I recall the days of old when I was a super cool totes Gawfik kid perusing the racks of Hot Topic, taking in the smell of sweet, sweet angst. Everybody knew Emily the Strange because she was one of us, and we fondly wore images of her and her creepy-cute kitty cats every day to school while our parents and teachers rolled their eyes and knew it was just a phase. My dad bought me an Emily the Strange scarf one winter and I’ve worn it every year since.
Emily and The Strangers: Road to Nowhere is the same Emily we know and love, but Cat Farris’s art is much rounder and reflects this generation of illustration. Don’t get me wrong, Emily is still dark but as our society has evolved in style and art, Cat has used her amazing talent to transform Emily to a character that is family-friendly and not just for one subculture. I was admittedly worried at first, but through the beautiful panels of color and fun creations that make up Emily’s current world and her band, I grew fonder as the pages went on.
Being the third and final volume of this series, we’re put smack dab in the middle of the action. Emily used to fly solo, but she now has a band called The Strangers – the result of winning a magical guitar. Then the big bad record label ironically entitled Awesomelsy Awesome told The Strangers that a record was in their future. But staying true the original Emily, cats were definitely involved in the plot, and a man named Crawly who heads the record label has the furry friends enslaved and is an outright animal abuser.
This sounds kind of heavy, but Mariah Huehner and Rob Reger write a fun and surprisingly touching story of some kids out to help animals. The Strangers make a whole tour around trying to crack Crawly and expose his evil doings to the public, and they use music to help spread their word. Emily stays her old brooding self, but we uncover a few different layers that were hiding under her fantastic fringe and learn that Emily has a huge heart despite her love of solitude.
Crawly’s plan is to fight back against The Strangers by battling them in a concert with his own band of musicians named the Kute Kitties. They’re against everything Emily-related and push a cuddly and adorable persona as a cover for what’s really going on at Awesomely Awesome. I really liked that this rival band wasn’t stuck up or mean, and they weren’t the typical anti-main character trope. Their agenda wasn’t malicious, and they just want the success that a lot of young musicians are striving for. Custom built by Crawly, I expected them to be on his side, but I was happily surprised by what happened after the two bands went head-to-head.
Being a huge animal lover and animal rights activist, I really adored how the storytelling was focused on saving animals. Emily has always been surrounded by her signature black cats, and they’ve been a consistently key part of her life and image. But going levels deeper and showing how much she cares and wants to help animals simply because they deserve to be treated like the living and lovable characters they are was something so different and truly moving. So many animals go unadopted because they’re a little different, so the message of how “weird animals need to be loved too” was really touching. Though I will say my favorite part was showing a same-sex couple adopting a sphynx cat named Noodles. I loved this partially because I am a lover of nekkid kitties and my own is giving my some nose boops right now, and because simple representation is so important. This is a series for all ages, and showing all types of love really carried on the central message of the story.
Emily the Strange used to be for the weirdo kids like myself, and wasn’t really something the normies were into. But this is a book that everyone can enjoy with messages that are totally universal. I’m adding the entire collection to my bookshelf next to other fabulous works, and I’m going to go give my cat and hug. Maybe even let her roll around in my scarf too.
Story: 5 Stars
Illutrations: 5 Stars
Colors: 5 Stars
Cover: 5 Stars
Writer: Rob Reger, Mariah Huehner • Artist: Cat Farris
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics