How would react if you were a teenager who had super powers? I mean, really react? For the past seventy five years, comics have been dealing with stories like this, usually following young people who discover they have abilities beyond those of mere mortals, and ultimately grappling with the decision to either use their powers for good or to use them for evil. But if you were a teenager and had powers, wouldn’t your first reaction really be total fear that your freakish nature would make you a target from “The Man”? And like most teens, wouldn’t your first instinct to maybe be to just…run away from home, which seemed to be the theoretical solution to just about every problem when you were fifteen? We Can Never Go Home, the new series from Black Mask Studios’, takes this idea and tackles it a bit differently, approaching the classic conceit in the way a teenager in the real world might react if they found out they were demigods. As it turns out, their first instinct would not be to put on a cape and tights.
In the first issue of We Can Never Go Home, we’re introduced to our two main characters in the same opening scene. Duncan is your typical lonely, angry, teenaged nerd, who spends his time alone shooting beer cans and pretending they’re the awful jocks who torture him daily in high school, or his own abusive father. One night, while wasting time alone up at the local “lover’s lane”, he spies on the local alpha male jock, Ben, in a parked car with popular girl Madison, trying to make time. She doesn’t seem too interested though, remarking that he “smells like Taco Bell and wine coolers.” When our dude-bro jock catches Duncan spying on them, he decides that he’s gonna kick his ass, but when he pushes aside his girlfriend rather harshly to get to Duncan, he unleashes the beast within, as she exhibits super strength and throws his ass across the road.
Now realizing that Duncan knows her secret, she makes him promise to keep it to himself, which prompts to Duncan to tell her that he too has superpowers, and they’re just as dangerous — he can kill with a thought. He knows this because, when he was younger, he killed his Mom. (no wonder he’s so emo). The two kind of/sort of bond in a The Breakfast Club Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall kind of way, meaning that she likes him, but she isn’t about to hang out with him in front of her peers, who are all mean girls in the style of, well, Mean Girls.
The next day at school, when Ben the asshole jock starts making up stories about Madison to explain how a girl managed to kick his ass, Duncan decides to defend her honor, and gets pummeled into the dirt for it. Of course, all of this results in is Duncan making a mixtape for Madison (and it’s an actual tape, which is really the first signifier that this is set in 1989; the book doesn’t overdo the period detail as a way of hammering home when its set).
When Madison goes to Duncan’s house to thank him for the tape, she catches his drunken father beating him to a pulp, and in a flash of rage, she accidentally kills him. Duncan isn’t too upset by this, as he figures his father was about to kill him anyways, so there’s no love lost there. With his father dead however, he knows that they have to leave town — forever — and thus begins the road trip to get away from anyone and anything that might figure out their secret.
The writing in the first two issues of We Can Never Go Home is rather great. Patrick Kindlon and Matthew Rosenberg instantly create two relatable high school archetypes with Duncan and Madison, who fulfill their stereotypical high school roles we expect them to have, and yet also are shown to have layers beyond that in the great way that people like John Hughes and later Joss Whedon knew how to do. You can’t help but instantly like both of these characters within a mere few pages of their introduction, a credit to the writing team. By the end of the second issue, you’re not only instantly invested in their plight, you can’t wait for the next chapter. The art by Joshua Hood is crisp, clean, and refreshingly uncluttered, which is kind of rare in this day and age. There are elements of the strong, black line work that reminds me of Cliff Chiang, and that’s really not a bad artist to be compared to.
We Can Never Go Home is all about what it might really be like to be a kid and suddenly discover that you have powers, then realizing that nothing in your life will ever be the same again. A mix between ’80s John Hughes and Tony Scott’s True Romance, We Can Never Go Home is instantly addicting and fun to read, and has all the makings of a cult hit for publisher Black Mask Studios.
Rating: 4 out of 5 burritos