Book Review: My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies

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Drugs are a real trip man.

Brubaker and Phillips are a known duo in the world of comics, but this is the first work I’ve experienced with them together. I’ve read a lot of Brubaker’s Marvel content and loved it, so when this graphic novel started to get rave reviews from journals and magazines, I figured it was worth a try.

“My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies” tells the story of Ellie, a girl placed in a rehab facility against her will. She gets a crush on Skip, one of her fellow patients, and runs off with him after they’re caught using a vape and are awaiting their drug testing results. She narrates this story, giving justification for her obsession with drugs because every person she’s ever liked, from her mother to celebrities and musicians, was a drug user.

A lot of people have reviewed this book negatively, stating that Brubaker is making drug addiction seem cool. I disagree. I spent the entire novel scoffing at Ellie’s choices and feeling sorry for her. I never got the feeling that Brubaker was insinuating drugs were cool, but rather showing how someone could, especially someone who had been surrounded by it since birth and correlated good memories with drug use. Again I don’t think this is condoning it, merely pointing out why some users feel this way. Ellie thinks drugs are cool and people who use them are creative and interesting, but we, the reader, see Ellie in a negative light because of our understanding of the harsh realities of drug use. Do I think this is some earth shattering, great work? Nope. It’s fine, nothing that blew me away, but I also didn’t think it was terrible in it’s approach to the topic. Considering how the book ends, I saw this more as a commentary on how far people will go when they have an addiction, rather than glorifying it’s usage. No one is happy at the end. The reader feels a sadness for the lives of these characters.

There’s a “twist” within the ending of the book that was interesting as well. I knew something was coming, but not sure what, so when the reveal happens it felt like it made sense to me. One of the downsides to this book is that because of it’s short length, we don’t get a lot of character out of Ellie and Skip, and thus when the twist takes place, I didn’t feel much because I wasn’t emotionally connected to the characters.

I did love the illustration for this and the use of color was nice. The colors were a bit all over the place which I enjoyed since I figured it was a reference to the nature of being on drugs. Overall it was a fine novella, I found it interesting enough, but nothing that would end up on my end of the year list. I would probably give it 3.5 stars.

Title:  My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies
Author:  Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Format:  Hardcover
Pages: 72
ISBN: 9781534308466

Three Descriptors: Melancholy, Bleak, Brooding

 

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