I’m not really sure what I was hoping for in Book Two of Jimmie Robinson’s Five Weapons, but something better than Book One would have sufficed. Unfortunately, it was just more of the same, and like the title itself implies, the tools in this book’s arsenal are limited to a only a few tricks.
The story continues to follow a young boy who goes by the name Tyler Shainline, the latest in a legendary family of assassins, as he begins his training at the prestigious School of Five Weapons, which educates the next generation of lethal killers. Of course, nothing here - not even Tyler himself - is what it appears, a pretty much expected revelation, which occurs somewhere near the end of issue two.
Continuing the battle for Knife Club supremacy with the class’s president, Jade the Blade, which we saw building from last issue, we stay on “Tyler’s” path as he begins his reign of mind manipulation over the entirety of the school’s big dogs, humiliating in short order all of the other clubs, which also include gunplay, archery and exotic weaponry, in a bid for an as-yet unnamed power.
Okay, here’s what I want to know - am I supposed to actually like this pretentious little doodad? I get that he’s supposed to have a heart of gold and that he’s supposed to be Johnny Bullybeater, but that doesn’t stop me from rooting for anyone who could potentially stab that smug smile off his face. Call me traditional, but I don’t think it’s a good thing that I want to see the protagonist get his ass handed to him.
He’s like all the worst parts of Zack Morris and Ferris Bueller, or the eponymous character from that flick Charlie Bartlett; he’s got the swagger, but almost none of the endearing bits ... other than the fact that we’re told to like him, simply because he’s actually the son of [SPOILER] altruistic immigrant parents. If he does have likability, I’m not seeing it.
The story in general is, to me, so thickly-laid on and heavy-handed, it’s becoming increasingly hard to endure, if for nothing than the simple fact that there is no mystery. We already know, for example, how “Tyler” is going to beat Rick the Stick next issue because of the in-your-face “INSIGHT” (ding ding ding!!) we are force-fed.
Speaking of Rick the Stick (the president of the woodwind club or whatever they call themselves) do we seriously have to hear him hit us with the ghetto speak just because he’s a young black character? Was there no way to otherwise make him stand out on his own besides forcing him into a stereotype? Because, really, this is just kind of embarrassing. I get that Robinson himself is African-American, but that doesn’t stop this whole exercise from feeling like one of those classic “cool” teacher-moments, when they come into the class room, sling the chair around backwards and address the class with, “What is the up, young bloods? Yo, can we kick it for realz?”
It just feels forced and contrived, and points - with the same obviousness within the story itself - to the book’s overall inability to distinguish between characters’ dialogue without dipping into painful cliché and hammy farce. I mean, the only staff member who really sounds different (the gun club leader) only does so because he speaks like a slack-jawed yokel.
Now, maybe Robinson will reveal Rick’s speech pattern to be some kind of commentary, or just a facade used to sound tough (quickly discarded when “Tyler” wins him over), but it’s still jarring as hell, and even in a book we’re not supposed to take seriously, it comes across as a bad joke.
Speaking of which, I have a bad feeling that every issue in this mini-series is going to be the same old set of running gags: “Tyler” finds a way to beat a club leader by exploiting some video game bad guy weakness (ala, King Hippo’s gaping mouth “tell” from Punch-Out), and in that, this just feels like a series of poorly-designed levels that are getting less fun and more samey as the story progresses.
The art is definitely the best thing about the book, and I think the place where Robinson should focus his talents. Saying that, I do think it flirts with laziness at times ... and do we really need to see a panel of the main character’s hairline at one point? Can someone tell me what that’s all about?
Simply put, I don’t think Five Weapons is for me, even with its Manga-esque feel and video game vibe - it just doesn’t do anything or go anywhere, like a really cool-looking ninja who running in place. I said I was going to stick it out until the series’ end, but I think I’ll holster this sidearm because, for me at least, it’s misfiring all over the place.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Jimmie Robinson
Colorist: Paul Little
Publisher: Shadowline and Image Comics
Release Date: 3/27/13