Reviewed by Michael Minneboo
I hope you like the song and video, because the song, and the album that it is on, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys are actually the prequel to the comic, written by Shaun Simon and Gerard Way, who is the lead vocalist of My Chemical Romance and comic book writer of interesting stuff like The Umbrella Academy.
(Fun fact: comic book author Grant Morrison also makes an appearance in the music video. He’s the bald bad guy killing the Killjoys.)
The comic picks the story up a decade later. You see, the Killjoys were a team of revolutionaries who lost their lives while saving a mysterious young girl from the tyrannical mega corporation Better Living Industries. Today the Killjoys live on in memory, as BLI widens its reach and freedom fades. The girl is now grown up and in her late teens. A new group of revolutionaries, who live in the desert and get their inspiration from the original Killjoys, think the Girl is their saviour. It’s a role she doesn’t know anything about, but when the story unfolds she will play a pivotal role in the revolution against oppression. The group of outlaws consists of a bunch of narcissistic teens that seemed to be worried more about their hair looking good than the victims they shoot. As characters, these outlaws aren’t very interesting, and as a reader I didn’t care that much about their fate.
The trade paperback The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys collects all the six chapters of the story. Not knowing beforehand the comic was a sequel to a record, I felt kind of lost in the first two chapters, getting to know this Strange New World of Way and Simon, but I got into the groove of the story soon enough and especially enjoyed Becky Cloonan’s energetic art work. Cloonan seems to take some visual cues from manga comics even though she uses the grammar of American comic books.
Basically, there are three storylines that unfold simultaneously. The first storyline concerns the Girl coming of age and finding her destiny. The second storyline is about Korse, the Scarecrow that originally killed the Killjoys (Grant Morrison in the video). He’s a homosexual who has a secret relationship that gets discovered by his BLI employees. For Korse there is no alternative than to go head-to-head with the head of the company. The third story arc is about two porno droids trying to escape Battery City. I found their journey to be the most compelling. Interestingly, it is the droids that show the most human emotions.
Stories such as these always call to mind outstanding literary narratives such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. To me, Killjoys is just another modern-day, blockbuster variation on the dystopian future as depicted in these aforementioned classic novels. The BLI corporation on the surface seems like another version of Big Brother as it runs Battery City, in which regular citizens are like enslaved consumers, living in fear for breaking the law set by BLI. Draculoids and Scarecrows enforce this law. They are scrupulous and scary employees of BLI who wear white masks and heavy artillery. In Battery City everything seems easy and secure. People can erase their emotions through tablets and get off with porn droids. As BLI considers emotion to be a weakness, whoever steps out of line gets neutralised.
It’s not hard to recognize in BLI’s wish to strip citizens of their individuality and making them into mindless consumers, a nod towards the way the Western world is heading today, which makes this futuristic story quite relevant. Nowadays, big corporations seem to be more powerful than governments. Citizens are brought up to be compliant consumers. With our everlasting addiction to our smart phones, apps, the web and other consumer products, it seems that the vision of the citizen-as-robot the comic book makers present us doesn’t seem to be too far off reality as it is.
Having said that, even though the art work looks good and on the whole The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is an enjoyable read, because it plays with familiar dystopian tropes I did feel like I’ve read this story already, many times before.
Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his excellent website, www.michaelminneboo.nl.