My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics

Review by Anelise Farris

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies introduces readers to Ellie, a teenager who has romantic notions about famous drug-addicted artists. While this is the case for a lot of teens (me included!), Ellie’s obsession is also tied to the drug-related death of her own mother a decade ago, as well as her own struggles with addiction. A life on drugs is dangerous enough, but Ellie’s life becomes even more complicated — in all the wrong ways — when she enters rehab. Romance, violence, substance abuse — it’s all here in the first original graphic novel from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

There is a lot to love about this comic, and, although I have never had a drug addiction, I have always been intrigued by the relationship between artistic genius and drug use. And My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies explores just that. Through black-and-white flashbacks, we learn about Ellie’s upbringing (father in jail; mom an addict) and how music was such a formative force in her life. My only complaint about Ellie is that she is supposedly a teenage, but comes across as someone in their late 20s — obviously a minor issue, but I did find myself wondering about it a few times.

In general, however, the artwork is gorgeous and spot-on for the story that is being told here. The soft linework and muted watercolors are evocative, and the wide gutters give the reader plenty of space to reflect. The lettering is also really well executed in how it is integrated flawlessly into the story, and I really like the soft pink boxes used for Ellie’s internal dialogue. 

Verdict: Buy it.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies is a coming-of-age story that is equal parts haunting and beautiful. From the pop culture references to Ellie’s philosophical musings to the brilliant use of color, I was captivated from the first page. Affecting and thought-provoking, it’s a perfect read for a quiet autumn afternoon. 




Anelise Farris
Anelise is an english professor with a love for old buildings, dusty tomes, black turtlenecks, and all things macabre and odd.

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