Welcome Back is a new mini-series just launched this week by BOOM! Studios. It comes from writer Christopher Sebela, also seen penning the recent Escape from New York comic, and artist Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, who you may know from Critical Hit.
Welcome Back has a pretty neat concept: a group of particular assassins are reborn into new lives and hunt each other down, before being reborn again over and over. It sounds nice and simple and a solid setup for plenty of action, right? In reality Welcome Back is a lot more than just its premise. After a fast and bloody introduction, the story eases off the accelerator and introduces us to our protagonist in modern day Kansas City: Mali. A young woman in a dead-end job, Mali feels like she has little going for her beyond her energetic guard dog. She’s instantly a fairly likeable character and the more the issue goes on the more interesting she becomes, as we find out more about her background. I’m sure you won’t consider it a spoiler if I tell you that her life doesn’t stay this mundane for very long.
With only 4 issues in the series, Welcome Back doesn’t have a long time to tell its story, thankfully the creative team seem well aware of this and have packed this opening issue with a healthy amount of content. While we get to know Mali we’re also given glimpses at the wider world and what other characters are up to.
As the narrative flicks back and forth it’d have been easy for things to get muddled but instead the issue remains a pretty easy read. Sawyer illustrates pages with tight panels full of highly detailed scenery, an incredible amount of care has gone into making every single shot look fantastic. Meanwhile Carlos Zamudio provides the colours and gives the pages a dark and inky look, which suits the animated looking artwork perfectly.
The comic also keeps unnecessary exposition to an absolute minimum, a little more explanation would have perhaps helped the plot but for the most part Welcome Back uses the mystery to its advantage. Avoiding any lengthy explanations, the comic chooses to show rather than tell. Dialogue and brief caption boxes deliver need-to-know info and keep the punchy pace moving; while the artwork tells us everything else we need to know.
Mali herself is one of the reasons this comic works so well. Without building her up first there’d be little reason to feel invested. But everything from her alternative fashion to her sympathetic narration and surprising backstory establishes her as a character that stands out, someone you want to see come out on top. When the action kicks off it’s because Mali is dropped in the middle that you’re pulled into the story.
Altogether Welcome Back #1 is a great opening issue. The premise is simple to understand, but there are plenty of hints planted that there’s depth to this tale too, it’s not simply an excuse to show off some stylish action. By the end of the issue things have moved along considerably, with the final moments of the issue dropping more twists into the mix. With only 3 more issues beyond this opener, it looks like this is going to be a fun ride.
With slick artwork, likeable characters and an engaging story, Welcome Back is definitely worth jumping into.