The PQ Archive: ‘Lumberjanes’ #24 Shows The Power Of Teamwork

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


Lumberjanes_024_A_MainWritten by Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh
Art by Carey Pietsch
Colors by Maarta Laiho
Letters by Aubrey Aiese
Published by Boom! Studios

The adventures of the Lumberjanes and Seafarin’ Karen come to an end, and what have we learned?

Well, besides that these girls work great together, and that doesn’t just mean the Lumberjanes themselves.

Picking up from the end of the last issue, Jo is saved by the selkies Sunday and Monday after the shipwreck from the end of the last issue. The opening page of her looking up at it from below as light filters through the water is particularly gorgeous and terrifying and shows just how good Pietsch and Laiho are at their jobs.

The Lumberjanes, Karen and the Selkies are briefly rescued by missing pool noodles from the camp, but they realize they won’t be enough to keep them afloat if the whirlpool is still active. Luckily for them, Molly and Ripley come through a portal in a GIANT PIRATE SHIP. This leads to not only a super sweet and romantic kiss between the reunited Mal and Molly, but an explanation of just how they got it through from the other world. Which involved a fast paced and wordy Ripley explanation that makes you really appreciate Aubrey Aiese’s lettering work and Molly’s quick thinking. For a girl that is constantly down on herself, seeing Molly grow into her brilliance has been kind of spectacular.

However, the girls can’t celebrate their rescue/how amazing their friend is too long because the whirlpool is still open and attracting a lot of lightning. Besides bringing on Ripley’s amazing explanation of the Relampago del Catatumbo in Venezuela that draws some of the best facial reactions from the girls in the book, it also makes the girls realize that there’s something else keeping the portal open.

The culprit? Moirin’s lost pelt, which the portal is leeching magic from.

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This sets everyone into motion to work together to retrieve the pelt and finally close the portal. Not just the Lumberjanes using all the knot tying skills they learned at the beginning of the arc, but Karen and the Selkies working together to get the ship where it needs to go and even ends with Moirin rescuing Karen after she falls in the water trying to save Molly.

The teamwork works out in their favor though. The storm dies down, the portal closes and Moirin gets her pelt back. Ripley makes a seal friend, Karen gets a new crew with the selkies after Karen realizes she is indirectly responsible for the loss of Moirin’s pelt and they make up, and April FINALLY gets her “Knot on Your Life” badge that this entire adventure started over.

In an arc that was all about teamwork that sometimes felt a bit touch and go in the middle, it’s so nice to see it wrap up so solid with a creative team coalescing in great ways. This is Pietsch’s last issue and to see her bring it home with such lovely and expressive art that plays so well with Laaiho’s stormy color palette was so fantastic. Not to mention that it finally has hit the spot where Leyh has learned the characters and her work is falling more in line with Watters just in time for the second year anniversary of the comic. It’s exciting and relieving, just like the end of this arc.

Of course, it’s not all resolutions as the issue closes with a look through the spyglass, showing strange auras around the girls in all sorts of different colors. Perhaps this is setting up for the beginning of year three? Or maybe even the Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy crossover? Time will tell, but it should be exciting.

Lumberjanes #24 ends the selkie arc as it hits its next stride. Taking examples from the girls themselves, the creative team works together to bring the arc home in a satisfying way. While Watters, Leyh, Pietsch, Laaiho and Aiese may not be going for the same badge April was in this arc, but they certainly deserve one after delivering a finale where everyone gets to shine while still wrapping up the story in a way that never feels too rushed or leaves anything hanging. This is the kind of story you want going into the third year of a comic, and it doesn’t disappoint.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Welcome Back’ #6 Brings The End Of The Line

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


WelcomeBack_006_A_Main-666x1024Written by Christopher Sebela
Art by Claire Roe
Colors by Jeremy Lawson
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Boom! Studios

We were all out of luck, all out of time

Law was waiting for us at the end of the line

Any minute now we knew we was gonna have to decide…

That stanza is from “Boxcar” by Shovels and Rope, a song about two lovers/criminals running away from the law when one of them decides to face the law by herself. While not an exact one to one to the never-ending story of Tessa and Mali, it’s the update of the boxcar escape that really brings that song to mind when reading issue 6 of the  Christopher Sebela and Claire Roe created  series.

