Bill and Ted Save the Universe
Bachan (Illustration); Jim Campbell (Letters); Derek Charm (Cover Art); Alex Guimaraes (Colors); Brian Joines (Writer); Chris Rosa (Editor)
If there’s an ‘80s film that’s more fun, more silly, or more imaginative than Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I don’t know it. The story of two California-based best friends who learn that their rock band, the Wyld Stallyns, will bring about an era of utopia in the distant future—if they can only survive to graduate from high school—its cheerful, well-meaning valley boy antics spawned a successful sequel, short-lived Saturday morning cartoon, and live action shows before resurfacing 20 years later on rumors of a third sequel and a wave of new merchandise. Included, in this wave has been BOOM! Studios’ ongoing Bill and Ted comic series, the latest of which is collected in this volume, Bill and Ted Save the Universe.
The plot is as time-hopping and loose-limbed as its film predecessors. When Ted and Bill find themselves in San Dimas in 1994, just after their first album has debuted and made them household names, they’re immediately plunged into a party thanks to Elizabeth and Joanna, their beloved wives, who’ve brought their friends together to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their successfully passing their senior history exam. After grappling with some burgeoning family issues, they soon find themselves carried away on a flying saucer into deep space by the Metagalactic Fleet, a peacekeeping body that governs several alien societies. Things are naturally far more complicated than anticipated, and our favorite twosome are soon running for their lives with a lot of unexpected help and accidental interference.
And all in all, it’s a pretty rocking journey. Joines has a beautiful grasp on the movie’s cadence and general language. It’s very hard to correctly translate the verbal expression of the twosome’s meat-headed intelligence correctly, let alone their very specific phraseology to the written medium, but Joines does so perfectly. At one point Ted declares a fateful drop into danger as “A Plummet of Dire Acceleration,” and Bill is confused by Vlad Tepes chasing them for “Impalas are most gentle creatures.” Gales of giggles came from my lips.
The general plot—which ends up being about the strength of family bonds—turns out to run along the lines of the more tender, heartwarming first movie. It also adds a number of wonderfully strong female characters to the mix and expands two of its roles to a wonderful extent. Though in both movies, characters like Joan of Arc and Elizabeth and Joanna were never pushovers, they weren’t given much to do, and in Elizabeth and Joanna’s case ended up becoming mere pawns and kidnapping victims in Bogus Journey. Bill and Ted Save the Universe proves to be a truly refreshing change of pace, with women kicking butt and taking names all over the place. There’s even a fun and proactive role for Missy, Bill’s stepmom. And it’s impossible not to care about the struggles of Ted’s younger brother, Deacon, who ascends up the corporate ladder, but struggles with mommy and jealousy issues, and solves them while taking part in a fight that will determine the galaxy’s fate.
But there’s a lot of meaty weight underneath the silliness. Accepting the weight of responsibility—and the mantle of parenthood—is a huge deal in this volume, and the book does a really good job making its sci-fi elements feel truly creepy. It’s a surprisingly emotional journey that’ll choke you up, an all-new experience for someone who comes to Bill and Ted-related media expecting something slightly goofy.
Art-wise, there are some occasionally supremely goofy moments, too, specifically panels in which Bill and Ted look a little too sharply featured and a little too rubbery, although they all echo their movie counterparts decently enough to avoid being mistaken for anyone else. Otherwise, the art style is jovial, neon-gilt, and fun—a treat that matches the adventuresome bounce of the book.
Bill and Ted Save the World is a surprise from top to bottom, and one that will resonate most righteously in surprising places for its radical readers.