I don’t know how I missed the opportunity to review this book last month, but once again, I come to praise a book by Christopher Sebela, and not to bury it. Welcome Back issue 2, with co-creator Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and collaborators Claire Roe, Carlos Zamudio and Shawn Alridge, is a whirlwind of a comic, never letting up for a minute, slamming you with information, and leaving you wanting more. We pick up where issue 1 left off, with Mali/Maizie and her stepdad/small girl friend gearing up to hit the road and get away from the bad guys while Mali wakes up. Meanwhile, Tessa is hunting down Mali, and dealing with the small town Kansas City “charm.” Their paths lead them closer and closer together with unexpected allies on either side, and dangers lying in wait at the end.
The plot of Welcome Back is relatively simple, by design; the story of the world is enormous and gets filled in a little bit each issue, both by captions and character dialogue, and by Sawyer’s use of previous lives to indicate action paths of characters. Where a lot of creators could get bogged down in backstory and world-building factoids that are unnecessary to the story, Sebela, Sawyer, et al, do a great job of boiling this book down to the cat-and-mouse chase that it is. It’s just a cat-and-mouse chase with awesome swordfighting and a badass nine-year-old who destroys a speeding car with a baseball bat.
Welcome Back also works very well within the framework of a four-issue limited series. In that kind of format, there’s essentially one issue for set-up, two and a half issues for escalation, and then there has to be a relatively quick climax and then it all ties together at the end. Anything less, and it starts to drag; anything more and it feels like you’re barreling along with no chance to stop and take anything in. Welcome Back moves at just the right brisk pace to let you live in Sawyer’s phenomenal action sequences, but also to not let you feel like the dialogue sequences slow anything down. If anything, they’re an excellent time to notice how expressive Sawyer’s faces are.
The art on Welcome Back is refreshingly clear, for a book with such a thoroughly mapped-out backstory. It’s impossible not to follow the action from panel to panel and page to page, and there is the added benefit of several double page spread sequences from Sawyer that really sell the action. It’s a larger format that lets the narration accomplish what it needs to, while awesome fights are happening as a counterpoint to the introspection. If I had a complaint about the art, it would be that there are several pages where Claire Roe assists main artist Sawyer; they’re still fantastic pages, but their art styles aren’t quite close enough for Carlos Zamudio’s rich colors to tie them together. There’s a whole sequence towards the end where I didn’t recognize Mali for a minute--Roe’s style picks up her basic features, like her ombre hair and her outfit, but it’s still just this side of jarring.
You should be reading this book if you like action comics, and if you like rich worlds, and if you like amazing artwork. There’s just no good excuse not to pick it up. There’s a reason this book is going back for a second printing of issue 1; you should be reading it, and it’s not your fault if you didn’t pick it up the first time around. It always comes back, after all.
Welcome Back #2 Writer: Christopher Sebela Artists: Jonathan Brandon Sawyer with Claire Roe Colorist: Carlos Zamudio Letterer: Shawn Aldridge Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/14/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital