The monsters still hide under your bed. You’re told they don’t exist … so you just don’t notice them anymore.
The first issue of Gerard Way and Shaun Simon’s The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem has arrived, and this series was certainly worth the wait.
Earlier this year, Way and Simon announced that they were finally going to publish the story of the original Killjoy, Mike Milligram. Their plans for this comic began in 2008, and a miniseries was even announced in 2009. Although it never came about, the concepts and ideas morphed and evolved into what would become the post-apocalyptic California story behind My Chemical Romance’s album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys and the 2013 comic series that followed. It’s important to keep these concepts separate when diving into National Anthem though, as similarities will be found, but this is an entirely different story.
The first issue of National Anthem lays the groundwork for the premise of the series. We meet our central character Mike Milligram, the leader of the Fabulous Killjoys. Mike’s outfit dates back to Way’s original sketches for the character back in 2008, including the yellow Party Poison mask. It’s fun to see how the various concepts carried over and evolved into the Danger Days version of the Killjoys, such as the fact that his shirt says “bulletproof” and My Chemical Romance would go on to write the line “the future is bulletproof.” It’s also worth noting that the beloved Trans Am exists here as well, because there’s just simply no cooler ride for any iteration of the Killjoys to whip around in.
The rest of the crew consists of Kyle 100%, Animax, Red, and Blue (who appears to be Mike’s love interest). The Killjoys are teenage exterminators that operate in the Unseen and bend reality to keep the world safe, and they’re not the only troubled individuals recruited by the mysterious Mom and Dad (who are depicted early on in the issue as a matching pair of televisions). Things get interesting as we meet the rest of the A.K.A.s, who have gravitated into to niche groups that almost seem to mirror the normal teenage lives they seemingly missed out on — the cool kids, the weirdos, the nerds, the jocks — just … deadlier, and with more ammo. From a distance, one of the members of the Vacation Adventure Society almost seemed to resemble Way’s mascot Lola (though up close, not so much!)
Now that the Analog Wars are over, the A.K.A.s are no longer needed, so they’re decommissioned against their will so that they can forget their lives of danger and battle and live out normal, monotonous existences henceforth. The Killjoys attempt to escape their fate while Blue is bleeding out and there’s mention of the Witch, which means that a version of the Phoenix Witch may exist in some capacity in this world.
We shift from an unknown time in the 90s to a still undetermined date in the 2000s, and the brainwashed Michael Morris wakes up for another day on the grind. At this point, it’s necessary to give kudos to the artistic talents of artist Leonardo Romero and colorist Jordie Bellaire. These two make an incredible package; Bellaire’s intuitive coloring choices flawlessly complement Romero’s art style. There’s also a noticeable shift in the artwork between time periods, because the hayday of the Fabulous Killjoys in the 90s is bold and brightly-colored. When we traverse to the 2000s, oversaturated tones are carried off along with the Killjoy’s memories, but the echos still remain — and they’re beautiful to look at it. This is a comic where you need to go back and appreciate the finer details of every panel once you’ve consumed the story, especially the mesmerizing shift of the color palettes used throughout. Add in Nate Piekos’ skilled lettering throughout, and Way and Simon have put together a killer team to finally bring this story to life.
As the first issue closes out, Mike’s memories of who he really is break through to the surface — and the answer is certainly not a miserable shelf-stocker at a grocery store. He takes off on a mission, which is to be explored in the next issue:
A violent, inhuman police force is hot on Killjoys leader Mike Milligram’s trail as he speeds down the highway on his way to recruit his brainwashed team. One member has become an unassuming middle school teacher, and begins to find strange evidence of how far their enemy’s reach is and their control on reality.
This double-sized first taste of the story of Mike Milligram and his band of Fabulous Killjoys has left us wanting more of this fascinating, gritty, and unconventional story that Way and Simon have been cooking up for over a decade now. The duo have crafted a gripping plot from the get-go, as we’re left wondering what looming threat has crept back into this reality without the A.K.A.s to fight back, where have the other exterminators ended up, and why in the world have all of Mike’s Ramones records disappeared?
Issue #2 of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem will arrive on shelves on November 11.