Review: They’re All Terrible #1
They’re All Terrible #1 is an ultraviolent, visually stunning riff on a barbarian comic from writer Matt Kindt, artist Ramon Villalobos, and colorist Tamra Bonvillain. The story picks up after a long, bloody epic fantasy war, and the band of soldiers Bloody Mourners are restless and unrewarded even though they were responsible for, I guess, winning the war thanks to their brutal tactics and killing of child hostages. To occupy themselves, the Bloody Mourners decide to invade the Village of the Clouds, a utopian society dedicated to art and culture, but with a weak military. The brunt of the narrative of They’re All Terrible #1 focuses on young warrior Espion trying to recruit some of the best warriors in the land to defend the Village of the Clouds, but the Bloody Mourners have some big guns too.
They’re All Terrible is an immersive read because Villalobos uses a wide variety of shot types and angles to tell this high fantasy story. He uses extreme close-ups on the warrior Kral to show how disgusting he is burping and vomitting at the local pub before pulling back for more wide screen compositions to reveal his actual prowess in battle. Any time swords and sorceries are involved, Ramon Villalobos breaks the panel boundaries to create more exciting fight choreography. There is power and weight to his line work, and Bonvillain uses an almost, candy-coated color palette to show the different types of blood/substances oozing out of these warriors’ opponents. Even though the big showdown is issues away, Kindt and Villalobos spare no expense with the fight scenes with body parts and viscera spraying all over the page against cool fantasy vistas and backgrounds.
They’re All Terrible is very much a Conan pastiche with the character Kral basically having the same backstory as the most famous barbarian. However, using these familiar tropes allows readers to get quickly connected in the story and enjoy the dynamic art and little nuances of the characters. For example, Kral’s introductory scene comes across more like Hrun in Terry Pratchett’s Color of Magic than something out of the Hyborian Age, especially with the gross-out sight gags. In keeping with the title of the comic, Matt Kindt and Ramon Villalobos make him intentionally unlikable until he does badass things and reveals his backstory of never wanting to be a king and just wanting to go on adventures all the time, which is honestly similar to the Bloody Mourners and the motivation for their rampage.
On the other hand, the female warrior Ora is immediately likable with her flashy fighting skills, one-liners, and how she takes no shit from Kral even though he considers her to be the second best warrior in the land. Kindt, Villalobos, and Bonvillain find a rich vein of dark humor with her character all culminating her ripping out a mermaid’s head and spinal column Mortal Kombat-style and proclaiming taht she isn’t a virgin. This sense of humor really helped me buy into They’re All Terrible #1, and this might be a leap, but the book is at its best when it’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in Middle Earth although as I’ve mentioned a few times, the fight scenes are masterpieces of poses and choreography.
In addition to this entertaining and gorgeous lead story, They’re All Terrible #1 also features a one and done backup story about puppets become sentient beings courtesy of writer Joshua Dysart and artist Kano. Dysart’s absurdist captions complement Kano’s flat colors and disturbing art. My one quibble is that the caption boxes cover bits of these full page images, but the overall effect of puppets screaming and then building more puppets and their own puppeteers gets across as they go from surreal nightmare fuel to just second class citizens. For example, Kano uses close-ups in the last page to end the story on more of an emotional note to go with Dysart’s musings. “The First Seven Days” is a day-glo fever dream that lets Kano cut loose as a storyteller and dive into some weird shit after the more straightforward They’re All Terrible.
They’re All Terrible #1 is a big, bloody barbarian book with battles galore plus jokes, internal organs, and commentary on what happens after the the epic fantasy trilogy concludes. Plus Ramon Villalobos is a master at drawing beefy, barrel-chested warriors, and there’s a fucked up, yet thought provoking backup story to make this a comic worth seeking out.
Story: Matt Kindt Art: Ramon Villalobos
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain Letters: Simon Bowland
Story: 8.3 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy
Purchase: Zeus Comics