killyourboyfriend

BY AARON BLOCK

Authors: Grant Morrison and Philip Bond

Vertigo, 2008

Best ebook deal: Not Available

Grant Morrison and Philip Bond’s “Kill Your Boyfriend,” originally published by DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint in 1995 and reprinted (again) last October (likely to capitalize on Morrison’s recent high-profile work on “Batman,” “All-Star Superman,” and “Final Crisis” for DC), is a classic love story.  Girl meets Boy.  Girl and Boy drink, vandalize their quiet English suburb, and toy with nihilism.  Boy kills Girl’s geeky, sex-phobic boyfriend in cold blood while she watches.  Her response: “I think I’m in love.”  Boy and Girl then set off on a criminal holiday involving sex, drugs, art students, teacakes, and, finally, Blackpool tower. 

In an afterword included in the 1998 reprint, Morrision acknowledges that the story has been told in excess in the wake of Natural Born Killers (released just before “Kill Your Boyfriend” was initially published) but claims at the time his only model was Badlands (though he misidentifies it as “Heartland”) Terrence Malick’s 1973 film which fictionalizes Charles Starkweather’s Nebraska-Wyoming killing spree.  “Kill Your Boyfriend” is unlike either Badlands or Natural Born Killers in that it never judges you for taking delight in its protagonists’ bad behavior.  The consequences of The Boy and Girl’s mayhem are rarely acknowledged, and when they are it’s as a barrier to further liberating action rather than a moral or ethical force to be reckoned with.  Instead, Morrison places all value on his character’s decisions.  Even if they choose to kill, to “be the girl the boys all fancy.  The one with the big tits and a big smile and nothing in her head,” at least it’s better than living out the prescribed middle-class existence of the Girl’s parents.

Philip Bond’s pencils are broad, and expressive; just this side of cartoonish, and suited to the story’s brisk pace and dark wit.  Not unlike Howard Chaykin, Bond includes enough detail to anchor the story in a believable early 90’s England, but leaves the characters and action flexible, so that we laugh along with what we might otherwise recoil at.  Colorist Daniel Vozzo parallels the Girl’s shift into hyper-reality with a move from muted greens and tans to a pop-art palette – the bright red of the dress she wears when she becomes an E-driven rave queen, the same shade as her lipstick, is prominent throughout, a standard for everyone ready to drop out with a bang.

But that option isn’t available to everyone.  Because this is Grant Morrison it should be no surprise that the Girl’s decision to become a sociopath is couched in one of the writer’s pet themes: the potential of comics as a medium to render change in the reader’s reality.  But whereas Morrison’s superhero stories are inclusive in their metatextual elements (we can all be superheroes, everyone is part of the story, etc.) “Kill Your Boyfriend” is tantalizing for its distance.  The Girl directly addresses the reader in scene throughout the story, but always with a “would that you could” wink.  When she first dons the red dress in the apartment of an MP the Boy had just killed, she explains, “I’m not real anymore.  I’m just a figment of his imagination.  I’m no longer responsible.  And that means I can do anything.

Alas, we can’t be part of “his” imagination (the Boy’s?  Morrison’s?  Our own?) or opt out of responsibility.  Reading “Kill Your Boyfriend” is a nice consolation prize, though; plenty of the violent mayhem with none of the cleanup.

Recommendations: The Filth (Morrison & Weston), Transmetropolitan (Ellis & Robertson), The Complete Plays (Orton–recommended by the author!)

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