‘My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies:’ Trade Paperback Review

Stemming from a love for the idea of drug addicts, the souls of artists drawn towards the needle have been an utter fascination for protagonist Ellie following the death of her mother via drugs almost ten years prior. In premise, it’s a standalone narrative with a couple that are introduced during rehab while they recover from drug addiction.

The creative duo of Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker have made a significant splash for the comic book medium. Their first critical darling was the monstrously underappreciated Sleeper. Following their fifteen-year partnership, they have created a singular original graphic novel in My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies that acts to be a novella for their series, Criminal. In the vein of varied Criminal books, Kill or Be Killed, The Fade Out, Incognito, and Fatale, this graphic novel blurs the lines of societal norms and morality.

With the artistically simple style that Phillips has incorporated, an array of expressions engage the romantic narrative that served to underline the noir tone. In every way, this story acts as a tragedy to see how these people were failed as we watch them struggle with dealing in the decisions they’ve made.

Elevating this book further are the gorgeous colors by Jacob Phillips. It deals in varied pastels and cool colors which provide a dynamism that embellishes this unique genre switching story. In many ways, Phillips brings the same realism that Van Gogh once brought to his starry sky. It’s not about the accuracy of the sky, but in the feeling the sky gives our eyes. Here, the paired styles capture the nuanced emotions of these characters. With almost every page being richly layered and brought to life with such grace and depth, this is not a graphic novel to be missed. It brings insight into such human conditions, and more so allows us to see the ramifications of the beauty we see.


Creative Team: Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), Jacob Phillips (colorist)
Publisher: Image Comics
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