Released as six-part run by Dark Horse Comics, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is a spin-off to the final album by My Chemical Romance. While I am a fan of the album, the idea of taking its fairly more thematic than narrative concept and turning it into a comic book led me to approaching it with a certain sense of apprehension.
Prior to this I had read Gerard Way (MCR frontman) and Gabriel Ba’s The Umbrella Academy series and very much enjoyed it. It’s off kilter sense of b-movie pastiche, superteam and obscure pop culture references perfectly balance a sense of humour with some surprisingly dark themes. This though, just from the cover artwork, seemed to be something else.
With writing duties divided between Way and Shaun Simon there are moments where what Way showed in The Umbrella Academy poke through but, for the most part, the story mixes generic, post-apocalyptic, locations and characters with a generally paper-thin and at times downright confusing plot.
Rather than telling the story of the album it seems to be more bothered by getting in as many track names as possible while also labouring some very obvious moral moments.
The other deals with the inhabitants of Battery City (a 1984-lite development) and specifically a pair of ‘porno droids’ who have fallen in love but one of who’s batteries is failing and Korse a chief Scarecrow of the ruling powers but who is discovered to be in love as well and therefore becomes something of an outlaw himself.
This setting is, it would seem, several years after the events of the album’s loose story and so the original Killjoys, the characters portrayed by the band in the record’s promo material, aren’t really involved and are instead transformed into heroic legends, though we never really find out what made them so heroic.
This is problematic as the main target audience for the book, and certainly myself, would surely rather prefer the story of their heroes rather than some dubious extrapolated other.
Other than this though the main problems with the book are that the tone is hugely imbalanced. It is at once hugely simplistic, particularly in its moralising, but deals with some rather dark issues with Room 101-like torture implied and generally vein of nastiness that, while never as graphic as the likes of Preacher, doesn’t sit with the younger aimed core.
The other problem is in the artwork from Becky Cloonan. While the colour scheme is entirely in keeping with its source with bright and vibrant colours on the Mad Max-esque desert folk and monochrome tones in the city, the actual drawing style is very flat and lacks detail.
If I weren’t a fan of My Chemical Romance I really can’t see there being much to appeal in The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and, while it isn’t really bad, it’s not really very good either and just felt somewhat empty and pointless, particularly when compared to The Umbrella Academy. I can’t help but think if Way had had the time to develop it like he did that other series, it could have been a far better piece of work.