Advance Review: Welcome Back Invites You Into A Deadly Game

Welcome Back, a new trans-temporal and high action series arrives from Boom! Studios on August 19th, written by Christopher Sebela, with art by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and covers by Sawyer and James Harvey.

It seems to contain many elements that are part of the comics conversation right now, and yet it has some very special features of its own as well that make it a series to watch out for. The things that will make the comic immediately interesting to established fanbases include the use of reincarnation to enable the creators to tell stories crossing multiple time-periods, the almost video game-like gravitation between two parties as opposing forces who absolutely must face off against each other for the "story" (of their lives) to progress, and the possibilities of relationships between those characters that might range wildly from strangely close friendships to romantic entanglements.

STK678250As strange as it may sound, all of these elements seem very clearly on the table right now in really generationally-directed, and particularly creator-owned comics, but that speaks to the fact that Welcome Back is paying attention to what's going on right now in comics rather than taking away from the creators' choices.

And what they do very well is combine those elements into what looks to be a coherent narrative of quite an ambitious scale. Boom describes the story as a tale of "reincarnated assassins who are forever fighting, killing, and loving each other throughout endless lives", and if that sounds a little rosy, we might add that this story is told in fairly brutal and psychological detail that's also well conveyed in Jonathan Brandon Sawyer's artwork which has this unique ability to be heavily inked and harsh while being almost adorable from time to time. The color scheme contributes really well, too, pumping that inked look full of energy. While I may be way off in terms of interpreting the artist's intentions, I get the feeling in the first issue that I'm in a hyper-realized version of an updated Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode that's about to turn into a super violent ninja video game. I'm being a little facetious there, but it does convey the kind of hyperactive atmosphere and color scheme.

But I'll also to turn to Sebela's writing to discuss what's unique about this comic. When I first started reading the opening issue, I was aware that there was a more substantial use of text than in many of the comics I've read lately, and I kept my eye on that tendency, thinking it could be the downfall of the comic if the exposition stayed too heavy. What I found, instead, really surprised me. Sebela has done something in the first issue (though it may change as the comic progresses, I don't know) that I actually have never seen done successfully before. He maintains a consistent use of text that does not make the mistake of saying the same thing the images show us, in short units that become a form of steady rhythm in the comic. And the text that he's including is often very deep and meaningful regarding the lives of his characters, in issue #1, especially Mali, who is not coping with her life particularly well. His use of text ranges from double internal monologues to retrospective narrative and, of course, dialogue.

BOOM_WelcomeBack_003Sebela continues to use more text than you'll usually see in action comics, but in segments just short enough not to overbalance the narrative and consistently enough that they become a major element in the narrative rather than a distraction. I've heard many comics writers say, regarding collaboration that they just "get out of the way" of their artists, and that is not a sentiment to dismiss, but it looks like Welcome Back creates a fuller interrelationship between text and image than you'll see in many comics, and kudos to both Sebela and Sawyer for creating that level of density in storytelling.

For that reason, as well as the complexity of the plot whereby characters find themselves "waking up" into memory of their cross-time assassin roles, you'll find this is not a quick read but a rich and rewarding one. I'm looking forward to seeing what Sebela and Sawyer do in the longer form with the story they've set up in Issue #1. The question they seem to pose remains: to what degree is this conflict game-like and to what degree deadly serious? What drives this conflict? From what I've seen, I feel pretty confident that the creative team will answer these questions for us in a satisfying way.

Welcome Back #1 arrives from Boom! Studios on August 19th and is currently listed in Previews World with item code: JUN151070

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About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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