Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Blue Monday

Well it's Wednesday, and I'm not that blue, but...
I'm out of practice writing reviews. Thus this review is terrible. Sorry.

Blue Monday: The Kids are Alright
Blue Monday: Absolute Beginners
Written and Illustrated by Chynna Clugston-Major
Published by Oni Press

These two volumes collect the first two Blue Monday miniseries. They're set in the early 90s in California (though all this is used for is to let the characters make references to old music) and follow a bunch of high school students through the trials and tribulations of teenage life. The main character is Bleu L. Finnegan, a music and silent movie obsessed girl who lusts after her substitute history teacher and Adam Ant (amongst other rock stars). Bleu's best friends are Clover Connelly (a foul mouthed Irish girl) and Erin O'Neill. Then there're the boys: Alan Walsh (sort of mod) and Victor Gomez (sort of ska). They're obsessed with porn and girls, yet are too juvenile to ever actually get a date. The girls and boys express their hatred of each other all the time, but they still hang out. Ah, teenagers.

The main plot of The Kids are Alright concerns Bleu's attempts to get tickets to the sold out Adam Ant concert that's happening in a nearby city. Of course there's a healthy dose of pitfalls in the way of her getting tickets and some sideplots (the girls and boys trying to outdo each other in a series of pranks and Bleu practically stalking her teacher).

I must admit that when I first read an issue of this series years ago I had no idea who Adam Ant was (I rectified that situation fairly quickly and his old stuff is good). Also, in the time since I'd first read the issues collected in this trade, I'd forgotten how good this series is. It's fun and funny. The characters sound like teenagers and at least some of them are people I'd want to hang out with. I like Adam Ant and Blur and watching old Buster Keaton movies sounds fun (I wonder if I can find any here?).

Absolute Beginners is as good as the first volume, however it throws out a large portion of the believability that existed in volume one. This time the storyline revolves around Alan and Victor managing to videotape Bleu having a bath and Bleu's attempts to get the tape back after the whole school finds out about it. Now this has never happened to me (as far as I know) but Bleu and her friends are still pretty civil to Victor and Alan. Bleu's embarrassed, but this doesn't seem like it's going to cause any permanent problems. If this has happened to me I probably would have done something violent (and they do a bit I guess) but it's all just too nice.

I have to say though that this complaint comes on looking back on the book, while reading it I didn't really have a problem about this. The reason for this is probably the development of the characters. The characters all seem to like at one another and want to ask them out, but don't know how. They're shy, they're awkward, and when a date actually does happen it's under stressful conditions, made only worse by other people trying to sabotage it. It's the obvious way for the characters and storyline to progress and it's done well.

Then the pooka shows up. Get that damned giant otter out of this teenage romance sex comedy! Damn it! Okay, so it has some funny lines and sort of helps move the plot along, but I would have much preferred this comic without the giant magical animals.

Absolute Beginners also has the neat idea of giving different scenes music tracks to go with them. I didn't have any of the music specifically, but I knew what some of it sounded like and tried to change what I was listening to so it fit the comic better (out goes the electronica, in comes early Britpop). If you've actually got the music I'm sure it's even better and probably helps set the mood.

The art in Blue Monday is manga influenced in the character designs (giant eyes, chibi style character), and it looks really good. Thankfully Clugston-Major isn't going for manga style pacing and each issue of Blue Monday is really dense (going so far as having a comment in a border saying there's a lot of panels). These two collections are digest sized and the art has been shrunk down from the original issues. Thankfully however the art doesn't suffer at all.

As a bonus feature The Kids are Alright features the early Blue Monday strips. It's interesting to see how Clugston-Major's style evolved. The really early strips look, to me, really terrible. They look like a lot of ugly manga style artwork. I can't quite describe what's wrong with it exactly (I am such a great critic), but I really don't like it. Thankfully the art gets better as the strips continue and the art in the actually comic itself is much improved.

I've seen Blue Monday described as Archie with sex. It's not, because, unlike Archie, Blue Monday is actually good. If you're looking for a smart, funny comic about American teenagers it's worth checking out. Now if only those two Blue Monday holiday oneshots I had weren't in Canada somewhere.

Check out part oneand part two of a preview of issue one of The Kids are Alright from

Coming soon: Comic Wars. A nonfiction book about Marvel Comics' bankruptcy and the ownership battle that took place.


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