Review: Clueless: Senior Year
22 years after the fantastic teen comedy that forever changed American slang and one of the best Jane Austen adaptations period was released, writer Amber Benson and Sarah Kuhn, artist Siobhan Keenan, and colorist Shan Murphy return to the world of Amy Heckerling’s Clueless in the Senior Year graphic novel. The book kicks off with Cher having a huge existential crisis thanks to a yearlong class assignment about who she wants to be during her senior year. She tries on a bunch of different outfits (Including one possibly inspired by Alicia Silverstone’s current career as a tree hugger.) and personalities and is out of commission as a queen bee for most of the story.
Benson and Kuhn structure Clueless: Senior Year into four chapters: one for each season, and even better, each chapter is from a different character’s POV. Summer and Spring are from Cher’s, Fall is from Dionne’s, and Winter is from Tai’s. This change in point of view keeps the story fresh and also separates Senior Year from the Clueless film, which was solely told from Cher’s perspective with voiceovers and everything. However, the friendship between the three girls is front and center as this comic easily breaks the Bechdel test even if it has some nice romantic comedy elements, like Tai and Travis being totally adorable.
But it’s nice to see them interact by themselves in a variety of settings like Tai’s great aunt’s apple farm upstate, which she has inherited after her unexpected passing. This is definitely the most emotional chapter of the story with Keenan drawing winsome flashbacks of Tai enjoying the countryside, and Benson and Kuhn slowly telling the love story of her great aunt Ellie and “friend” Edwina. Murphy uses a softer color palette for the basically abandoned farm, and there is a lot more spacing in Keenan’s layouts. There is an idyllic charm to the Frasier farm, and even though Beverly Hills bred Cher and Dionne don’t initially see it, Tai has a tough decision to make between running it and going to art school. Keenan sells it in the sad smiles that Tai has when she’s talking about her great aunt Ellie as well as the difficulty of choosing between the past and future. There’s also the nice bonus of incorporating some more great queer characters into the Clueless universe just like they did with Christian, the classic movie watching, greaser styling gay teen in the original film, who unfortunately doesn’t appear in Senior Year.
Dionne gets to take the spotlight in the second chapter of Clueless: Senior Year, and her running for student body president against her often unappreciative boyfriend Murray is one of the bigger “twists” in the graphic novel. Her debate speech is a mid–1990s pop culture reference masterpiece that starts with the phrase “I’m Batman” and uses the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy’s Jeff’s matching outfits as an example of the student body and their leadership working together instead of using it to showboat like Murray would do. Murray’s constant mentions of wanting to be the king of the school made me crack up along with his extremely misogynist reading of X-Files. He’s a very immature high school boy, and it’s nice to see Dionne put him in his place for once.
Siobhan Keenan’s character and fashion designs are so fabulous (And displayed in many “montage” sequences.) that there should be a Clueless Senior Year coloring book or paper doll set for Cher’s outfits alone. The plethora of outfits tie into a major theme of the story, which is Cher trying to construct an “adult” identity for herself by combining bits and pieces of people she’s seen in TV and read about in magazines plus her own unique personality. Keenan has a knack for quick witted visual humor too like Josh’s reaction to Cher, Dionne, and Tai throwing all their outfits and bags everywhere in his immaculate, spartan apartment when Cher cancels their hotel reservation because she wants to “rough it” as part of her activist phase. Her art is very pretty, but has a range of emotions and doesn’t just coast on its aesthetic.
Even though it doesn’t directly affect the plot, the “mixtape” choices scattered throughout Clueless Senior Year personally helped me get into the headspaces of Cher, Dionne, and Taj. There are the Radiohead songs that remind Cher of his her (now) ex-boyfriend Josh and will put you in a drab mood as soon as the opening guitar riff of “Just” kicks in to the female empowerment tunes by TLC and Veruca Salt that get Dionne pumped to run for president. Tai’s mixtape has more of a nostalgic bent with tunes by Glenn Miller and Fats Domino that set up the vintage flashbacks and the old timey-ness of her chapter. And, like every great teen movie set around a prom, there’s one great dance number that ties into some of the themes of the story while just being plain fun.
Clueless Senior Year certainly isn’t a Monet (This is a compliment FYI.) and gives some amazing character development to Cher, Dionne, and Tai while rocking hilarious, pop culture infused dialogue from Amber Benson and Sarah Kuhn plus some of the most stylish fashions you’ll find in comics from Siobhan Keenan and Shan Murphy. In its references and fashion, Senior Year is very 90s, but its themes of independence, identity struggle, and coming of age are timeless just like the original film.
Story: Amber Benson, Sarah Kuhn Art: Siobhan Keenan Colors: Shan Murphy
Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review