If there is one thing I really, really love, it is a mixed media project and a story that occupies multiple spaces. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is just that: a story that started with an album by My Chemical Romance, evolved into two music videos, and then was finished with a comic book mini-series. Gerard Way (of My Chemical Romance) collaborated with Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan to take this story from the stage to the page, and they have done an exceptional job.
The final My Chemical Romance album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and the two accompanying music videos for “Na Na Na Na” and “Sing” cover the origin story of the Killjoys. They are a group of rebels fighting against mega-corporation Better Living Industries (BL/ind) for control over Battery City. In the videos, the group of four masked men is also tasked with protecting a small girl, who is rumoured to be the one who will save everyone. The girl, known as Only the Girl, is the sole survivor of the original Killjoys after a final battle where the Draculoids and Scarecrows, the henchmen of BL/ind, get the best of the rest of the group, ending the Analog Wars.
The comic book series picks up a few years later, and BL/ind has had complete control over the city and has stripped citizens and robots of their individuality and rights, enforcing strict curfews, eliminating emotions, and forcing citizens to spend hours of their day with headphones on listening to a BL/ind produced feed that is never really explained for the reader. Outside of Battery City, Only the Girl is trying to make it on her own and find her place with the remnants of the Analog War rebels, which is now a group of vain youngsters who party hard and have adopted the name Killjoys.
Gerard Way and Shaun Simon have really nailed the dialogue in this one. Dr. Death Defying, a pirate radio DJ and news source for the Killjoys, has a strong voice and you really hear Way’s unique voice through him. Dr. Death Defying is one of the characters that appears in the music videos, album, and comic books, and Way has appropriated many of the character’s lines in the album into the book. He ties the story together and essentially acts as a chorus, he informs the reader of what is going on in the world in the same way that he is informing the Killjoys.
While Way and Simon have perfected their dialogue and created interesting characters with strange and unique voices, I felt their plot left a lot to be desired. There are essentially four story-lines going on at once. Inside Battery City, we see two robot prostitutes, known as Red and Blue, try to save each other from BL/ind. We also have a plot within BL/ind, following Korse. Korse is a really interesting character, he is the Scarecrow assassin who killed the original Killjoys, but now he is hiding a lover from BL/ind and experiencing all of the sort of emotions he fought and killed to reject during the Analog Wars. Then, outside the city, we have Only the Girl and her personal struggle, as well as the experiences of the new Killjoys.
There are six chapters in this mini-series, and the first four act as a build-up. They establish the conflicts, introduce all of the characters, and get the action moving, but then we are left with only two issues for a resolution of all the little plots they have created, which is really not enough. I wanted to see more about Korse and his lover, and how he evolved from an assassin to a man with someone to protect and care for. I also felt that Only the Girl’s great struggle was wrapped up a little too quickly, and the resolution felt anti-climactic. If the comic had been just a few issues longer, they could have added the sort of depth to the plot that they already afforded the characters.
Even so, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys has a lot going for it. I was impressed with the diversity in this comic. Korse is a homosexual and our heroine is a young girl who is not sexualized in any way. While we do have some sexy characterizations happening with Red, Blue, and the leader of BL/ind, that objectification serving a purpose and is more of a commentary than the writers buying in to the stereotypical tropes we often see female characters shoved into.
Becky Cloonan was the perfect artist for this series. She captures the aesthetic from the My Chemical Romance album and videos, but also inserts her own style. It’s bright and the characters are expressive and cool, and I love the tinge of anime style in her work. Her landscapes are a little on the minimalist side, but there wasn’t a whole lot of time spent on the setting in the plot, so it’s cohesive with the rest of the piece.
This is a great comic that works well as a standalone series, but is even better when enriched with the music and videos from My Chemical Romance. There are many great things happening here, and the only thing I wanted from it when it was finished was a little bit more story. Clearly, Way and Simon were doing something right, because I was hooked and I would have stayed hooked, had it been longer.