By Lauren Davis
While the current US presidential election swirls amidst Super PACs, editorial endorsements, and constant fact-checking, the high school election of Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks’ Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong involves something much more powerful: the high school cheerleading team. When Nate, the neurotic president of the robotics club fears that his club’s money might go to pay for the cheerleaders’ new uniforms, he decides that the only way to keep his funding secure is to become Student Council President. It seems like the perfect plan—until the cheerleaders decide to run Nate’s best friend, popular jock Charlie, as their proxy candidate, whether Charlie wants to or not. What could possibly go wrong?
Charlie and Nate are unlikely best friends. Charlie is the beloved captain of the basketball team, quiet and kind to others. Nate, on the other hand, is a low-status science clubber with a major chip on his shoulder. Nate’s robotics team is preparing to enter their robot in a national competition (a battle bot competition? We can only hope), but the cheerleading team is trying to snag their funding. Since the Student Council will ultimately decide where the money goes, Nate decides that the only way to ensure that it goes to the science club is to win the presidency. But the cheerleaders won’t back down without a fight. They decide to run a candidate they know will trounce Nate handily: Charlie. The fact that Charlie doesn’t actually want to run for Student Council is of no concern.
While this may sound like a typical popular kids vs. nerds story, there’s more going on in Shen’s tale of club warfare. The cheerleaders, led by the fearsome Holly, are beautiful and ultimately terrifying, but they’re also incredibly intelligent and cunning. They launch Charlie’s campaign with cold efficiency, and no help from Charlie himself.
Charlie, for his part, has completely lost control of his life. His parents are divorced, and he refuses to speak to his mother. His father is always away on business, leaving him to deal with his problems alone. Charlie, however, doesn’t deal. One day, Holly told him they were going out. Three weeks later, she dumped him by text message. He doesn’t complain, and he doesn’t know how to stand up for himself. He just does what he’s told and hope no one punches him in the face.
Nate may resent his low status, but by contrast, he’s bold and willful. He’s not popular, even among his own robotics club. (They only made him president because his parents let them work on their robot in his basement.) But he does know how to punch Charlie’s buttons, and he may be the one who can finally convince his friend to step up for himself, if he can be bothered to realize just how frightened and alone Charlie is.
There’s still much more of this story to be unfolded, and Shen has promised there will be chainsaws. Just how out of hand will this election get before it’s over? And how long will we have to wait before we can see the club’s robot in action?
Hicks, who is also the creator of The Adventures of Superhero Girl and Friends with Boys, has provided art for other peoples’ comics before. (See, for example, the excellent Brain Camp by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan.) She has a talent for illustrating some truly ludicrous situations, and while her art her is perfectly expressive and wonderful, I hope that Shen gives her some great chainsaw-fueled scenes to work with.