Set in the world sung about in My Chemical Romance’s fourth studio album Danger Days, True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem #1 tells the story of the original Killjoy, Mike Millimeter. He’s been hinted at in concept art since 2008, but finally, writers Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, artist Leonardo Romero, and colorist Jordie Bellaire tell his epic and tragic narrative. In National Anthem #1, Way and Simon juggle twin narratives with one showing Mike at his peak, rocking a cool car, ray gun, a mask, and a crew of Killjoys and the other one showing his life in a dystopia that has homogenized everything from breakfast cereal to Ramones records. And, of course, Mike rebels against “the Man” even if it means his death.
One of Gerard Way’s most underrated talents is artist curation. For example, take a look at the artist lineup for the sadly dormant Young Animal imprint and see how Nick Derington was born to be a star penciler and nail both the adventure of Batman and the weirdness of the Doom Patrol. His curation skills strike again in National Anthem #1 as Leonardo Romero’s storytelling styles perfectly fits the duel between conformity and non-conformity from crashing on the couch and vegging out to nationalistic television to starting a revolution anew. He uses lots of small panels to show little interactions between characters or memorable moments like Mike thinking back to his abusive childhood. Jordie Bellaire’s color palette adds emotion to this and other scenes with strong color choices like yellow pages for the abuses of the past or a vomit green as Mike grows sick of life as stock shelver with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Ramones.
Gerard Way and Shaun Simon go for a drinking at a fire hydrant style of scripting and plotting that is similar to Way’s work on Umbrella Academy and Doom Patrol although they predominantly focus on Mike Milligram as a character with supporting players acting as window dressing, obstacles, plot points, or getting him to act. Just like the Danger Days album, National Anthem #1 scratches the surface of a futuristic world that is similar to ours with megacorporations and surveillance states, but a bit quirkier. For example, there’s a gang of books on tape addicts in National Anthem #1, and they are one of several gangs that get into one hell of a shootout in the middle of the comic.
This extended setpiece showcases Romero eye for action as he breaks down each gun fight into manageable chunks using smaller panels before going widescreen for a big plot point or a car chase. For the most part, Bellaire uses primary colors for the Killjoys to make sure that readers can see what they’re up to in the middle of the fray. It matches the yellow pops of their ray guns and the red of blood and guts that streak across the panel and even into the gutters as Mike loses control of the situation. There’s a reason why he’s slumped on the couch while the U.S. National Anthem plays on his television, and Romero and Bellaire use visual similarities to transition to this future timeline like a film editor, who wants to make their cuts memorable and appealing and not give the audience a headache.
True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem #1 has futuristic, punk rock worldbuilding with a stellar sense of style. It is also the first chapter of a compelling story arc for Mike Milligram, who goes from revolutionary leader to sad sack cog in a corporate machine. (But there’s yet hope for the masked man with the cool car.) Gerard Way and Shaun Simon’s Burroughs-esque word play, Leonardo Romero’s high energy pencils, and the Jordie Bellaire’s eye popping colors bring it all to life in magical, music video fashion. This one is for the MCRmy, Timothy Leary followers, aging crust punks in cubicle prisons, folks who prefer vinyl to streaming, and anyone who wants to give the middle finger to the current status quo.
Story: Gerard Way and Shaun Simon Art: Leonardo Romero
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Nate Piekos
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review