Clueless: Senior Year OGN Review
Amber Benson and Sarah Kuhn, based on characters by Amy Heckerling
Artist: Siobhan Keenan
Colorist: Shan Murphy
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
A review by Nico Sprezzatura
The strip-mining of 90s nostalgia has led to some pretty interesting developments in popular culture. This past year alone, we’ve seen the revivals of DuckTales, Power Rangers, and Twin Peaks – it seems like nothing is completely off the table for a reboot treatment.
Clueless: Senior Year, out this week from BOOM! Studios, returns us to the world of Cher Horowitz, a well-meaning Beverly Hills ditz who just wants to make the world a prettier place. Written by Sarah Kuhn (Heroine Complex) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Amber Benson –a figure of 90s adoration in her own right– it’s pretty safe to say that fans of the original film won’t be disappointed by this new installment.
Set during the final year of high school, Clueless: Senior Year is split into four chapters, each told from the perspective of a different character. Cher bookends the novel with Summer and Spring, while Dionne and Tai get Fall and Winter, respectively. It’s an economic way to pace the overall story, but it also lends some structure to the plot which could’ve been otherwise meandering. Clueless was similarly episodic in its approach, so that’s another way Senior Year succeeds in matching its source material.
Right before summer break, Cher is pressed about her future by Ms. Geist, which spins the blonde into an existential crisis that inadvertently leads to a temporary(?) breakup with her former stepbrother (and current boyfriend) Josh. Dionne, on the other hand, finds herself on the cusp of a personal breakthrough: she wants to pursue a career in politics. Tai ultimately lands somewhere between those extremes – does she accept an offer of enrollment at a prestigious art school, or fulfill the newfound responsibility of tending to her family’s farm?
As a sequel to such an iconic film, Clueless: Senior Year could’ve been sunk by a subpar script that didn’t live up to its pedigree. It’s no short relief that Benson and Kuhn largely nail the tone set by Clueless writer-director Amy Heckerling; their script is every bit as light, fun, and substantial as the original. There’s an obvious bit of nostalgia fudging involved – certain slang terms used by characters, references to 90s culture – but that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?
I will say that Clueless: Senior Year may not win over a younger crowd who didn’t grow up with the movie, but that’s not a fault of the creative team. If anything, newer fans may actually be compelled to seek out the film as a result of reading this graphic novel. That’s a plus.
Siobhan Keenan’s art is another major asset to Senior Year’s appeal. While her character designs don’t totally resemble the actors in the film – no illustration could match the dreaminess of 1995 Paul Rudd, let’s be real – I don’t regard it as a negative.
Though Senior Year is a sequel, it mostly uses the film as a launching pad for these new stories, and it’s understandable that the art wouldn’t be slavish to capture the likenesses of Rudd, Alicia Silverstone, or the late Brittany Murphy. (The less we’re reminded of present-day Stacey Dash, the better.)
Keenan lends a wonderful softness to Kuhn and Benson’s script; “Barbie-esque” is the best way I can describe her aesthetic, which probably sounds like a disservice to Keenan’s work, but I promise it’s not! Especially when Cher’s arc involves lots of fashion and career possibilities… not unlike Barbie herself. There’s also a few Chibi-esque flourishes in spots that add a sense of fun and whimsy.
Shan Murphy’s coloring work is also great here, enhancing Keenan’s illustrations with a soft femininity that befits Clueless. Shades of pink are a common theme throughout, which Cher herself would be happy with. Even Tai’s chapter, which is mostly set in a rural setting, doesn’t let up on the pink motif. Pink is good!
(If you haven’t noticed by now, Clueless: Senior Year features a predominately female creative team! Just felt it was worth pointing that out.)
As you could expect from a graphic novel based on Clueless, there’s a lot of dialogue in Benson and Kuhn’s script, but letterer Jim Campbell does an admirable job of rendering it onto the page. He also assigns a color to each character in their narration boxes, which makes it easy for the reader to identity who is speaking, and when.
For fans of the classic 90s film, Clueless: Senior Year is a no-brainer. With all the humor and heart of the original, it’s a worthy second installment.