(W) Ed Brubaker (A) Sean Phillips
The perception or public opinion on drug use is a struggle between two diametrically opposing forces. There is the obvious damage that it can cause to an individual, and as a result their loved ones (or even casual acquaintances), but then there are the side-effects that draw people to them in the first place. Yes, there is an addictive quality, but there is also the escape that it provides from the world we live in. Then there’s the creative output by musicians, writers, and artists that wouldn’t be possible without their drug use. Bowie, Morrison (both Jim and Grant), Hendrix, Winehouse, Joplin, and countless others have been celebrated for their drug-fueled output. It is that romanticism which is explored in My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips.
Readers follow Ellie, a young woman that has been placed into a luxury rehab clinic and is a bad influence on her fellow addicts. Throughout the narrative, Brubaker and Philips interject vivid memories of Ellie, either involving her own past or the pop-culture figures she’s admired. It’s a great way to provide an “in” to this mindset for those on the outside that are not willing to experiment with drugs. It is also a great way to understand Ellie’s mindset as she manipulates Skip, another teen admitted to the clinic.
Much of the “main” narrative is rather mundane. The deviant behavior of Ellie is predictable, as is Skip ultimately succumbing to her seduction. It is only the twist at the very end, which brings the story back into Brubaker’s wheelhouse of crime stories, that elevates the story from average to “good.” But until that moment arrives, it’s a couple of junkies engaging in stereotypical junkie behavior.
One thing this book definitely has going in its favor is the art, with Sean Philips being as good as he’s ever been. Characters are rendered to be expressive but natural-looking, while the settings are well put together and atmospheric. For instance, when Ellie and Skip meet up after “lights out” in the woods by the rehab clinic is beautifully constructed, but gives off an eerie, unsettling vibe that perfectly suits the situation.
My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies is a fun, breezy read that ultimately falls short of expectations. Granted, those expectations may have been inflated due to the the A-list talent, but the story just doesn’t grasp the reader as effectively as this team’s other works, such as The Fade Out or Kill or Be Killed. It is by no means a bad book, but don’t feel the need to rush out and buy it.