Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Claire Roe
Cover Artist: Jonathan Brandon Sawyer
Mali and Tessa remember now: they remember their roles as soldiers in a war without end, battling each other throughout centuries, reincarnating only to fight one another again. But now that they’re finally together, they’ve decided to break this cycle for good by choosing love over war. Unfortunately, factions on all sides of the conflict are at odds with their choice—including Tessa’s parents. Collects issues #5-8.
Last year I prioritized cutting back on cape books and diversifying the publishers and stories that I read. Though many of the comics I read weren’t published in 2016 (especially ones I read during Women’s History Month) I still found it hard to narrow down the list of ongoing series I particularly loved throughout the year.
Here are ten comics I couldn’t put down in 2016:
10. Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams
This is a series I would have loved as a child. Goldie is the perfect mix of Nancy Drew and Eloise (of Plaza fame). Goldie Vance is great for a younger audience but doesn’t shy away from emotionally complex stories. Goldie and her friends are well-rounded characters with a wide range of interests who readers–young and not-young alike–will be able to relate to.
9. Elasticator by Alan C. Medina and Kevin Shah
Elasticator is the kind of smart, political superhero comic I wish was more prevalent. The writing is fresh and interesting and Shah’s art is lively and animated with great colors from Ross A. Campbell.
8. Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung
Lottie Person is just about as far away from Scott Pilgrim as you could get, though they do, at times, share a similar self-absorption. Snotgirl quickly became one of my favorite series of the year, because while not many people can say they’re successful fashion bloggers, they can likely relate to Lottie’s personal problems. Leslie Hung and Mickey Quinn provide gorgeous, vibrant visuals and the best wardrobe in comics, to boot.
7. We(l)come Back by Christopher Sebela and Claire Roe
Reincarnation? Check. Assassins? Check. Shadowy organizations? Check. A+ fashion choices? Check. Reincarnated assassins in love running from other assassins who are trying to assassinate them? …Also check. What more can you want from a story?
6. Shutter by Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca
Shutter is one of Image’s most underrated titles. The story follows Kate Kristopher, the daughter of legendary explorer Chris Kristopher, and her discovery of some little-known family history. The comic is consistently interesting not only because of its plot, but because del Duca and colorist Owen Gieni are constantly experimenting with narrative structure and using different techniques to influence how the story is read.
5. Clean Room by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt
Clean Room is a creepy psychological horror comic about journalist Chloe Pierce’s investigation of self-help master Astrid Mueller, who Pierce suspects is more cult leader than anything else. Or is she? Mueller is a fascinating character, and the unknowable question of which side she’s actually on only adds to the story’s suspense.
4. The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
What if you could be a god, but you’d die within two years? Consistently equal parts entertaining and heartbreaking with consistently incredible art and color from Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson. You’ve probably heard of this one.
3. Mockingbird by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Sean Parsons, and Ibrahim Moustafa
One of the few superhero comics I read this year, Mockingbird was one of my absolute favorites. Cain writes Bobbi Morse as confident and smart, and the result was a fun mystery thriller with gorgeous art. The series also featured some of my favorite colors and covers this year, by Rachelle Rosenberg and Joelle Jones.
By the time I write my 2017 list, I might be over Mockingbird’s cancellation.
2. Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Val DeLandro
2016 was light on Bitch Planet–only four issues were released throughout the year–but continued to provide insightful and relevant commentary in what turned out to be a period of rapid change in the real-life political landscape.
1. Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Monstress started strong in 2015 and only got better. The main character, Maika, is a teenage girl living with a monster inside, something she learns to live with and use to her advantage as the plot develops. Monstress is full of unrepentant female characters set in a stunningly rendered fantasy world.
With nowhere and no one left to turn to, Tessa and Mali have a big decision to make in the final issue of We(l)come Back. Christopher Sebela and Claire Roe wrap up the series in a satisfying manner, and it’s going to be tough to fill that pull list spot with a comic that has main characters who are equally violent and endearing as Tessa and Mali. (Sebela is, however, writing Heartthrob, with art by Robert Wilson IV and published by Oni Press, which might fill the void.)
Tessa and Mali seemingly exhausted their options around issue #6, when they discovered hiding on trains and killing the people who were trying to kill them wasn’t a sustainable way to live. It did, however, lead them to Tessa’s home in South Africa, where her mother greeted them with open arms and a cell-like room for each.
