Published on November 25th, 2015 | by Maggie


The Best Books You Aren’t Reading: We Can Never Go Home

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On the growing list of things I thought I’d seen enough of in comics, “teenagers” and “superheroes” land rather high. It’s the reason I put down They’re Not Like Us. It’s the reason I didn’t finish The Runaways or Deadly Class. It’s why I almost skipped We Can Never Go Home. Oh, what a mistake that would have been.

WCNGH has done what other stories struggled to: deliver a serious story about super-powered youngsters in over their heads.

High school outcast Duncan finds himself keeping a secret for one of the most popular girls in his class after he discovers she has super powers. The burden of keeping her secret along with his own send the two on a brutal, desperate plunge into the unknown.

Rosenberg and Kindlon prove that character development is absolutely crucial in storytelling. While the overall concept isn’t exactly new or original, the team breathes life into the story by delivering believable, well-rounded characters in Duncan and Madison.

Often times in stories with young protagonists, it becomes too obvious that the dialogue is written by an out-of-touch adult who either doesn’t remember being a kid or hasn’t spoken to one in years. The result is a cheesy, stiff teenager that tries too hard to be childlike or current. Think Steve Buscemi’s character on 30 Rock.

How do you do, fellow kids?
Duncan and Madison are a far cry from the sterile Disney channel teenagers we’ve come to tolerate. They have individual quirks, flaws, and interests. They speak as incomplete adults rather than advanced children. Their dialogue bounces off each other in witty exchanges that flow naturally and organically. Duncan’s music taste works to flesh out his character while Madison’s reactions develop hers.

Boring exposition is eliminated through subtleties like clothing choices, body language, and word choice. Down to Duncan’s haircut, you either knew him or existed as him at some point. The biased side of me was sold on this story the moment she saw a Rites of Spring shirt. Needless to say, I’m a Duncan.

We Can Never Go Home
Rosenberg doesn’t hold back on the story’s tone. The naive kids contrast harshly with their dark, surprisingly violent environment. It may be a story about kids, but it’s not necessarily a story for them.

As I said before, the main characters function more like incomplete adults than they do children. It reminds me a little bit of It Follows; younger characters are faced with adult situations and are forced to act based on their inexperience. That dynamic is very present in Home and drives the story. The sheer unpredictability of a person at this age makes the story entertaining and addicting.

The superhuman aspect of the story isn’t overworked. Though it’s an important element of the story, the majority of the arc didn’t evolve around it. Rosenberg doesn’t rely on the superhuman elements of the story to make it interesting, the characters do it on their own. This is a story about Duncan and Madison as people. The fact that he sees and treats them this way is refreshing. The writing doesn’t underestimate the characters or purposely frame them as stupid kids.

Josh Hood’s artwork is reminiscent of cutting edge MTV in the 90s. It’s like a refined Daria. It’s youthful, crisp, and bold. There’s an incredible understanding for palette and tone throughout the series, especially in night scenes. Hood uses tonal negative space and flat coloring to add drama and clarity.

We Can Never Go Home
I appreciate the believable, understated character designs. No need to give Duncan a three foot mohawk or pin-riddled spiked jacket to establish him. No need to overcompensate the characters’ youthful energies through presentation. It allowed me to take the story that much more seriously.

The cultural elements of the story, such as Duncan’s music taste, are incorporated elegantly. It’s not over-the-top, superficial, or annoying. The comic doesn’t try too hard to assert itself in subculture but skillfully serves as an homage to it. It’s genuine and comes from a genuine place. Leave it to a writer like Rosenberg to inject subculture into a story without being heavy-handed.

We Can Never Go Home is undoubtedly one of my favorite stories this year. With its believable, well-rounded characters, sharp dialogue, and heart-pounding action, I’m absolutely hooked. WCNGH is an action-packed, emotional coming of age story that’s every bit as engaging and exciting as The Outsiders. It transcends its target age group, fulfilling everything I ever wanted from a YA story both as a kid and now as an adult.

This really is one of the best books you aren’t reading.

We Can Never Go Home volume 1 hits shelves November 25.

Title: We Can Never Go Home
Publisher: Black Mask
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon
Artist: Josh Hood

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