Swinging back around to the two main Sequels and just what they’ve been up to since issue #4. It turns out that “convalescing on a boxcar safe house” is the answer. TV, bed, movies, music… the works. For a little bit, the two get to be domestic as they catch up on their past lives. The chemistry between the two of them is so easy and loving, and the way Mali talks about Tessa in the narration is heart wrenching in the best ways. “This isn’t love,” she says at one point, “It’s something bigger and scarier than that.”

Roe’s art and Lawson’s colors in this issue drive that point home. Where the two were previously and constantly wearing conflicting styles with bright, signature colors, their looks have become more blended and casual with their signature greens and purples become much more toned down. Tessa even wears green at one point. It serves as a nice contrast to the red tones of the flashback and action scenes.

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Roe really relishes in the little details of the way Mali and Tessa act around each other. Underwear casually peeking out over the waistband of jeans. Silly, knowing looks. Loving embraces. It makes it even harder knowing that it can’t be like this forever for them, but it makes those moments even more rewarding to read in the meantime. Sebela and Roe work fantastically together to make the relationship of Tessa and Mali feel like one the reader has been rooting for forever, even though it didn’t really unfold until two issues prior. It doesn’t just speak to the strength of the way Sebela writes the two, but to how the concept of Sequels managed to be executed in this book.

Of course, that happy sort of on the run domesticity only lasts until the last page, when the plot re-collides with the end of #5 and the Sequels that have been chasing them down finally have them cornered. End of the line, girls.

There’s the infamous Joker quote from The Dark Knight that gets applied to wrestlers Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens a lot more lately. “You and I are destined to do this forever.” That’s essentially what the story of Mali and Tessa has been up until this point. Two souls locked in conflict until the end of time, always coming back and finding each other. Welcome Back #6 throws a wrench in that concept though and explores if it is possible for them to do so. Sebela and Roe make that believable, but right now, it comes down more to if the rest of the world will let them and if they can survive as lovers in their next life if they can’t escape. The domesticity is lovely and nearly perfect, but it makes that conflict even more suspenseful as it comes.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Army Of Darkness’ Hits The ‘Furious Road’ With New Miniseries

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


AODFuriousRoad01-Cov-A-CrookWritten by Nancy Collins
Art by Kewber Baal
Colors by Schimerys Baal
Letters by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Comics

Part of what makes comics great and sometimes terrible as a medium is the freedom to do whatever you want. Take the Army of Darknesscomics, for example. Not beholden to the new canon established by Ash vs. The Evil Dead, the comics have had the freedom to expand the story of Ash Williams in interesting ways. Some work great, like the first two arcs “Ashes 2 Ashes” and “Shop Till You Drop Dead” picking up where the Army of Darkness film left off. Some… not so great.

Luckily, the latest arc, “Furious Road” falls more into the good camp with its first issue, but probably because we haven’t really seen too much of how Nancy Collins writes Ash.

The first new Army of Darkness comic in a year, the story takes place “twenty years from whenever ‘now’ is” and is happening in a post-apocalyptic Detroit overrun by Deadites. A group of survivors are heading on a road trip out to Dearborn to find the Necronomicon, dealing with the horrific undead demons on the way. Of course, demons cannot compare to the sheer stubbornness that is a grizzled Ashley J. Williams living out of an S-Mart.

As previously mentioned, the first issue doesn’t really deal a lot with Ash. He first shows up on page 18. Instead, we get to meet the survivors of this new post-apocalypse that has tinges of the original ending of Army of Darkness mixed with Mad Max. We have vampire hunters Eva and Michael, two characters who had previously been in Army of Darkness comics, along with punk sorceress Hekuba, gargoyle Martel, werewolf Gnarly, and two characters known as The Rev and Sister Ronnie. While backstories haven’t really come into play yet since most of the comic is them fighting off Deadites, Collins and Baal work together to establish them as distinctive characters in look and personality. It’ll be interesting to see where the story takes them after such an explosive introduction, both literally and figuratively.

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What little we see of Ash, he comes across more as a grumpy old man. Well, grumpy scruffy man, at least. Baal doesn’t really age Ash too much, even though he’d probably be in his 50s at this point, at least. Compared to the way Ramón Pérez drew Old Man Barton in All-New Hawkeye, it’s a bit disappointing to see Ash just look like he hasn’t shaved in a few days. However, Collins does do a good job of writing Ash as a smarmy hothead whose mouth writes checks he can’t cash. Whether that’s just a front or his entire character remains to be seen.