We(l)come Back #8 finishes out this plot line and neatly rounds out the rest of the story. The lingering questions are answered without piling on the information. Tessa and Mali have had cyclical stories with a distinct path in the timeline of We(l)come Back, and their fates have hung in the balance throughout the entire series. Sebela ends their story (or does he?) in a way that doesn’t feel rushed, despite the number of loose ends that remain at the end of #7. In terms of pacing, this issue is well done, not rushing the end or dumping a resolution on the metaphorical doorstep and fitting with the rest of the story.
As usual, Claire Roe gives each character depth and personality with her distinct style. Her attention to fashion made the story that much more believable as something set in a present time, and small details like Tessa’s jogger/jacket outfits and Mali’s favored boots/shorts combo gave the characters that much more personality. The Sebela/Roe team will be missed for its lively storytelling, and Jonathan Brandon Sawyer’s artistic contributions–the first two issues, character designs, and the incredible covers that grace each issue–will also be missed.
Overall, this issue was a well-crafted end to a wonderful series, and leaves only one question: Will there be a deluxe trade available for preorder?
Wednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!
We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.
Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.
Top Pick: DC Universe Rebirth #1 (DC Comics) – Wait, what??? A DC title on my list? AND the top pick?? Yup…I am really looking forward to this Rebirth thing that’s coming up. I didn’t get into New 52 (though I did read a few titles) but this looks like a good opportunity to dive into DC again. I’m sure this will be something that is talked about for a long time, and I don’t want to be left out of the conversation.
Extraordinary X-Men #10 (Marvel) – The Apocalypse Wars are in full swing, and the X-Men are making their away across the different lands of Omega World trying to get back to their time and save their teacher in the process. I’ve enjoyed reading this latest story arc; it’s been action filled and fun to see the younger X-Men spending their time in this world and growing into X-Men.
Mockingbird #3 (Marvel) – this has been an interesting read; Bobbi having numerous side effects from her exposure to the Super Soldier formula and the Infinity formula has lead to some weird things happening to her. And not to mention keeping up with SHIELD and her spy duties. All in a days work for her, and I am looking forward to see where this leads.
Scooby Apocalypse #1 (DC Comics) – Ok so now you’re thinking I’ve just totally lost it. ANOTHER DC title on my pick list…and it’s Scooby Doo?! This looks interesting to me; sounds like a great twist on a childhood classic and the redesign of the characters does look pretty cool (though I’m still on the fence about hipster Shaggy). But this looks like a fun ride.
Monstress #6 (Image Comics) – Monstress is easily and very quickly becoming one of my favorite comics. Marjorie Liu has written an amazing fantasy story with great underlying themes, and Sana Takeda’s gorgeous illustration makes the characters and world feel real.
We(l)come Back #8 (BOOM! Studios) – I’m so sad that this is the final issue of the series! Sebela has taken an awesome concept (time traveling assassins) and fleshed it out into an amazing story with characters you love and root for.
Top Pick: Divinity II #2 (Valiant Entertainment) – A sequel to one of the best miniseries I’ve read in a long time always interests me. When the first issue actually lives up to expectations? I’m in.
Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas #1 (IDW Publishing) – I loved the graphic novel version of this, and having seen a sampling of the special features included in this 48 page comic when I had a chat with Troy Little, I’m super excited to get a chance to read the finished article.
Johnny Red #7 (Titan Comics) – I just love this series. The artwork, the story, the setting… everything about this comic just works for me.
Judge Dredd #6 (IDW Publishing) – Didn’t the last issue just come out? I could probably find out, but I don’t care enough to find out. I’m just happy to read the next issue.
Top Pick: Tomboy #5 (Action Lab: Danger Zone) – Such a fantastic series that’s a bit horror, a bit action, a bit superhero and all staring a teenage girl into anime. This is a mature title that is grossly overlooked and one that is flying under the radar. Every issue has knocked it out of the park and I expect no less from this.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 (Marvel) – Steve Rogers is back as his younger self and donning the mantle of Captain America once again. It’ll be interesting to see how this comic makes itself stand out from the Sam Wilson led one, and also how Steve acts now he’s back to the way he used to be.
East of West #26 (Image Comics) – It feels like forever since the last issue and that’s a shame because this apocalyptic Western is an amazing read with every issue.
