By Jarrod Jones. It doesn’t matter if it’s on CD, a cassette, or a damn Spotify playlist. If someone put together a mix of songs meant for your own personal enjoyment, that is an act of love. And even though it would be enough that Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, and Josh Hood give us a mix tape at the end of every issue to We Can Never Go Home, this book has gone well beyond offering us that sweet gesture; when you consider the complete effect this series has had on readers, there’s simply no denying that this is an act of passion.
Need more convincing? Heed this: stop reading and go to your local retailer, slap a pile of cash on the counter and demand the five issues of We Can Never Go Home that are presently available to us. You’ll find it plainly evident that what you’re reading is something special, and before you know it, you’ll be placing the hardcover on your shelf right in between the latest editions of Sex Criminals and Saga. Because that’s where it belongs.
That’s what makes it so hard to say goodbye to Maddie and Duncan this week. Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon have brought two living, breathing characters to the paneled page with the same thoughtful care Jaime Hernandez put into the genesis of Maggie and Hopey. These two foul-mouthed urchins deserve each other — even if they don’t fully realize it yet. Watching their growing pains manifest in real time (to say nothing of their burgeoning maturity) kicks the feels into overdrive. You’ll root for these two in a way you didn’t know was possible. Because life, as it must, will always interfere with love. And life straight kicks the shit out of these kids.
Without giving too much away, Duncan and Maddie’s devotion to each other is tested in a rather severe way from the sinister man known as Carroll, who takes in gifted youngsters and puts them through a virtual hell like some kind of demented Professor X (his “membership conferences” could easily be confused with “superpowered fight clubs”). Maddie and Duncan’s care for each other is nearly eclipsed by their own instincts to survive, so Rosenberg and Kindlon set aside their trademark pop culture wit in order for these kids to properly bring the fight to the bad guys. (Though there’s a pretty awesome Star Wars reference tossed in for good measure.) This violent conclusion to Black Mask’s daring series holds its poignancy tight, only doling it out when it counts the most. It’s a harrowing climax that was only ever going to happen, considering what these two have been through. But there’s comfort in knowing that Kindlon, Rosenberg, and Hood aren’t done with Maddie and Duncan. Not by a long shot.
And what can I say about Josh Hood? His artwork shifts from poignant nuance to horrific violence so smoothly, the compounded dread of Duncan and Madison’s dilemma creeps silently into your eyes, sets up camp inside your mind, and lingers there. He slashes at each page with jet black inks and blotted brushstrokes (which easily and respectfully echo the works of J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray), giving We Can Never Go Home its signature vitality. With Hood’s muscular visuals, Rosenberg & Kindlon’s words come alive with each successive panel. This is a team that should never part. What they’re accomplishing here is a thing of beauty.
There’s a bittersweetness that comes with the close to We Can Never Go Home, a feeling of relief that Duncan and Maddie’s immediate suffering is at an end, and a feeling of unfounded angst that we’ll never see them again. The world they live in created them, made them find each other, and gave them something to fight for. How could there ever be an end? The final, pitch black page of this issue provides the same longing you find just seconds before your favorite mix tape clicks to a stop: you know you want more, but you don’t know when you’ll have it. That’s what makes things like this so special, I suppose: they don’t come often in life, but once they do, you can hold on to them forever.
Black Mask Studios.$3.99
Written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon.
Art by Josh Hood with Brian Level.
Colors by Tyler Boss.
Letters by David C. Hopkins.
9 out of 10