"Welcome Back #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Christopher Sebela
Illustrated by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer
2015, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on August 19th, 2015
Tradition is a strange thing. Sometimes we'll do something over and over again because that's just how it's always been done; whether that's buying Christmas presents for loved ones or hunting down your enemies over the course of a thousand lifetimes. Wait...what? That's a clumsy way of explaining the premise behind Welcome Back (or We(l)come Back, which is a title that works on multiple levels but is incredibly annoying to type). Mali and Tessa have killed each other over and over again across hundreds of different lives. They don't remember any other way. This is what consumes their very being. But what if they didn't have to do that anymore? What if they just wanted to live instead of killing each other?
See, Mali wakes up in this new life and she doesn't want to kill. It seems like that's the farthest thing from her mind, especially since she's the daughter of a serial killer. She's had to move and change her name in an effort to escape from that, so she's not in a rush to jump into a fight to the death with another woman. There is something missing from her life though. When she's thrown back into the world of assassins, muscle memory kicks in and she's able to perform remarkable acts of violence.
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The reincarnation element of Welcome Back is intriguing and takes a minute to wrap your head around. Mali and Tessa are not the only people to lead these multiple lives over time. We meet a handful of others involved in this never-ending war. How and why they keep coming back is a mystery, along with why they're fighting in the first place. This is just what they've always done. It also seems that these new lives aren't starting from scratch. These assassins aren't beginning as infants and growing up to be killers. Their consciousness is “awakened” inside another body. I guess it's sort of like the slayer powers in Buffy? The seed is there waiting to be unlocked.
This concept is beautifully illustrated by artist Jonathan Brandon Sawyer in a two-page spread at the very beginning of the issue. It showcases a number of the lives these two people have lived, constantly at war and drenched in blood. You see cavemen, conquistadors, Vikings, cowboys, and gangsters. Carlos Zamudio's colors really pop on this spread too, specifically with the blood that serves as an omnipresent background throughout the image. This is such a great way to explain the reincarnation piece and it's done with almost no dialogue. The only piece that comes up is a small word balloon that leads directly into the present day story.
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There's another page that has a similar layout, although with more modern day images. These two segments really stand out in Welcome Back and for good reason. They manage to tell a story on their own. Sawyer's artwork is really top notch throughout the entire book. It's packed with energy and is so damn nice to look at.
Welcome Back is off to a great start with an impressive first issue. You're fully immersed in this world from the get-go. Writer Christopher Sebela outlines what could be a complicated concept in a very quick and easy to understand way that is not bogged down by boring exposition. Instead of telling, he shows thanks to Sawyer's artwork, and it really pays off. This issue leaves us with a great cliffhanger that only serves to reinforce the stellar ideas put forth in this story.