3 out of 5
Definitely a great start.
I’ve been passing up Charles Soule’s work based on some flip-throughs of his creator-owned stuff and – though it’s not really fair to judge people on this – average experiences with his Big Two work. He’s one of those guys that I thought I might have the opportunity to have my opinion fadiddled with via some book of interest at some point, or perhaps grabbing something from a sale rack, but my to-read pile is so ginormous that I’m not searching for the opportunity, ya dig? I do not, however, need convincing to read Ryan Browne’s work… and glommed to the first issue of Curse Words – lovingly splashed with Browne’s colors, hand-drawn sound effects, eye-boogling layouts, and comicy but grounded figure work – like a glommy person glomms to the most glommable of glomms. That being said, I still approached with caution, as an artist is only one half of the comic experience, so I was trying to figure: is it worth risking the cover price if I end up only liking the art?
It was, and it ended up being a risk that paid off, at least for an enjoyable initial arc. Curse Words is pitching itself correctly: a lot of comics are out there to BLOW OUR MINDS with their first twist, or go for broke with High Concept, and while CW’s evil-wizard-comes-to-Earth-and-decides-to-be-good isn’t exactly low concept, Soule plays it pretty straight, doling out setup flashbacks in a way that’s logical to story progression and not just used as cliffhanger bait, and flashing back to Wizord’s homeworld – the boss of which, Sizzajee, isn’t quite happy with Wizord – with a similar patience and reserve. And I have to believe Soule is writing for Ryan’s strengths, or working in sync with the artist for plotting in some way, as lead wizard Wizord’s luscious beard and talking koala familiar could just be goofy in another artist’s hands, but Browne’s hypercolor coloring scheme and loose but defined style find the perfect tone: aware of its inherent oddness but capable of representing the concepts seriously; this is akin to those bestest 80s cult movies of yore, a la Ice Pirates or Buckaroo Banzai, in which you acknowledge that it’s strange, but the film just makes you go with it.
These first five issues give us some of the ground rules for Wizord’s magic use and how he came to his current role as Earth’s sorta protector, battling ‘gainst Sizzajee-sent minions. Some of Soule’s dialogue slips into the kind of routine territory that made me pass over his work, but going back to the whole comic/art combo thing, I have to say that Ryan’s energetic framing of scenes tends to mostly save it. The end of the story hits on a “magic is real!” sappiness a bit too hard and, although it creates a great visual gag, maybe gets a bit too goofy in its final fight; these elements sort of clarify (by temporarily breaking your reading immersion) that we are likely going to be reading a somewhat typical redemption story, albeit with a fantasy base. But if it keeps being as genuinely entertaining as these first five issues, I’d still say that’s quite worth the cover price.