Posted July 29, 2016 by Drew Bagay in Comics

HIDDEN GEM: Teen Angst meets Superpowers in WE CAN NEVER GO HOME

we-can-never-go-home-01-coverThere’s something weirdly fascinating about teenage love and rebellion. It may be the fact that everybody seems to go through that phase, and that’s probably why it’s a common theme in fiction and literature. But what if you add superpowers to the mix? Teenagers and superpowers have been explored numerous times in the superhero genre. However, We Can Never Go Home from Black Mask Studios takes that concept and takes it to a darker place than what we’re accustomed to. That is, violence, handguns and a slew of bad decisions.

At its core, We Can Never Go Home appears to be standard fare – a traditional boy-meets-girl story mixed with some aspects of coming-of-age. The two juvenile delinquent main characters even exhibit the teenage outcast tropes present in the genre. And it is evident especially in the beginnings of the story.

Duncan, a typical teenager with a rough life, takes out his frustrations by shooting empty bottles on the side of the road. Madison and her boyfriend pull up to the side of the road near Duncan to do some late night teenage love-making. Duncan sneaks in close to the truck to take a peek, but soon gets caught by the couple. In danger of getting beat up by the jock boyfriend, Madison throws Ben through his truck, and in turn accidentally showing her superpowers. Duncan later admits he also has a secret power, and the two form a bond based on their shared secrets.

Although the premise isn’t particularly groundbreaking, what’s fascinating is how Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon take the things that’s been done repeatedly in the genre and somehow give it a refreshing take. While teenage romance is usually charming, We Can Never Go Home has a certain amount of gloom that separates it from the others. It’s violent and bloody most times. And there’s a vibe surrounding the narrative that everything could seriously go wrong at any moment, that lack of hope that looms over the protagonists to even survive this craziness. Because at the end of the day Duncan and Madison are still just teenagers who clearly don’t know what they’re doing and what they’re getting themselves into.

Nevertheless, it’s not without its light-hearted moments. In one scene, Rosenberg and Kindlon makes fun of the superhero trope by making Madison wear different mainstream superheroes. It’s an entertaining breakdown showing the different mindsets and maturity levels of both characters on their situation. They’re still teenagers after all. Moreover, I like to think it’s another commentary on the absurdity of female superhero costumes in general.

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Despite its slow start Rosenberg and Kindlon incorporates some interesting turns in terms of the narrative direction that keeps the story intriguing as it goes along. After the first few issues you’d probably have generated some ideas of where it’s gonna go but it’s not quite what you think it’s going to be.

The premise is decent in itself but what takes We Can Never Go Home up a notch is its art. Josh Hood’s pencils and inks are very reminiscent of Marcos Martin’s style which is a big plus. They’re almost too clean and perfect, which makes it appear flat at times. But the expressive faces and storytelling ability of Hood’s art all make up for it.Moreover, the way Hood incorporates a look of despair in the characters adds much more to the overall vibe.

Hood’s pencils and inks are only half of this title’s powerful art. Amanda Scurti and Tyler Boss’ colors add so much more to make everything come alive. They’re vibrant and never look dull from panel to panel. Using color palettes that get darker every issue is an incredibly smart decision that contributes to the characters continuous descent into desperation and misery. The “indie” vibe its art gives definitely fits with the story it’s trying to tell.

So if you’re looking for some teenage romance with a superpower twist, then Black Mask’s We Can Never Go Home is for you. Be warned though, it’s not a happy story as far as teen comics go. It’s probably best described as a cross between the 2012 film Chronicle and a love-hate story. No happy endings in this one. But with solid art in its side, this title can be a refreshing read in an otherwise tired genre.

Drew Bagay

Drew is a lover of comic books, movies, and all things pop culture. He enjoys crime/thriller/noir fiction, playing the guitar, and taking long walks. He also doesn't like talking in third person.