Thee Comic Column #148: We Can Never Go Home

wecannevergohomegreenphantomAbout three weeks ago I walked into The Comic Bug to pick up my pull list and peruse the shelves when Ben – one of the employees there that has a pretty good feel for the type of books I dig – sauntered up to me and slapped a copy of We Can Never Go Home #1 into my hands.

“Check this book out. Think you’ll dig it,” he said and walked stoically away. I looked at the art, the clip-art style image of a cassette on the inside front cover that said “1989” and had a feeling. It’s that feeling I get when expectation meets intuition. This was going to be a great book, I could literally just feel it.

I took my books home and despite the presence of several must-read-right-away titles I’d been jonesin’ to read I tore into Ben’s recommendation directly. And I was, quite literally, floored.

Immediately after finishing issue #1 of We Can Never Go Home I read it a second time, not so much because I felt I missed anything but rather in lieu of having more issues of the book to read. This book had, in the course of fifteen minutes, shot to the top of that must read list. After the second reading I picked up my phone and tweeted the writers, Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon and told them how much I loved the first issue, that I couldn’t wait for the next. They responded thankfully, but in retrospect probably scratched their heads, as four days later when I returned to the Bug to shoot the latest episode of Drinking with Comics I learned that while Ben had handed me the first issue of the book to wet my whistle, issues 2, 3 and 4 were also available, sitting right there on a Front-of-Store display waiting for my greedy little hands to snatch them up. We did the show and I happened to have the next day off work, so I arrived home with a fairly good head of steam, cracked another Lagunitas IPA and dug into what is now my favorite comic of 2015.

By a landslide, might I add. And I have read A LOT of comics in 2015.

The set-up is as simple as it is executed elegantly: It’s 1989 in small town America. A high School loner (Duncan) inadvertently befriends one of the popular girls in his school (Madison) after an altercation with her Captain-of-the-football-team boyfriend that ends with Madison revealing to both that she has a penchant for becoming super strong when anxious or frightened. The jock disowns her and Duncan reveals to her that he too has powers. When Madison questions him as to the nature of these powers Duncan says he can kill people with nothing more than a thought. He also admits that he discovered this by killing his mother.

nev2This admission is a big moment in the issue, and it’s also what makes it my favorite moment in the series thus far. The way Rosenberg and Kindlon have engineered the story Duncan’s confession sets up the biggest “gotta see” in the book because, well, it really doesn’t seem likely that Duncan’s powers are anything more than a way to bond with this pretty girl who would normally never talk to him. And yet we don’t really know if that’s the case either. If Madison has powers maybe Duncan really does too. Or maybe not. Either way, neither know their powers’ nature or origin, and we as the reader are at the mercy of these their word, so we don’t have a solid enough footing to even attempt to predict what is going to happen next. For Madison, finding someone that shares her secret burden definitely lowers her guard and as the story progresses she warms to Duncan; they become friends against the world in what feels like the set-up to Greek-level tragedy. And it’s this fact, the fact that the foundation of their friendship is 100% ambiguous that ratchets up the tension as their situation goes from exploratory friendship to Tue Romance style Us Against the World thriller. The road to hell might be paved with good intentions, but it’s been geo-tagged by desperate people whose lives dissolve in the maddening combination of morale ambiguity and violence. And that’s Duncan and Madison to a “T”.

It might sound like I’ve given a lot away above but that’s definitely not the case. We Can Never Go Home has so many turns in the first four issues that the only word I can find to truly describe the way that it has made me feel is exhilarated. And the fact that Rosenberg and Kindlon, along with Josh Hood, Amanda Scurti, Dylan Todd have tied the book so tightly into the time it takes place in by utilizing and referencing the music of that era makes it all the more effective. They’ve even given us a Spotify playlist to help us understand the head space these two are in.

The 80s have become a very ripe period for storytellers to utilize in order to analyze the world today by juxtaposing it with the world that directly preceded it; the final decade before an exponential jump in the proliferation of technology changed everything, including and most especially the lives of teenagers. This was the final era for the exhilarating and often painful connections that defined kids and the ‘adults’ they would become to be based on purely physical interactions – be they violent or romantic – instead of technological ones. We Can Never Go Home thrives on this, so much so that it pulses with an intensity worthy of archive in the collective unconscious. Hormones, uncertainty and awkward attraction coupled with a truly unique take on super powers make the first arc of Duncan and Madison’s relationship a story that hits the heart and the gut with a closed-fist and the eyes with an electric palette that will inspire a rabid cult following at the least and a major shift in comics at the most.

Here’s to hoping for the latter.


Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Thee Comic Column #148: We Can Never Go Home
  1. […] left over from the vet to pick up the new issue of TMNT, as well as issues 2-4 of my new obsession W...

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