By Jonathan Edwards
I was somewhat surprised by Helena Crash #2. The first issue was by no means bad, but there wasn't necessarily that much to it either. We got a sense of the world, a general idea of Helena's character, and a little bit of plot at the end. It was enough to want to see what happens next, but I had yet to be really hooked. To be completely honest, this one didn't completely do that either. However, what it did do was build interestingly off of what we saw last time, and it got me more thoroughly engaged from the get go.
We open with Helena taking her car to a mechanic due to it having been damaged by Los Fantasmas last time. My expectation was that we were going to hit the ground running by immediately continuing the gang war plot, but I'm actually glad that's not the case here. It might seem like a small detail, but it makes a world of difference. Mark Millar's semi-recent series Empress didn't do it, and that the narrative feeling frenetic and entirely to shallow. Was it entertaining? Sure, in the moment. But without anything greater to contribute to, that's it. Contrast that with what Helena Crash does here. With the notion of Helena competing her job for Rojo, we take a step back, learn a bit more of her history and get some character development out of it. Plus, more time is given to see the main conflict simmer so its eventually eruption feels that much more organic.
Another thing I really liked was Helena's next job. It would've been so easy for White Demon to ask for some rare and special blend of coffee, but it also would've limited the depth of the world. It's already plenty clear how much of a hot commodity coffee is despite its illegality. Reinforcing it any more would be redundant. Whereas, Helena delivering something else (in this case a movie) shows more so how good she is at her job and why she likes it so much. Additionally, we learn a fair amount White Demon both in terms of character development and world building.
I wasn't 100% sold on the art by the end of Helena Crash #1. I could respect the artistic merit behind the style, but it wasn't completely my thing. Although, this one changed my mind. I can't quite pin down if there's a specific thing that was different this time around, but I really dig it. And, artist Warwick Johnson-Cadwell's forthcoming book Mr. Higgings Come Home (a collaboration with Mike Mignola) is all the more enticing because of it.
Helena Crash thankfully seems to be moving in the right direction. Definitely grab this if you dug the first issue. In fact, I'd say it's still worth checking out even if, like me, it didn't quite pull you in. I'm excited to see what they do with issue #3. But if I'm not hooked after that, I might not come back for #4.
Helena Crash #2