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas #1 (IDW Publishing) – I read the full graphic novel, and now broken out in single issues, I’ll read it again. It perfectly captures the frenetic nature of the novel and movie that came out of it.
Nighthawk #1 (Marvel) – The Squadron Supreme character gets his own comic series. The fact David Walker is writing is is what has me really interested and how he makes the character stand on his own as opposed to a certain other big city vigilante from another publisher.
Christopher Sebela’s We(l)come Back is, well, back with issue #7, and the series keeps getting better. The latest issue picks up essentially where #6 left off, with Tessa and Mali being chased by hordes of people attempting to kill them. So, the usual.
We(l)come Back #7 takes Tessa and Mali to South Africa, where they hope to hide from the army of sequels that’s ever on their tail. This issue is one of the best yet, balancing exposition and action. Readers learn more about Tessa’s upbringing and life before the series, while other characters are introduced with greater purpose. In light of Tessa and Mali’s decision to walk away from the war, they started themselves on a dangerous path, and all of the plot threads are finally coming together to weave a bigger picture.
It’s also worth noting that the development of Tessa and Mali’s relationship is one of the best constants in the series, and the time that Sebela takes to develop it a little more each issue emphasizes its importance. Despite everything going on around them, their relationship is healthy and unwavering. It’s a nice change of pace, especially for two non-straight characters, who often don’t get the kind of happiness Tessa and Mali experience. This could, of course, all change at a moment’s notice, but the story that’s built up around Tessa and Mali’s current incarnations and the relationship they’ve developed over a number of centuries are what make the series special.
Claire Roe’s art is the same expressive style that continues to grow with the story, and colorist Jeremy Lawson brings the pages to life with some gorgeously colored panels. (The two-page spread covering pages four and five is especially fun to look at.) One thing that Roe has done and continues to do exceptionally well is fashion. The clothes each character wears could absolutely believably be an outfit seen outside of the comic, and small details like giving Mali a sleeveless lace blouse and Tessa elastic cuff pants gives the story an added element of believability.
Overall, the issue is one of the strongest of the series so far. This issue introduces some new characters to the mix, gives the story a clear direction, and is an absolute must-read as part of the series.
Mali is on the run again in We(l)come Back #6, but this time, it’s not from Tessa. Rather, she and Tessa are running from the sequels attempting to kill them, a chase that’s shaping up to be marathon-levels of, well, running, with some guns thrown in for good measure.
Officially in the second arc of the story, writer Christopher Sebela and artist Claire Roe have seemingly returned with more confidence than ever. In the first arc, the story certainly wasn’t lacking direction. It had, in fact, several directions with any number of possible outcomes. With We(l)come Back #5, the narrative was shaped into something more definite, and #6 starts Mali and Tessa down a solid and extremely dangerous path.
This issue is equal parts action and information. As with most of the series, it is told from Mali’s perspective. There’s a little bit of a time jump between the previous issue and this one, but Mali’s narrative is a good segue to the present. The action is similar to scenes from previous issues, but with the added bonus of further insightful monologuing from Mali. One interesting thing about this comic is that fight scenes provide the most introspective commentary about the characters. In Mali’s world, she is most herself where she has been someone else: in battle. This makes for an interesting juxtaposition in a comic where so much of the focus has been on individual choice over expectation. The last arc was more about Mali trying to develop an individual identity outside of her past. So far, this arc continues the theme of self-questioning, but in a way that means focusing on the future rather than the past.
Significant time is dedicated to further developing Tessa and Mali’s relationship in this issue. There are a few delightful moments of backstory involving the two. While they have known one another for centuries, their story in the modern age (the age in which the readers know them) spans a very short amount of time, making it necessary to flesh out their unique relationship (literally and figuratively).
While the Sebela took on these tough questions in the writing, artist Claire Roe had the task of bringing action to life. The art in We(l)come Back #6 was still the same clean style seen in #5, but just as the story hit a strong stride, so did Roe. This isn’t to say that the art in #5 was bad–quite the opposite–but Roe has seemingly gained confidence with each issue.
Sebela and Roe are a strong team, and We(l)come Back continues to amass intrigue. It does, however, leave Tessa and Mali with backs against the wall at all turns, begging the question of what could possibly come next.