Besides the writing, the team of Kewber and Schimerys Baal work well together on art. The action and pacing is absolutely dynamic and the colors bring a good balance of post-apocalyptic dinginess without losing out on vibrancy. Hekuba’s spell casting in particular brings a wonderful sense of atmosphere with an electric purplish-pink that matches her hair.

As an introduction, Army of Darkness: Furious Road sets out to do its job without getting too bogged down in the details. Collins and Baal dive right into the action, setting up this interesting team of characters on a mission to find the Necronomicon and to fight off Deadites while doing so. By choosing to wait on bringing Ash in, it gives more of an idea of what the universe is like outside of him while giving the other characters a chance to shine. The only question is will it remain that way once everyone’s favorite screwhead Ash becomes a major player in the next issue.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Archie’ #6 Hits Out Of The Park And Onto Heads… Literally!

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


Archie6Story by Mark Waid
Art by Veronica Fish
Colors by Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn
Letters by Jack Morelli
Published by Archie Comics

Ahhh, young love. Often times it involves jealousy, and sometimes it involves rich scumbags trying to extort your girlfriend’s dad and errant softballs banging you across the head.

Well, if you’re Archie Andrews, it does.

The sixth issue of the all new Archie series picks up not long after the previous issue where Archie decides to take a friend break from Jughead and Betty when they tried to interfere with his relationship with Veronica just a bit too much. Despite the softball that resulted in Archie’s “routine concussion” being from one hell of a home run hit by Betty, the issue does a good job of pulling focus away from Archie and instead looking at other relationships. Betty hits it off with a boy named Sayid Ali and a woman named Toni Topaz carries Archie to the hospital after the injury. They’re not major players in the issue, but their introductions feel significant enough that it would be easy to believe Waid is playing a long game with them.

While Betty, Veronica, and Jughead flock to our main hero to check on our hero, most of the issue ends up being about Reggie trying to take his revenge on Archie for the fake ID incident in the previous issue. First by trying to get sweet on Veronica, and then trying to appeal to her dad by showing him an expose Reggie’s dad was writing about him. While this is an all-ages book, Reggie’s inability to take no for an answer still comes across as appropriately creepy and unsettling. Reggie may always be Archie’s main rival, but Waid is doing a good job of updating it for a modern age with modern implications.

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Another great thing that this series has been doing is pulling the curtain back a little on Veronica with each issue. This one in particular gives a bit more insight into the moments from the previous issue where we began to see that Veronica really does care about Archie. This one even reveals that she might even love him. While Veronica is way more spoiled and caustic, it has been fun to see just what kind of person she is under all of that.

This issue is Veronica Fish’s second issue as the main series artist after Fiona Staples’ three issue run ended and Annie Wu’s guest issue about the Lipstick Incident. Fish has been popping up all over the place lately, with guest art on Marvel’s Howard the Duck and Silk under her belt recently. Fish is a perfect match for this particular Archie book, keeping the same youthful energy as Staples, but mixing it with the edge that Wu brought to the table. Not to mention those facial expressions!
Archie #6 continues the new reboot’s streak of creating a modern and fun vibe for the series while still keeping to the core of the original series both in Waid’s writing and Fish’s art. While this particular issue does sometimes feel like it’s trying to cover too much ground at once sometimes, it does still move forward on a lot of fronts between Veronica’s relationship with Archie and Reggie’s general sleaziness. Does it also introduce a new love interest for Betty? Who can say right now, but that line is laid pretty hard currently.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Barb Wire’ Gives The Steel Harbor Blues, But Offers No Cures For Them

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


barb-wire-steel-harbor-blues-cover-665x1024Written by Chris Warner
Pencils by Patrick Olliffe
Inks by Tom Nguyen
Colors by Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Michael Heisler
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Nostalgia has been finding itself in the comics community lately as more and more companies are rebooting properties from the 80s and 90s to introduce to a more modern reader. Sometimes, this is successful, like with IDW Publishing’s fantastic Jem and the Holograms comic. Other times, it is giving a much forgotten and mocked property a facelift, like Kate Leth and Eman Casallos’ upcoming Vampirella comic. To make these reboots work though, it has to carry the story forward and find an interesting angle to introduce the property to a new audience. Nostalgia cannot be the only factor involved.

