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The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (Dark Horse, 2013; #1-6)

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By the time The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys takes place, the real battle has already ended.  And the good guys lost.  Now, Better Living Industries rules what amounts to a corporate state, the soulless, pre-programmed Battery City.  In the desert wilds outside its walls, rebels hide, taking up the mission and name of the Killjoys, a group of heroes who died years earlier to save a young girl.  Now, the girl wanders the desert, falling in with the new iteration of the Killjoys and hesitantely joining their plan to march on BLI and end their reign.

If you’ve never read a Gerard Way comic before, the first thing you should know is that they’re weird (in a good way).  And The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is no exception.  By the end, you’ll know what you need to of the world’s history and who is who in it for everything to make sense—but just that.  Despite the richness of the world that he and co-writer Shaun Simon have built, they spend no time on unnecessary tangents, despite the impression that they could fill volumes on what’s going on in this world.  In fact, there’s more Killjoys content out there—a concept album and indie films—if you want more.  

But you don’t need to do the deep-dive for the comic to stand on its own.  Who the original Killjoys were matters less than those who they left behind.  The new Killjoys worship at the originals’ alter, reveling in music and violence and anarchy.  We may never know what their heroes were once symbols of, but we know what those symbols have been turned into.  And that’s the crux of The Fabulous Killjoys—hero-worship, and how it can lose sight of or, worse yet, twist ideals into something as heinous as the villains your heroes fought.  It’s a world where vengeance and violence are tantamount to self-oppression; but there’s an optism to the world, too—that clinging to love will cut through the noise and provide a path to something better.

That optimism is clearest in Becky Cloonan and Dan Jackson’s art.  The world of Killjoys may be dystopian and bleak, but rarely does it look it.  Instead, Cloonan’s lines belong to the kind of pulpy, sci-fi world where good guys beat out evil rulers, and Jackson’s colors are warm and deeply saturated—sometimes imposing, but never bleak.  Their visual language is one of a world that may be down, but is a world of heroes and hope—one where things work out in the end.

If you’ve read and enjoyed other Gerard Way comics—Umbrella Academy or his Young Animal work—then odds are good that you’ll dig his and Simon’s The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.  If you’re unfamiliar, but a ride through a weird world of fallen heroes, post-apocalyptic landscapes, dystopian cities, robot gods, and a witch-goddess who ferries the dead to the afterlife sounds like fun, then good news: I’ve got a book for you.  It helps to have a little patience for feeling in the dark—a sense that is strongest at first and wanes as the story goes on—but it’s a fun, rich read.

Collected in

  • The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (#1-6)

Credits

Writers: Gerard Way & Shaun Simon | Artist: Becky Cloonan | Colorist: Dan Jackson | Letterer: Nate Pierkos of Blambot

Ms. Marvel: Super Famous (Marvel Comics, 2015; #1-6)

Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl? (Icon, 2000; #1-6)