Review: Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut by Jhonen Vasquez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliant, extremely violent graphic novel that tells the story of a madman (and cartoonist) named Johnny (friends call him Nny), driven by forces he doesn’t understand to keep a wall in his basement covered in fresh blood, lest the demon behind it should break free. Johnny has an affinity for his sweet little neighbor kid Squee, an unlucky little guy whose parents ignore him and leave him at the mercy of the well-meaning but always-terrifying visits from Johnny. The art and the lettering convey an emotional imbalance with energy and wit. I could really almost hear the voices of the characters as I read.

I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of Happy Noodle Boy, which is the comic that Johnny draws, though it did make me laugh a few times.

Really, though, the book is a stylish examination of the pursuit of a more autonomous life. The main character steals the show, naturally (who doesn’t like a smart and effective madman?), but the supporting characters, such as Squee and Devi (the, ahem, “girl who got away,” who really is the girl who got away) and Mr. Samsa (the name given to the cockroach Johnny believes keeps returning to life — “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to kill you again, Mr. Samsa”) and Nail Bunny and the Doughboys — all contribute to a satisfying whole.

The artistic style is a little like Nightmare Before Christmas after everyone involved did a few more hard drugs. There’s plenty of delightful detail in every frenzied panel.

It’s incredibly sick and smart and fun. Perhaps not for everyone, but definitely for me.

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