Mean Girls Club
by Ryan Heshka
2016, 24 pages, 6.8 x 9.1 x 0.1 inches
If your understanding of what a Mean Girls Club consists of is defined by the 2004 Lindsay Lohan film, then Ryan Heshka's new release from Nobrow Press (as part of their wonderful 17 x 23 series) is going to blow your mind. In Mean Girls Club, Pinky, Sweets, Blackie, McQualude, Wendy, and Wanda aren't the popular girls in an Illinois high school, rather they are a gang of sociopaths who revel in murder, mayhem, pill popping, and depraved dereliction. Heshka's 1950s bombshells start their day with ceremonial insect venom transfusions, snake worship, a pill buffet, and a fish slap fight, then go on to wreck havoc in a hospital, movie theater, boutiques, and the streets, only to finish off by jacking a lingerie truck, kidnapping patients and nurses along the way.
In a nod to the pulps and pin-ups of the past and rendered in fluorescent pinks and inky blacks, Heskha upends the conventional idea of the B-movie Vixen by adding a layer of such over-the-top brutality and vehemence that it transcends the possible, bringing the trope into the post-ironic age where we have lost the ability to discern what we are meant to take seriously.
Is Mean Girls Club to be read as satirical social commentary? Is it just flat out bonkers? Or is it a combination of both? When viewed through various critical lenses, Mean Girls Club demands that the reader ask certain questions: issues of gender and power, fringe vs center, entertainment vs social order. But this sort of critical response probably misses the point of Heskha's intent.
Heskha doesn't seem to care how we approach his work; this book swings to its own pop-culture rhythm, flat and full of energy and horror – perhaps the perfect narrative for precarious times. The viciousness in this book stands starkly in contrast to the stylized elegance of Heskha's lines and layouts. Its publisher, Nobrow Press, says it has "A vintage throwback appeal with modern sensibilities … with appeal to an alternative subculture eager for art that continues to subvert the conventions of the old guard of comics." It's all this and more. But one thing for sure, in Mean Girls Club we have an artist making the art he wants to make. And although it may be a bit uncomfortable for some of us to read, it may just be the art we deserve.
– Daniel Elkin