Kaitlyn's Reviews > Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vásquez
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Mar 24, 2009

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If you’re not a fan of – or have never heard of – Jhonen Vasquez’s work, possibly the first thing you might say while flipping through a copy of this graphic novel is a good, healthy, loud ‘what the HELL is this?!’ And that is perfectly acceptable! But to the seasoned Vasquez fan, this collection of his Johnny the Homicidal Maniac stories is a goldmine of some of his best work in print form. After having ignored this comic to gather dust on my shelf for a good four years, I picked it up again on a whim about a month ago, and the difference a few years of maturity can make is immense.
What one needs to understand, first and foremost, is that ¾ of the time, Jhonen Vasquez does not take his stories completely seriously. In several of his other comics published after this time, he makes this perfectly clear to his readers (who, due to the numerous complaints from him over the process of the comic’s production, apparently still didn’t understand). The second thing that needs to be understood about Johnny before you read it is that it is very, VERY gory, violent, vulgar, and inappropriate. (And it’s a social commentary! What a wonderful combination.) The stories revolve around Johnny, who simply refers to himself as NNY, and his… ‘adventures’ in a mid-sized town. First introduced to us through an interaction with Todd, NNY’s next-door neighbor and probably the most unlucky ten-year-old boy on the face of the planet (whose popularity gained him his own comic series), we learn that Todd (who NNY refers to as ‘Squee’ or ‘Squeegee’, due to the sound he makes when he’s scared) was born into a family that hates him, and that Johnny makes next to no sense. He rambles, having snuck into Squee’s house through a broken window to find Bactine for a cut, scares Todd immensely, and seems to almost have a case of tourette’s with the amount of random outbursts.
The remainder of the book seems to be an almost blatant commentary on the troubles of society (or rather, everything that annoys Jhonen Vasquez), ranging from pedophiles to aliens, poser Goths to bad parenting, relationships to religion. Most of these end rather violently, due to the plot revolving partially around Johnny’s compulsion to kill centered around ‘feeding’ a wall in his basement with blood, under the orders of two Styrofoam cutouts that talk to him, which we learn later contains a horrible, non-discript and still not understood monster that kills NNY himself, sending him to purgatory where he has a (rather blunt) commentary on all aspects of religion, and then somehow lives again, long enough to wrap up the rest of the commentary Vasquez still has to offer.
The language of the comic, as I mentioned earlier, is very vulgar. Very crude, and very vulgar, but for the purpose of the story, the most effective way that he could have gotten his point across. The vulgarity is used very well, which sounds absurd until you’ve had a chance to read and look at Johnny’s character. The rest of the diction that is not excessive swearing is surprisingly varying from character to character. Squee does not have perfect grammar, which is to be expected of a ten-year-old, and the idiotic people whom Johnny seems to have qualms with all have simple, unintelligent diction to the point where you assume that just about anyone other than the main characters is a complete idiot. Johnny, as a contrast, has a surprisingly large vocabulary. It is obvious that he is intelligent, and through close observation, it really shows.
It’s hard to say whether or not it would be a good idea to recommend this book to anybody. The audience is rather pick-and-choose, for those not shopping at Hot Topic or trying to emulate the 90’s goth. While it is perfect for that type, as well as your angsty high schooler, more mature audiences not acquainted with Vasquez’ work might have trouble picking it up in the first place. If you are looking for a crude, uncensored commentary on the evils of society, you have found your comic, but if you still prefer to look past it all, JTHM is probably not for you. If you learn anything from the book, about the people in society and what Jhonen has to say, is that “The best some people can hope for is to better manage their damage.”
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