By Ben Snyder
The trope of an ex-assassin being pulled back into their old line of work has been done so many times before with varying degrees of success. Lady Killer has been a fun, easy read from recent memory, while films such as John Wick have been tremendous box office success. Assassinistas #1 creates its own standard as a somewhat more indie candidate. With art that looks ripped right out an Adult Swim program and a story packed with enough emotion and humor to keep it interesting, Assassinistas proves to be a stellar read.
After a brief flashback showing the glory days of the titular Assassinistas and their leader Octavia “Red October” Price, writer Tini Howard thrusts the reader into Octavia’s present depressing and less octane fueled lifestyle. At first, I assumed that Octavia would be content in her new peaceful lifestyle with some slight pining for her past life. However, I was pleasantly surprised to read that she was in fact itching for the opportunity to hop back into the thick of it. It’s simply refreshing to see someone shirk domesticity like that. Octavia Price could be one of the more interesting characters moving forward and definitely someone to keep your eye on.
Unfortunately, the other characters need more exposition. Octavia’s former partner Charlotte “Scarlet” La Costa seems completely content living a normal life battle free. It seems odd because in the flashback Scarlet seemed to be the most violent of the gang, as she locked Octavia and Rosalyn in her sniper scope. Hopefully, we find out what exactly sent her spiraling towards domesticity. Perhaps it simply was her spoiled and violent son Kyler. But it’s still something I’d like to see referenced in a flashback or conversation. Another character that definitely needs to be explained is Rosalyn “Blood Diamond.” She’s barely in it, and just any more information on her would be helpful. She is the last third of the Assassinistas, and the story is very clearly gearing up for a reunion.
Octavia’s son, Dom, also serves as another surprise to the typical spin on this story. Most times the parent who is an ex-assassin would keep their past life a secret from their child, but in Assassinistas #1, Dom is well aware of his mother’s past. In fact, it seems as though he is the one that insisted his mother give up her murderous past. Either way, it will be an interesting dynamic now that he and his boyfriend are complicit with her deeds.
As mentioned before Gilbert Hernandez’s art looks as if it belongs on a Saturday night adult cartoon block. While that is not particularly bad, it’s also not particularly good. The amorphous characters and ill-defined environments add a bit of humor to the story while adding to the feeling that this is a bored college kid's side project. But there are moments of specific detail that allow the character’s emotions to take center stage such as when Octavia is looking at old pictures of her family, and you begin to see tears welling up in her eyes.
Assassinistas #1 delivers a strong and involving introduction to a hopefully entertaining series. There are a couple of problems story-wise that should be straightened out and resolved such as the history of the individual Assassinistas and their eventual falling out, and I am not particularly sold on the art style. However, I still have hope that this series will continue to offer a different and fun take on an already exited and well-worn trope.
Black Crown Comics/IDW Publishing