Review: "Boys Weekend" is like a queer "Cabin in the Woods" for the CryptoBro era

Boys Weekend is a new graphic novel from writer/artist Mattie Lubchansky, whose work you may recognize from The Nib (RIP) or The Antifa Super-Soldier Cookbook. While Lubchansky's iconic sci-fi satire skills are on full display here, Boys Weekend truly elevates their storytelling skills to a whole new level. I burned through the 230 page graphic novel in a single sitting, alternately LOL'ing and crying. By the time I reached the end, I was genuinely tempted to go back and re-read it all again, except it was already midnight and I realized that was exactly the kind of bad idea that would happen in the context of the story itself.

In other words, this book is phenomenal, and you should check it out. Here's the official blurb:

Newly-out trans artist's assistant Sammie is invited to an old friend's bachelor weekend in El Campo, a hedonistic wonderland of a city floating in the Atlantic Ocean's international waters—think Las Vegas with even fewer rules. Though they have not identified as a man for over a year, Sammie's college buddies haven't quite gotten the message—as evidenced by their formerly closest friend Adam asking them to be his "best man."

Arriving at the swanky hotel, Sammie immediately questions their decision to come. Bad enough that they have to suffer through a torrent of passive-aggressive comments from the groom's pals—all met with zero pushback from supposed "nice guy" Adam. But also, they seem to be the only one who's noticed the mysterious cult that's also staying at the hotel, and is ritually dismembering guests and demanding fealty to their bloodthirsty god.

Part satire, part horror, Boys Weekend explores what it's like to exist as a transfemme person in a man's world, the difficulty of maintaining friendships through transition, and the more cult-like effects of masculinity, "hustle" culture, and capitalism—all through the vibrant lens of a surreal, scary, and immensely imaginative romp.

In other words: its a horror-comedy Bachelor Party from hell, with a transfemme protagonist trapped in a Cyber-Libertarian wetdream. It's fucking great, to the point that I'm struggling to pick out the details highlight because it's all so fucking good.

But what I think might be the strongest part of the book is the subtle and thoughtful ways that Lubchansky interrogates masculinity from so many different directions. I've been at Bachelor Parties like this, where the artificial gender performance of manliness is amped up to WWE-levels, and it's absolutely suffocating — unless you're the kind of person who will gladly go along with the cult, and even then, it'll likely weigh on your wallet (and/or liver). I can physically blend in better with those kinds of bros than the protagonist Sammie can, but I've also been the one to start a fight over queerphobic bullshit — even when I was probably perpetuating some of that same bullshit for the lulz, because it was easier to go along with it and chuckle with the dudes like it was fine (until you hit the breaking point).

There's so much obligatory dude bullshit behavior that Lubchansky absolutely nails, in such simple, clever ways. There's a great gag early on where all the bachelor party attendees are sitting around bitching about the ol' ball-n-chain, and transfemme Sammie perks up to say that, actually, they enjoy their wife a lot, and the two of them get along. The other dudes all stand there dumbfounded, and laugh it off as Sammie being their usual weirdo self. It's a funny beat, but Lubchansky renders the moment with an air of heartbreak and tragedy as well. Men really do talk like that sometimes. Whether they genuinely mean it or not is irrelevant; there's a social pressure, an obligation to act like your wife and kids and lawn are the biggest fucking burdens in the world. And the other men around you are expected to hear this code and smile and nod along with it.

Its those small moments in Boys Weekend that really resonated with me. I mean yes, the crypto-bro paradise gags in the background are great, from the weird clone sex shows to the the non-consensual capitalist transactions that turn everything into a Terry Gilliam-esque gig economy nightmare. Those delightful details are the attractive icing that make Boys Weekend feel like a treat. But the meat of the story is in the small moments of masculine heartbreak. It's every time a seemingly well-intentioned person casually, unthinkingly refers to Sammie as "man" or "dude" or "bro" — even the Token Cis-Woman who's joined the Bachelor Party to rage with the bros. It's the sad, pathetic tragedy of the 35-year-old guy with too much money who still quotes incessantly from that same stupid movie you watched too many times together one summer half a life ago (and it wasn't even that funny back then). Sammie constantly mistreated, misgendered, disrespected, and ignored, in ways both small and large. But for all the (admittedly hilarious) pain they go through themselves, there's a comfort in knowing that Sammie has found some sense of self and happiness somewhere else — unlike the manchildren at the bachelor party, who are all so desperate to hide the hollowness inside of them with NFTs and 401Ks with the occasional steak and titties on top.

Those subtleties make Boys Weekend an enriching read the first time around, and also make it the kind of book that you want to go back to. The kind of book that rewards a re-read. Whether it's the underplayed stab of a misgendered moment that you missed the first time around; or the seemingly throwaway gag that reveals the emptiness inside of someone; or a background joke that foreshadows some horrible new biological mutant sex catastrophe; or the way that the elusive Lovecraftian demons seed their evil influence in the smallest glimpses between characters that pass across the gaps in the panels. Boys Weekend is a fun, wacky romp that's also incredibly dense and demanding, if you want to it to be. Just like masculinity itself!

Did I mention there's a horrible Lovecraftian evil lurking just beneath the Blockchain in this book? Oh yeah.

Boys Weekend [Mattie Lubchansky / Pantheon Books]