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Blue Monday: The Kids Are Alright

If you had to pick the most unlikely thing to appear in a comic book, I'm pretty sure Adam Ant is somewhere near the top five; right up there with a decently written Superman monthly, and a pair of A Cups.

Leave it to a crank like Chynna Clugston-Major make him the feature of the teenage for-once-not-a-coming-of-age story of Bleu Finnegan: mod/punk rocker-ette who wants nothing more than to get tickets to Adam Ant's upcoming show.

The basic premise is Bleu, lover of all things Buster Keaton and musically British, is trying desperately to get a pair of the prized tickets, all the while dealing with the pranks and Peeping Tom-ery of fellow classmates Alan and Victor, making eyes at the new bohemian substitute teacher, and planning elaborate revenge pranks with her friends Erin and Clover.

This is a teen comedy without the burden of some ridiculous teenage love story thrown in for dramatic quality. In fact, Clugston-Major may have written the most realistic portrayal of the teenage thought process as yet recorded in modern fiction.

The girls (let this mean Bleu for now) are obsessed with fantasy notions of their favorite band front men and singer/songwriters, while the boys do nothing but look at and for pornography, attempt to take pictures of their female friends in various states of undress, and do stupid stupid things to accomplish these goals. And perhaps in the most realistic move: everyone swears like it's a Tourette's Syndrome convention and they got there late. Ahhhhh. That high school spirit fills my heart with such joy….and now fear….and now dread…..let's move on.

This really is a hilarious romp through the not so typical life of Bleu and the rest of her high school cronies. Clugston-Major's writing style is kinetic and the story moves along speedily at times, hitting you with quick joke after quick joke, and then slowing down and letting the slower jokes come out. Bleu is a fun protagonist, as her frustrations and subsequent rants about not being able to get her tickets, or whatever other problem has arisen, are cute and she really does act like a teenager.

Clugston-Major doesn't try to bog down the reader with angst or teen issues (like teenagers have it so hard; which Ecko Red shirt goes with this skirt? I need to know or Bobby will never love me!). Instead, we get a comedy in the vein of American Pie minus the sex with confections.

The art needs a spotlight as Clugston-Major, who also illustrates the tale, has the best grasp of manga art styling outside of Japan that I have ever seen. Her style isn't American art influenced by manga: it's actual manga, or at least as close as an American can get.

She incorporates all the artistic tendencies that define the medium, namely dramatic (and often funny) posing of the characters, exaggerated facial expression, and even a speed line or two. The manga bent to the book matches her pacing beautifully, which is another reason I'm always ready to give extra points to comic creators who both write and pencil their books. Who better to tell the (visual) story than the person who wrote it?

This collection of Blue Monday is impressive to say the least. Not only do you get the original story, but Chynna has managed to collect all the back-up stories that ran in Dark Horse Presents some years ago, not to mention the several pin-ups from artists like Evan Dorkin, J. Scot Campbell, and Adam Warren.

The short stories are just as good as the main story, occurring before the events of the main. Floating. Jesus. Head. Remember these words and laugh repeatedly after you buy the collection.

Blue Monday got picked up by Oni Press and given a fine graphic novel treatment, as Oni continues to rescue and refurnish old comic book works, putting this new collection in a smaller, manga-esque format. What does this mean to you, valued customer? It means that you get the whole kit and caboodle for only $10.95!

But be careful if you're looking for this little gem in a bookstore: due to its size and artwork, it may have fallen in with those pesky Japanese imports. Soon it may develop an unhealthy obsession with karaoke and raw fish.

Robert Sparling

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