First issues are all about the set-up; about hooking the reader, investing them in the protagonist and cast, and establishing the thematic core of the narrative as quickly as possible in a relatively short storytelling window. Marilyn Manor ticks all those structural boxes, immersing the reader in the life of its lead character – President’s daughter Marilyn Kelleher – and in an alternative 1981 that, despite being a bizarre sidestep in history, also feels strangely familiar from a 2019 social perspective.
With the President and the First Lady away on official business, their rebellious daughter is “home alone” at the White House. It’s the 1980s so what would be more in keeping with the spirit of the era than throwing a massive house party for the young movers and shakers of the day? With her friend Abe (who appears to be possessed by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln) in tow, it’s an impromptu celebration that will lead to hidden passages in the White House, long buried secrets and a seemingly neverending stream of cheeky pop cultural nods and winks…
Magdalene Visaggio and Marley Zarcone’s new IDW miniseries doesn’t bear the Black Crown logo but fans of the imprint who pick up this opener will be unsurprised to realise that it’s edited by Black Crown’s Shelly Bond because it’s bursting with the same chaotic energy and seductive weirdness that has come to characterise the line. Visaggio’s story barely pauses, chucking out defiantly ostentatious oddness and throwaway ’80s nostalgia in equal proportions, all ready to be explored further in the issues to come. Zarcone’s art, meanwhile, has the same synthesis of visual clarity and riotous teen attitude that was such an important factor in the success of Shade the Changing Girl from DC’s Young Animal.
On the one hand there’s a retro charm to the book that ensures it reads like a darker, deranged version of an Eighties Brat Pack movie but on the other it feels steeped in contemporary issues. The coming-of-age motifs are always bubbling away but there are recognisable ideas of identity, image and obsession with profile apparent that have a relatable currency to them; the 1980s becoming a reflective, metaphorical landscape and providing a prescient social commentary on the future it will shape. Marilyn’s parallels with her namesake are particularly intriguing in that regard.
Irma Kniivila’s colours are a huge part of the book’s vibe, capturing the loud, uncompromising spirit of Marilyn and contrasting it with the staid, stuffy officiousness of the political world she finds herself inextricably enmeshed in. There’s a lot thrown at the reader in terms of concepts and plot points in this first instalment and while some of it feels a little disparate at this point the fun, of course, will be in seeing how the creative team pull together all these diffuse elements over the next three episodes. One to watch in the coming months for sure.
Magdalene Visaggio (W), Marley Zarcone (A), Irma Kniivila (C), Jane Heir (L) • IDW Publishing, $3.99
Review by Andy Oliver