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‘Killer Queens’ TPB (review)

Written by David M. Booher
Art by Claudia Balboni
Published by Dark Horse Comics


What if you did Guardians of the Galaxy, but just Star-Lord and Gamora, and both of them were gay?

That’s Killer Queens in a nutshell, including how it uses those Marvel characters as starting points: Max is the full-of-himself himbo comic relief, and Alex is the feisty, uber-capable (not hetero) straight woman.

The fresh spin comes from how Booher and Balboni combine the space-faring, whiz-bang adventure with clearly 21st-century, queerness-informed aesthetics and comedy.

Balboni’s retro space stylings are reminiscent of pulp novels and Adam Strange, and that’s intentional.

Unpacking his love of retrofuturism, aka “what people in the Fifties imagined the 2000s might look like,” Booher writes that making a queer space romp acts as “a challenge to the idea that our past dreams of what the future might be are stuck to the antiquated bigotry of that time.”

When we first meet our heroes, Max is getting busy in a diner restroom stall with his Galacti-Grinder date, while Alex’s is scaring off her date by immediately bringing up her intergalactic assassin past.

And, yes, Alex and Max go from ex-assassins to killers-for-hire to freedom fighters as you’d expect in a story such as this. But they do so while pleading their case for pluralism and freedom amid fascism and fear-mongering.

Don’t get me wrong, though: This book also is very funny, with lots of one-liners and piss-takes on different sci-fi fantasy tropes. Max, confounded by a space commune of women, gets a pleasant surprise. Or that these space-pirates stole their former crime boss’ spaceship and painted it in rainbow colors, that crime boss is a fluffy talking monkey wearing a leisure suit and a jetpack. Or an escape from prison is complicated by the enemy base having so many freakin’ stairs.

Balboni’s art rests somewhere between comic books and cartoons.

The characters have fluid bodies and expressive faces, and her layouts switch page to page in a whatever-works style. I’ll also say it’s a pretty sexy-looking book with all its bodysuits, tight pants and tank tops and all our major humanoid characters serving body, hair and face at all times, even when they’re captured and time is running out.

If you’re looking for something entirely new, you won’t find that here.

This is the kind of story that you’ve read a bunch of times, in its rough outline. But the details and tweaks that queerness injects into Killer Queens makes for a fun read and elevates the familiar to another place.

Grade: B


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