Hopeless Savages: Greatest Hits 2000-2010, Jen Van Meter (Oni Press)
Check out the line-up of artists who brought Jen Van Meter’s story of the punk family next door to life: Christine Norrie, Chynna Clugston Flores, Ross Campbell, Andi Watson, Becky Cloonan and the current King of Indie, Bryan Lee O’ Malley. If you’re a Pilgrim-lover, the slew of music references, post-manga character art and inventively nifty teenspeak will thrill your heart. If you’re a Pilgrim-hater, you’ll dig the complete lack of video game references and the emotional arcs of the stories. The collection brings together all the published issues of the comic and a few colour stories that fill in key moments in the Hopeless Savage family drama.
Across three complete stories and some one-shots, Van Meter delivers politically-astute, bitingly funny and unsentimental anarchy transplanted from the UK, where Dirk Hopeless grew up, to California, where he moved with his punk sensibility, cockney accent and equally kickass wife, wildchild singer Nikki Savage, and their four children (“Sid and Nancy’s happy ending,” in the words of Andy Greenwald). Rat, Arsenal, Twitch and Skank Zero are – unsurprisingly – fighting their way through a world where they don’t fit, and falling in love on the way.
The stories sum up the pop culture of the last decade, with nary a nod or a wink: these characters are living it. In Book 1, Dirk and Nikki are kidnapped for the ransom of a teenybopper hit that Dirk wrote back before he discovered punk; an unscrupulous producer wants to his boy-band to re-record it – but Dirk gave the rights to his son Rat, who has rebelled against his family’s non-conformism and taken a job with a coffee conglomerate. Book 2 looks behind the scenes of a Behind the Music special, as the Hopeless Savages are caught on camera just as Zero finds the one swoo boy who gets her, and Book 3 transplants Arsenal and Twitch and their boyfriends Claude and Henry Shi to Hong Kong for international spy-jinks and the meeting of the grandmas.
As spiky as the black-and-white art – but with way more shades of grey – the Hopeless Savages and their assorted friends, bandmates, younger selves and local comic store (check out the B-Side where a young Skankabelle makes an invisible friend at Atomic Comics) deserve to be the alternative Xmas Number 1.