review of that when I can finally afford to pay for my pre-order. I also miss all the supplemental material that came with the individual issues, but it might be for the best because there was one that implied The Girl was three when she ran away when she says in the second issue that she was six. Continuity headaches are things I do not need.
While generally less bombastic than the the album and videos that preceded it, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is a gorgeous story about surviving the world and finding your own way in it. It makes me kind of glad that this was the substitute for the third video because it allowed for Way, Simon, and Cloonan to tell a bigger story that was there all along.