If you've never read an issue of Chynna Clugston's "Blue Monday" before, I will admit right now that it might surprise you. I say that because Clugston is able to really tap into her memories of high school and present it in her comics like it really is. In other words, a combination of friends who act like enemies, hormones, enemies who act like friends, and general cluelessness. Fortunately for us, not only does Clugston bring all of that onto the page, but she also has a wicked sense of humor.
"Blue Monday: Thieves Like Us" picks up where Clugston's previous comics left off; Bleu is still infatuated with her teacher Mr. Bishop, Alan still has a crush on Bleu, Erin pretends to help Alan with Bleu even as she sabotages them, and both Monkeyboy and Victor want to ask Clover out even as Clover is ready to beat them all into a pulp. When the group decides to take a trip to the zoo, though, things start getting a little crazier than normal.
What's really nice about this issue is that it both serves as a primer for people who have never read "Blue Monday" before, and simultaneously refreshes long-time reader even as it sets the wheels in motion for the rest of the mini-series. The trip to the zoo is a good neutral territory to see how the cast interacts with each other, but at the same time it really gets things rolling. The running joke of Bleu always witnessing the animals mating turns into so much more, here, showing Bleu's (and everyone else's) feelings and insecurities regarding sex. With this just being the first issue of five, things are definitely going to heat up (no pun intended) in that particular area, but even now it's hard to not get the feeling that nothing will turn out quite like any of the girls plan.
Clugston also takes her time out to show some of the scenes from the viewpoints of the male characters in "Blue Monday: Thieves Like Us." I like that as "Blue Monday" progresses they've continually become more human and generally good (if flawed) as well. They may act like idiots around each other, but there's always a reason and motive for how they get themselves to that point rather than just sheer stupidity. So often a comic like this would just take one side or the other, and Clugston gives us a balanced final creation.
Clugston's art is as crisp as ever here. I find it amusing that Archie Comics is talking again about updating their art to something more modern, when really they should just take a page from Clugston's creations in "Blue Monday." She draws her characters and situations in a stripped down, no-frills manner, but does so with a lot of care and craft at the same time. All the early '90s fashions are on display here in a way that will simultaneously give you flashbacks and impress you at how well Clugston captures them, and those early pages in "Blue Monday: Thieves Like Us" show us just how good an artist Clugston is, with her composition of Bleu staring out the window in class while Mr. Bishop tries to get answers looking flawless.
If you haven't read "Blue Monday" before, you'll definitely want to give it a try. And, after you will no doubt fall in love with its combination of romance and gross-out comedy, rest-assured that there are also four inexpensive collections just waiting for you to buy as well. "Blue Monday: Thieves Like Us" is a great way to kick off 2009.