Alasdair Stuart writes for Bleeding Cool
I had my doubts about Five Weapons. I've suffered through quite enough 'It's Harry Potter but they fight!' 'It's Harry Potter but they're all already dead!' 'It's Harry Potter just with cake baking!' nonsense to last a lifetime and at first glance, all this seemed to do was add the trappings of bog standard high school manga.
But I looked again, and I'm really pleased I did, because Five Weapons, created, written, illustrated and lettered by Jimmie Robinson and colored by Paul Little, is a really smart, fun book. Here are six panels from it, and what I like about them.
1. Punching The Fourth Wall Right in The Mouth
This was the first panel that really won me over, and as it's the first panel, the title was off to a very good start. I'm a sucker for fourth wall breaking moments like this, because they're a chance not only for the writer to set the story up but also to acknowledge the inherent absurdity of the story. Marvel's old gatefold recaps on the inside of their front covers had some great examples of this, as did the original Joe Kelly run on Deadpool
(A moment of silence for the Sheep Cannon if you please…)
And we're back. The other reason I like this is it's basically a single panel map of the series. Here's our hero, here are the five clubs at the school. He's not part of any of them. He's a loner, Dottie, a rebel, you don't want to know where he's going but you'll damn well enjoy the ride, that kind of thing.
2. In Which The Exotic Weapons Club Are Twinned With Hufflepuff
I always liked Being Human's contention that Hufflepuff were probably both the nicest house at Hogwarts and the one that did the most work with safety scissors and glitter. Now imagine them as a club at Five Weapons and….yeah they'd have the snake ventriloquism and the endearing lack of stealth. I love the pacing on these three panels too, the joke given just enough time to breathe, just enough time for that '…awkward' beat to hit.
3. In Which We Find Out Tyler Is Armed After All
I actually lost count of the amount of things I liked about this scene but here are a few;
-We find out why Tyler's dangerous. He's smart. He notices things. He also seems to be using game theory or some variation of it.
-The school is instantly made much more interesting by his observations. Any worries this is a half-baked manga do over are dispelled as he shows a school riven not just by inter department rivalry but by the fact no one likes the new Headmistress who is, herself, terrified of blood. Which of course opens up the question of what someone frightened of blood ius doing running a school for killers.
-By doing this, Tyler is positioned more strongly than any lead character in a while as the first point of contact between the reader and the text. He's an outsider as we are, but he's also empowered and observant and that in turn empowers us. This is as much a briefing for the reader as it is a reveal on what's really going on and it never seems like exposition, just a clever boy, operating from a position of safety, and reaching out to two allies.
-One of whom of course instantly rejects him in a manner which springs from both typical adolescent power battles and the fact he's right and Jade knows it. And she hates that she knows it, so she reacts the way the school tells her to, with violence and threats of violence. Once she works through that and, odds are, beats the hell out of Tyler, she'll be fully on board.
-The Nurse, the school's other outsider, welcomes him with open arms. She sees the same things he does and, because her role places her outside the power structure, she can see what Jade can't quite believe; he's right, and his presence means things are already starting to change.The new kid's here to start some trouble and that trouble starts here.
4. In Which We Find Out What's Really Going On
I won't spoil this scene because, frankly, it's brilliant. It's also not strictly a twist, because everything we're shown up until this scene is true it's just…we're not quite told the whole truth. This is the point where any lingering doubts I had well and truly vanished and the book grabbed me hook, line and sinker. It's clever, it's subtle and you'll read everything up to this point differently the second time. Just brilliant storytelling. Plus the matching his and hers eye scars are adorable aren't they?
Five Weapons is great, light, fun, but smart as hell. It's published by Image Comics, is priced at $3.40 and the second issue is out now.