Claire & Rosie’s Excellent Experience
Bill & Ted Save the Universe #3
Brian Joines (Writer), Bachan (Artist), Alex Guimaraes (Colorist), Jim Campbell (Letterer)
August 16, 2017
Comics can be fucking depressing. Whether it’s the fact that the same six men each have 30 books in Previews every month and yet you can’t find a direct market book by your favorite black female cartoonist, or that the books that you do follow are constantly interrupted by crossovers and tie-ins? Basically, it can be tough to be a comics fan trying to find joy in these things that’re often really un-fun.
But every once in awhile a book comes along that’s so unabashedly fun, well put together, and engaging that it reminds you that direct market comics can still make you smile. Bill & Ted Save the Universe #3 is that book. This miniseries from BOOM! Studios is something akin to a classic Saturday morning serial, brought to you by writer Brian Joines, line artist Bachan, colourist Alex Guimaraes, and letterer Jim Campbell. It’s honestly one of the most exhilaratingly weird and silly sci-fi books I’ve read in a long while.
We join Bill and Ted in the middle of a cosmic assault course, a huge monster at their backs in a splash page that immediately grabs your attention and promises you a whole bunch of intergalactic adventure. Bachan’s art has movement and energy which gives this story a psychedelic feel that really feeds into the outlandish sci-fi serial that we’re immediately thrown into.
Full disclosure … I didn’t read the first two issues of Bill & Ted Save the Universe before I picked up this book, and I was blown away by how little that mattered. The ease with which I was able to slip into this book reminded me of how I read comics as a kid, before I had a comic shop close to me and just consumed whatever I could pick up. But unlike the dense and often unfollowable mass of ’90s Big Two comics, Bill & Ted Save the Universe #3 is a great jumping on point for any new readers—or even just a fun one shot, if it’s all you grab. That’s something every Big Two series is sorely lacking, cos sometimes (all the time) I don’t want to read seven tie-ins, two annuals, and a one shot to “get” a book. So this energetic, engaging, and no strings attached issue was a complete breath of fresh air.
That’s not to say Bill and Ted Save the Universe doesn’t deliver storywise. Though much of the first act’s action does take place in a galactic monster playground masterfully crafted by Bachan, the second half of the book leans heavily into one of the book’s coolest points: SPACE MUMS. Yup, in this part of the now sprawling Bill and Ted lore their mums have teamed up to travel around the universe as a mix of intergalactic spies and managers for Wyld Stallyns. And it’s really really rad. Also, the way our two bodacious buds collectively talk about their “moms” makes it very easy to imagine this book is about lesbian space mums, which tbh I am very very into.
The combination of Joines’ rambunctious plot, Bachan’s lively art, Alex Guimaraes’ masterful coloring, and Jim Campbell’s splendid lettering really makes this book special. There’s something instantly recognisable about the way Bachan imagines the world of Bill and Ted Saves the Universe, yet his art style is so original it somehow never feels derivative. Guimaraes’ palettes are a never ending joy, painting a galactic landscape that’s completely immersive and totally out of this world. Campbell’s tight letters add eons of style to an already gorgeous book.
I’ll likely be picking up the rest of the issues of this totally non-heinous mini. It encapsulates the best parts of Bill and Ted whilst creating something that also works completely divorced of any context. In a world of gatekeepers and fandom snobbery there’s something wildly refreshing about a book based on a known property that’s truly accessible to all. More comics like Bill And Ted Save the Universe please.
This comic really feels like a conversation with a keen peer. Have you watched Bill & Ted a lot? I have watched Bill & Ted a lot. It’s where I learnt the very useful word “egregious.” What do you think would happen after Bogus Journey? How about this? What about that? And—and—and—? All sorts. The main thing I’ve dwelt on after reading this twenty-two page issue is how it felt long and fat and energetic; things were happening, all the time, and all of them were totally plausible. Sometimes you’ll read a licensed comic that bills itself as a continuation of a story you know and love, and you’ll read it and think “Er, fuck off. That is not what would happen.” Bill and Ted Save the Universe is not concerned with that sort of reader approval, because it is too excited about all the mights and maybes it can come up with, and how well it can string them together. Because it is not concerned, it is unconcerning. I am just happy to be there, seeing how excited the universe is to exist. Of course Bill an Ted are gonna save it! As Rosie says, it makes you feel like a kid.
This comic has a huge subplot centred around Deacon’s emotional intellect—Deacon, Ted’s little brother who took Napoleon to the ice cream parlour, and whose Easter basket Ted carried guilt over stealing down in to Hell with him later. Deacon is not a huge feature of Bill and Ted’s films, but he is a feature. And he must feature in the wider context of Bill and Ted, because Deacon is Ted’s brother. To accept Ted as a person, we must acknowledge Deacon as a presence, and to do justice to the timeless advice “Be Excellent To Each Other,” if Deacon is a presence we must allow him to be a person. People are conflicted, and cause conflict. Deacon’s antagonism makes perfect thematic sense. It is, as we say nowadays, on brand.
The likenesses in a licensed book are always going to be a sticking point for me. I want people to look like the people the product is saying they are. And these ones … are some and some. But I’ve been learning about licenses and likeness rights, and the gum-and-string law around them, and it’s made me a little more forgiving even as my core response remains. Sometimes a comic book isn’t allowed to contain characters that look right, and that’s just a fact that’s refusing to budge. It’s a problem that the books don’t ever say this, upfront and honest-like, but meet me in the courtroom for that one. Bill & Ted Save the Universe does not contain (or, from the cover, promise) perfect Alex Winter or Keanu Reeves likenesses. But what it (and said cover) does deliver is that golden carrot that’s always dangled in discussion about this sort of thing: the “spirit of the characters”. These guys emote properly. They have the correct physical attitudes. Bachan draws faces with life and with the ability to pucker and crease, so the wide-eyed exuberance of Bill S Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan never leaves your mind. Their ghosts are all over this comic, yelling and jerking about good-naturedly, and being haunted by old friends is good for you. Rufus, on the other hand, looks spot on (maybe because George Carlin is dead? Fewer rules?) And their mums look so good. They’re like, totally mature babes!
And the colouring—it really is delicious. Top marks, BOOM! Thanks for being excellent to us.