We Can Never Go Home #4 is the closest this offbeat series about two teenagers (Duncan and Madison) with superpowers, who use them to rob drug dealers, kill abusive parents, and go on the run has gotten to a traditional superhero tale. It indulges in several superhero tropes, like the shapeshifter induced plot twist, two rival organizations (Think the Brotherhood and X-Men with 80s hairstyles and fashion, not tight spandex) recruiting superpowered teenagers, and two characters with the same powers duking it out almost to the death. Even though the action heats up towards the midpoint of the issue, writers Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon and artist Josh Hood continue to burrow into the characters’ feelings like a surgeon performing exploratory surgery on an exposed nerve.
Rosenberg, Kindlon, and Hood open the issue by examining the most important relationships in both Duncan and Madison’s life. We Can Never Go Home #2 showed Madison having an affable relationship with her dad, and they share a nice chat about why she had to leave home before it’s cut short by a shady man with white gloves and a pink tie. Tyler Boss uses the atypical salmon color on the mysterious villain to offset the usually darker palette he uses for the book and helps create an air of mystery to go with Rosenberg and Kindlon’s cryptic dialogue. There is real storytelling economy in these pages that do the heavy lifting of looking at Madison’s emotional core while also giving readers some nice misdirection into finding who the real “bad guy” is in the comic if this question is ever answered.
While Madison is having a heart to heart, Rosenberg and Kindlon explore Duncan’s feelings towards her as he gets to ready to have sex with her for the first time. Through dialogue and Hood’s body positioning, they give an honest portrayal of adolescent sexuality as Duncan’s “skills” don’t really match his desires for a more sexually experienced woman. This experience makes a lot more sense when Rosenberg and Kindlon reveal that Madison isn’t really Madison. Luckily, they avoid recent comics’ (E.g. Secret Invasion, Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men) problems with shapeshifting by using it minimally and not pulling the hardworn twist of Madison being someone else the whole time.
Even though he’s an amoral knucklehead, one of Duncan’s more likable qualities is his genre savviness. Two plot points pay off when Madison is revealed to be the shapeshifter Casey, which are Duncan asking if she had those powers in issue one as well the fact that the impostor doesn’t have her bruised appendix. She is also incredibly cavalier in her attitude and dialogue and ends up playing the morally grey wild card throughout the issue. Her comfortableness with her powers sets her up as an excellent foil to Duncan and Madison and an important piece on the board for the series’ endgame.
Josh Hood’s layouts play an important role in setting the tone for individual scenes in We Can Never Go Home #4, which can turn from sex farce to romantic comedy to superhero slugfest and crime thriller on a dime. The sequences involving cars have wider panels showing the supposed freedom of the open road, which is broken up by cops, Fed, or other unsavories showing up. On the other end of the spectrum is a 25 panel grid, which actually works, because it’s an intimate conversation connecting Madison’s feelings to her superheroes combined with Duncan trying to get her back as a friend and possibly a lover. The small panels with emphatic images of Madison’s glowing eyes or sad face or the tape player with the mixtape that ignited their friendship lets readers take in the dramatic, yet fragile nature of their relationship that is at the core of We Can Never Go Home.
We Can Never Go Home #4 has a vibrant purple and black color palette from Tyler Boss and explores the joy and pain of teenage emotions in an authentic way through Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon’s occasionally brutal and occasionally witty dialogue. The story is held together by Josh Hood’s artwork as he can switch from a last conversation between a father and daughter surrounded by black bars to a teenager having his first real sexual experience in more open space to the chases and fights part of the series’ overarching plot
We Can Never Go Home #4 may tread some familiar superhero and conspiracy beats, but the creative team of Rosenberg, Kindlon, and Boss make them seem fresh through unique panel layouts, different-from-the norm coloring, and nuanced characterization.
We Can Never Go Home #4 is available at your local comics shop or digitally on blackmaskstudios.com on August 26, 2015.