‘Teenage Wasteland’ #2 — Heroes or Expendable Weapons?

Teenage Wasteland #2

From MAJK’s Coffee Corner:

Teenage Wasteland #2 has a very eighties/nineties feel to it in tone and color palette. The story appears on the surface to be a stylistic American magical girl/Power Rangers type of tale, but there are strong hints that something is not quite right under the surface. It’s that undercurrent of suspicion that makes the difference.

Spoiler Warning: If you have not read Teenage Wasteland #2, there may be spoilers below.

Creative Team:

Writer: Magdalene Visaggio      Artist: Jen Vaughn

Colors: Stelladia      Lettering: Zakk Saam

The Story So Far:

Ellie Tweed’s a mess. She’s in high school, her father just died, and now she’s relocated to a strange town. Living with her grandmother in Jupiter City, Colorado isn’t helping her deal with the loss. Hurting, angry, and feeling alone, Ellie falls in with the wrong crowd. They’re a defiant bunch, skipping school, blowing off homework, battling alien forces seeking to invade the earth. Wait. That last part doesn’t sound too terrible. That almost sounds like teens doing something good. In Teen Wasteland #1, Ellie was recruited to join Cosmic Team Moon Rider and she accepted. Will being a part of a group of girls battling alien invaders give Ellie the sense of belonging and acceptance that she desperately needs? Who is Vex and why did she come to recruit these arguably delinquent troublemakers to defend the planet?

Weaponization of Teens

Mags Visaggio and Jen Vaughn offer us an invitation to play hooky from this millennia and return to a time of boomboxes and bold colors in Teenage Wasteland. Magical Girl meets the Power Rangers with all the emo angst of the punk era in this high adventure monster slaying teen tale. Don’t expect this to go like any other tale of its genre because this is not your mama’s Mighty Morphine Power Rangers. The first clue this story is more than it seems lies in a statement made by writer Mags Visaggio.

“I grew up watching Power Rangers and other toku imports, and when you’re a kid, that stuff is a power fantasy,” she says. “You get all these cool abilities and weapons and robots and fight evil. Who wouldn’t want that? But the older I got, the more I started to see it differently: it’s the weaponization of teenagers. And then you start seeing it everywhere, right up to classics like X-Men. So that seemed like a unique jumping-off point. How can you ever trust Zordon? What does it mean to make children fight your war for you? So that’s the heart of it for me: questioning the premise of stuff like MMPR and looking at the way conflict defines people—and shatters them.”

The weaponization of teens is a frightening thought if you actually dig past the surface “cool stuff.” Remember how devastated Buffy was when her friends resurrected her? She’d “served her time.” Having the fate of the world as your personal responsibility is something few sixteen-year-old kids are ready to face. The toll it takes on their life and personality is often glossed over. That something this title appears to be gearing up to deal with beginning in Teenage Wasteland #2.

Questions

Ellie is clearly not stupid. Although she is enjoying her sense of belonging and cool magical horse, she has a few questions. They are sensible sane questions, the kind rarely asked in the genre. In fact, only She-Ra even deals with the question “how do you know who the bad guys are?” Vissagio looks to be taking this a step further. Ellie is asking hard questions in this issue. “Why do we do this?” I expect it won’t be long before we see here asking. “Why are we chosen?” No one ever asked Zordon why it was he recruited teens rather than adults. Maybe someone should.

 Heroes or Weapons

Vissagio crafts an interesting dynamic in Rowe and Ellie. Rowe’s home life is in shambles and it’s been that way for so long she’s convinced her parents wouldn’t even notice if she didn’t return one day. Ellie’s already experiencing a bit of growth in Teenage Wasteland #2 as she hears Rowe’s story. Rowe claims that the two of them are the same. Ellie realizes that’s not entirely true. Ellie might be angry but she is loved. Ellie’s mother is trying to reach out to her. The fact that even mid-battle Ellie’s starting to see things that don’t add up says Ellie’s not a lost soul like Rowe. Rowe rebuffs Ellie’s questions. For Rowe it’s simple. Vex says something needs to be destroyed and she does it. Ellie already recognizes that the “munchers” they attacked were helpless, and she wants a reason for why she just killed them. This promises an interesting dynamic between her and Rowe. How it will play out with the other group members as we get to know them remains to be seen. What we are seeing is the evolution of a young girl who is wondering if she is a hero or an expendable weapon.

Where to Get Teenage Wasteland #2:

Teenage Wasteland #2 and its predecessor are currently available. Members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, and comiXology Unlimited can read it at no additional cost. Both issues are purchasable on comiXology and Kindle for $2.99. If you’ve not tried Kindle Unlimited, they offer a 30-day free trial and charge $9.99 per month after the trial. ComiXology Unlimited also offers a 30-day free trial, after which the monthly cost is $5.99.

About the Creators:

Magdalene Visaggio is involved in a range of interesting projects. This Eisner and GLAAD Media Award-nominated writer has Doctor Mirage on the horizon and currently is writing Calamity Kate, Morning in America. She’s also worked on Kim & Kim, Eternity Girl, Dazzler: X Song, Transformers vs Visionaries, and Quantum Teens Are Go.

Jen Vaughn is the cartoonist behind the writing of Goosebumps: Download and Die and drawing Betty and Veronica’s Vixens, as well as drawing covers for the comic series My Little Pony, Pathfinder, The Wilds, Hack/Slash vs Vampirella, and more. She also plays a tiefling ranger, Riot Bonezerker, in the popular D&D podcast d20 Dames.

Next Issue: June 26, 2019

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