Unfortunately for Dark Horse’s attempt to relaunch Barb Wire, nostalgia might be the only thing going for it.

Barb Wire is a Dark Horse property from the 90s, created by the team behind the Comics Greatest World imprint. While Ghost has managed to survive beyond the imprint to be a cult character, Barb Wire has become something of a joke after the 1996 film based on the comic starring Pamela Anderson was a critical and financial bomb. It’s easy to hope that maybe a rebooted comic would find a new audience mixed with original readers now that the film is 20 years old and mostly forgotten about.

The problem with that? The comic seems to forget trying to grab a new audience entirely.

The first volume Steel Harbor Blues focuses on Barb Wire being the focus of a reality show about bounty hunting while still trying to keep her club The Hammerhead alive and trying to catch some drunk LARPer reject named Wyvern Stormblüd who keeps evading police custody. He might be a metahuman? The comic is unclear on that.

In fact, the comic is unclear about a lot of things. Pages are turned and read, but barely anything about the worldBarb Wire lives in is explained. A cursory glance at Wikipedia barely answers any questions either. Are there superhumans? Is this a new universe outside of Comics Greatest World or the same one? Just who are these two giant jerks who keep harassing Barb while she works at the club? It leaves the feeling that you’re missing something by not being one of the people who read the original book back in 1995. The cherry on top is that Warner seems to make assumptions on how millennials talk and completely misses the mark in the process.

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The art doesn’t fare too much better either. Sometimes it is passable, but then there are times where the anatomy on Barb gets so twisty and ridiculous that it drags out of the story. At least Gabe Eltaeb’s colors are consistently vibrant and fun. It’s actually one of the best things the book has going for it.

Sometimes, the book has its moments. Mostly when Barb is alone in her office, struggling internally with her vices as she tries to figure out how she’s going to make ends meet, or standing up to gang leader Mace Blitzkrieg with sarcasm and a steely glare. It’s in these moments that Barb is downright relatable and comes across as more than just a “Strong Female Character” who is a conventionally attractive blonde who fights well. If the book could find balance with those moments, it would actually be a pretty decent story. Instead, those become the threads trying to keep an incomprehensible story tied up.

Even with good solo character moments and a beautifully gritty color palette, Barb Wire seems to rely too much on presumed reader nostalgia to carry it as a story. Instead of re-presenting or re-crafting her world, it functions on half formed ideas and doesn’t try to explain any of them. Maybe if you’re a fan of hers from the 90s, the book will make a ton of sense, but for the rest of us, it’s not worth the trip to Steel Harbor.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Welcome Back’ #5 Shifts Focus To An Unlikely Source

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


Screen-Shot-2016-02-11-at-12.22.03-AMWritten by Christopher Sebela
Art by Claire Roe
Colors by Jeremy Lawson
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Boom! Studios

Man, Sebela and Roe really know how to make their audience wait for it with this book.

If you just read the first volume of Welcome Backyou’ll be happy to know that the follow up with #5 is already out. However, you might be thrown off just a bit to hear that the entire issue is about Lorena, the Sequel who was Mali’s serial killer stepdad in a previous life but is currently a ten year old girl in this one. The suspense of the fates of Mali and Tessa lasts the whole issue. Not to worry though, because little Lorena carries this entire issue rather well.

As the result of her actions back in issue two, this issue opens with Lorena learning that she has been demoted to a Grunt. However, her first action as one is to find out where Mali and Tessa went in the first place. With the help of a convenient death of an uncle and the help of two old Grunts named George and Julia Capra, Lorena sets out on her search, taking her to Kansas City, Omaha, Denver, and the Nevada desert, finally ending in Oakland after a week.

It could be very easy to make Lorena into the typical “badass little girl” trope, especially now that she’s remembering her past lives. However, Sebela and Roe do a good job at using that aspect of her past lives to humanize her even more. This especially comes through with the dog Showtime, who is now in her custody, and with a child only known as Kryztof, who she watches in a video on her iPad. While we never learn the context of who Kryztof or why she refers to Showtime as ‘Slyvia,’ it gives the reader more insight into just who Lorena is as a person after all this time. Not content to be a Grunt, but hesitant to turn her past life step-daughter in to whoever is up the food chain. The best scene of the issue comes courtesy of a visit to the grave of Mali’s mother, apologizing for not being able to protect her daughter more.

