Ordinary Girls, Not Yet Ordinary Women: Clueless: One Last Summer

Cover art: Clueless: One Last Summer: Amber Benson and Sarah Kuhn (writing); Siobhan Keenan (art); Cathy Le (colors); Jim Campbell (letters); Natacha Bustos (cover art)

Clueless: One Last Summer

Amber Benson and Sarah Kuhn (writing); Siobhan Keenan (art); Cathy Le (colors);  Jim Campbell (letters); Natacha Bustos (cover art)
BOOM! Studios
December, 2018

For ’90s kids who rented it every weekend from Blockbuster, Clueless represented something iconic. Delicious costuming, arch one-liners, and relatably memorable moments (Tai knocking herself out while dancing! Cher driving on the wrong side of the freeway! “As if!”) all make it a delight to this day. But it wasn’t just the lifestyles of the Clueless world that were aspirational. It was the truly kind-hearted and principled people who inhabited Bronson Alcott High School in Beverly Hills. Sure, Cher could seem shallow at first blush, but Clueless provides her with a growing-up tale (and love interest) that any person might want to emulate.

Cover art: Clueless: One Last Summer: Amber Benson and Sarah Kuhn (writing); Siobhan Keenan (art); Cathy Le (colors); Jim Campbell (letters); Natacha Bustos (cover art)

But there’s just one question left to be answered, one that was ignored by the Rachel Blanchard-starring TV series that ran for two years after the movie was released. What did Cher, Dionne, and Tai do after graduation? Clueless: One Last Summer,  a follow-up to last year’s graphic novel Clueless: Senior Year, explores that question and takes us into that gap between senior year and freshman initiations in which the California summer sends the gang off on whole new adventures.

Of the three girls, Tai’s the clingiest, making Cher and Dionne promise that they’ll write her long letters. No matter that they’ll all be in different schools in LA: Dionne will be in Westwood, Tai the Valley, and Cher in downtown. It’s like, three totally different universes!

Clueless: One Last Summer: Amber Benson and Sarah Kuhn (writing); Siobhan Keenan (art); Cathy Le (colors); Jim Campbell (letters); Natacha Bustos (cover art)

Each girl has a different problem to face down that summer.  Cher is excited to be embarking on the internship she’s lined up. Anne Jennings, a legendary advice columnist, will be taking Cher under her wing, and since Miss Horowitz has idolized Jennings since she was young she’s excited to make a good impression. Unfortunately, Jennings’ idea of an internship is having Cher walk her dog and get her coffee, even in the middle of the night (and since Cher still can’t drive, that means hours sleeping behind the wheel for Josh). At her wits’ end, she suspects that Jennings has begun deliberately giving out bad advice and decides to investigate.

Dionne is buried binders-deep in the planning of her family’s End of Summer Beach Bash. It’s the first time her mother’s let her take care of the party, and Dionne’s been burdened duly with color coordination, invitations, and music selections. She’s so distracted by the pressures of this and college prep that she neglects her relationship with Murray, who’s getting ready to head to Nova Scotia for his freshman year and desperately needs to talk with her.

Meanwhile, Tai is worried about her late great-aunt Ellie’s partner, Edwina’s first visit to LA. Edwina’s never been off the farm, so Tai tries showing her around to the best and brightest spots in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, down-to-earth Edwina is into much simpler pursuits and totally bonds with Tai’s boyfriend Travis over his love of pro wrestling instead. Tai feels like a fish out of water again until she manages to help the company’s biggest villain mend his prop and subsequently finds out how much she really means to Edwina.

On top of all of these changes, Summer, one of Cher’s friends, approaches her with a letter during the girls’ first sleepover party of the summer. Summer has a secret admirer, and a giddy Cher devotes herself to peeling back the layers of mystery and figuring out who it is. All three girls take a crack at the case, but it’s going to take some severe plotting and scheming to figure out who loves Summer and save the summer for all four of them.

A great deal of Clueless: One Last Summer is magical and fun. Cher and Dionne sound screen perfect, and their subplots are perfect for them, balancing emotion and humor. Summer was a charming new addition to the gang, and her secret admirer was a cutie, even if the subplot was easily solved.

There’s some wonderfully silly ’90s-tastic sight gags (like an incident involving Cher’s beeper). Throughout, the besties-forever mixtape that Cher made for Tai and Dionne provides the soundtrack of the girls’ summer, with some excellent thematic choices. I loved Siobhan Keenan’s art. It was very Barbie doll-esque, which is a perfect milieu for a Clueless GN.

The only real problem I had was with Tai, specifically, the way she was written. In the movie she’s a little gruffer, snappier, wittier, and a lot more awkward than she was in the comic, where she often comes off like a Cher clone, especially verbally. But her relationship with Travis is still charming, and her having a queer aunt-in-law was fabulous! Aside from Tai, the novel’s only flaw was a tragic lack of appearances from other side characters from the movie, like Amber.

For young readers who’ve streamed the movie to older fans who saw it hundreds of times on cable, Clueless: One Last Summer will serve as another great step in the franchise’s history and one that will prove a delightful holiday treat for all.