8.13.2013

The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys #3 [Make Some Noise!]

The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys #3 (Dark Horse): In terms of moving players around the chess board, there’s actually not a whole lot exciting that occurs in this issue from a plotting standpoint, but thematically speaking, it’s a target rich environment, revealing either dense forethought on the part of the creators, or one of those “happy accidents” of the creative process you often hear about. These thematic mantras I invented for myself on-the-fly kept swirling around my brain: “Detritus in The Desert.” “See The Unseen.” “Color is The Key.” “BLI Counts Numbers, Not Emotions.” They played like track titles to a lost soundtrack that existed mostly in my mind. DJ Cherri Cola and a fellow DJ(?)-cum-Ron Kovic-style-VFW (nick)named simply “D” attempt to briefly mentor The Girl (seeing that “unseen” as a tactical advantage). Meanwhile, Korse is on the move in Battery City (with a surprising outcome), while Porno Droids “Blue” and “Red” continue their quest to extend their “life,” of sorts. We also get more of that delicious backmatter that the creative team uses as shorthand to in-story world-build with flair instead of with blatant character exposition. That’s essentially the plot for you, but once one of the Ultra V’s donned some makeshift red lipstick, “Detritus in The Desert” was the mantric track I invented, which then began to play in my head.

The red lipstick is a nothing device in the grand scheme of things, itself a throwaway item. But, out there in the arid desert, it’s a stand-in for something more powerful. Like the empty cans of irradiated soda, the concrete shells of long empty swimming pools, or the seemingly fetishized masks running rampant, the red lipstick is an object imbued with meaning, one that represents a small glimpse of a lost culture of individuality that inspires passion against the homogenized onslaught of control that is BLI. The world is a shadow of its former self. The Fabulous Killjoys is sometimes an exercise in those very shadows. The Girl is a hero (an orphan of a bankrupt culture, to quote Hans Gruber), whether she realizes it yet or not. All of us good J. Campbell-ians know that the hero’s journey requires that people are daring enough to step out from the shadows, leaving  behind the known, plunging into the new, where the outcome is uncertain at best, and long odds at worst. Thus, Korse may step out from the shadow of his employer. The Girl may step out from the shadow of her fate and the aid of her would-be helpers. Blue and Red may step out from the shadow of the daily grind (pun intended) and their former lives. Cherri Cola may step out from his own history and hesitation. Everyone may step out from under the thumb of BLI. It’s worth noting that Battery City is even more bleak than we’ve seen in previous glimpses, with broken down droids littering the streets beside insurgent graffiti, perhaps suggesting the people are collectively ready to rise up. Ready to step out of the shadow of their mass opiates of control, no longer content to do nothing like the wave-head addict adrift in the desert.

Blue and Red’s story lends a feeling of timeless, true love, ironically only exhibited by Porno Droids. Their story and the direction it went harkened back to the words in the shootout. “BLI is a machine. Machines count numbers, not emotions.” BLI can track shots and energy usage and cold efficiencies, but not the warmth of unpredictability that human emotion offers. That’s how the heroes will win. Maybe John and Paul were right, “All You Need Is Love.” The musicality permeating The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys goes well beyond the pedigree of one of the authors. While Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, of course, intentionally drop some references, and insinuate numerous others, it sort of leeches into Becky Cloonan’s post-pop aesthetic as well. By the time Blue pulls her Kirby-Krackling ray gun out, there’s a manic sheen to the scenes that operates with pop glee thanks to colorist Dan Jackson, who’s surely turning in an Eisner-Nominatable performance. I think the first time I remember hearing the word “pop” being thrown around comic book coloring in the Modern Age may have been with Michael Allred. I was never a huge fan of Allred’s stories (blasphemy!), but I certainly appreciate the mastery of otherwise garish coloring he pulled off. With regard to Fabulous Killjoys, the Cloonan-Jackson connection somehow finds that same duality, the loud pop glee, but also a post-apocalyptic grunge to the palette that seems unlikely. Color is indeed one of the keys to the success of this series. Imagining it in black and white is an incomprehensible dearth of vitality. There’s no telling where Killjoys will go next, but I’ll be along for the ride, “pulse beating like a cheetah on speed,” all the way to the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront during next year’s Eisner Awards. Grade A.

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