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Of course, that softening only goes so far.

Roe is on art in this issue as the regular series artist, but Lawson is on colors instead of Carlos Zamudio, which results in a much brighter scheme than the first volume. It works out for the better though, since Lorena is so far so young in this life and it allows a nice contrast of her seemingly innocent looks compared to the horrors of everything going on in her life. The final scene with the Capras illustrates this contrast in the most perfect and horrific way.

While the return of Welcome Back doesn’t jump right back into the story of Mali and Tessa, it gives us a lot of insight into the mind and soul of Lorena. It scales back some from the route of making her another Hit-Girl and instead paints her as a hardened and tired soldier, looking for a way out and to know that the people she cares about are okay.

Plus, it has a big and adorable black lab in a cape. This book is great.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Welcome Back’ Vol. 1 Is A High-Speed, Tragic Tale Of Immortality

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


Screen-Shot-2016-02-10-at-11.06.27-PMWritten by Christopher Sebela
Art by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Claire Roe
Colors by Carlos Zamudio with Juan Manuel Tumburús
Letters by Shawn Aldridge
Published by Boom! Studios

Reincarnation is a story device possibly as old as story itself. There’s something of a natural curiosity of what happens after we die and the possibility of coming back as someone else when it’s all said and done. Do we learn anything from the endless past? What kind of lives would we live anyway?

Welcome Back deals with a lot of that, but also adds queer assassins and an ongoing war between good and evil to the mix.

Welcome Back follows Mali Quinn, a 26-year-old punk living in Kansas City trying to piece her life together. Besides her past with a serial killer father occasionally popping up to haunt her, Mali lives the typical life of a 26-year-old in this day and aged: unemployed, just scraping by, in a crappy relationship, and with a dog and best friend as her only companions. Well that, and dreams about violent death. The usual.

What isn’t usual though is the guy attacking her at a house party that she can magically fend off despite never being in a fight before. Not to mention a mysterious woman named Tessa who is on the hunt for her too.

Welcome Back is a comic that moves fast and furious from the start, not cutting any corners to get to where it’s going. Sebela does a good job of introducing concepts, but not whacking you over the head with the exposition bat. We get some explanation of what Sequels are as well as some flashbacks to Mali’s previous lives, but this is mostly her story. There’s time yet to learn of everything that’s going on behind the scenes. Let’s see what happens when someone who doesn’t have their life together suddenly learns that they’re a constantly reincarnating soldier.

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The art is evenly split between Sawyer and Roe, sometimes even in the same chapter, which can be somewhat disconcerting, but their two styles have a good balance of each other. Sawyer is a bit more stylistic, with his details getting more focused on clothing and facial expressions. This makes establishing in the first two chapters go especially well. Roe’s strengths are more in movements and background details, which is perfect for when the story gets more action driven in the second half of the book. There’s one particular scene in the third chapter set in Atlanta that made it easy to tell that she had done her homework on what Peachtree Center and MARTA look like, making it an especially suspenseful chase that culminates in a major decision for Mali.

Zamudio’s colors bring a good consistency across the board between the two art styles, relishing in all of the dark, bloody and action-y scenes to help create the kind of atmosphere the book is going for. Not to mention the ever so subtle color cues between Mali and Tessa throughout time, emphasizing just how fated the two are, right up to the climatic moment where the two finally meet face to face.

Everything that builds up in writing and art to the payoff in chapter four when they finally meet. More specifically, everything that builds up to page 100 when you see just how fated Mali and Tessa really are. That’s what makes it worth it. It hits like a steam train crashing into a brick wall after careening downhill, and shows just what makes this story amazing.

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Welcome Back is a superb action story that is simultaneously a classic tragedy. Mali is an extremely relatable heroine for this day and age, which makes what happens to her even more confounding and sad. While there are still lots of questions that need to be answered about the Sequels and the war they’re fighting against each other, the first volume of Welcome Back is not concerned with those things. Just of telling a good story to jump into, and establishing just what these characters have at stake when they could just easily keep the cycle of life and death going forever with no questions asked. If tragic and somewhat immortal assassins are your bag, Welcome Back just might be your book.


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