Review - Teenage Wasteland #1

"I hate it here."

Being a teenager has its ups and downs, although talk to any teenager and they'll likely say there's more downs than ups. In Teenage Wasteland #1 from Haunted Vault Studios, that concept is taken to the extreme. The issue is written by Magdalene Visaggio, illustrated by Jen Vaughn, colored by Stelladia and lettered by TBD's Zakk Saam.

Smart-mouthed Ellie Tweed is the jerkhole new girl in school falling in with the wrong crowd, who have an explosive secret: they aren't just also jerkhole teenage girls with attitude, they are the Earth's secret defenders! And Ellie's their newest recruit.

Visaggio's setting in Teenage Wasteland #1 is something of a nod to the high school slacker comedies of the 90s, emboldened by Ellie Tweed's generally apathetic approach to life. The reasoning behind her apathy is definitely a valid one and shows thought on the part of Visaggio in fleshing her out as a character to drive the narrative. That narrative just so happens to be a pretty by-the-numbers approach in terms of plot until Visaggio throws in a pretty crazy twist about 3/4 of the way through. That twist transforms the issue (and series) into something else entirely and manages to give it a second life as something new and intriguing. Most of the issue is paced pretty slowly up until that turn as Visaggio establishes the ground rules for the eventual swerve.

Vaughn's art style is very fitting for the book as it adds just the right amount of grunge-fueled nostalgia in its presentation. Her linework is very refined and allows people and objects to have clear definition, both against the settings and amongst one another. Facial expressions have a level of detail that effectively captures the prevailing sentiment at that particular moment; considering this is high school that emotion is mostly teenage angst and anger. The panels are arranged very cleanly and make the action easy to follow along with. Stelladia's colors add an almost pastel neon tinge to the work that elevates the book to a status that feels out of this world.

Teenage Wasteland #1 is an interesting first issue that follows a high school student struggling to come to terms with life in general. Ellie Tweed is dealing with a lot of emotion in the issue and a new group of friends she falls in with might be able to offer something to let her take her mind off of things for a while. Visaggio's script is focused on character-building and establishing Ellie as someone looking to find a way to cope. Vaughn's illustrations are a good match for the tone of the story. Teenage Wasteland #1 offers up a slightly new take on the old formula of high school students learning to deal.

Teenage Wasteland #1 is available now.