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Curse Words, a new series that started in January of 2017, written by Charles Soule and drawn by Ryan Browne, published by Image Comics finished its first five issue arc in May. This series had an uneven beginning but has resolved some of the problems that were detracting from it. The first arc will be released as a trade paperback on July 19th along with its sixth issue. With its unique take on magic and fun characters, this series is something to keep an eye on.
For writer Charles Soule, this seems like more of a passion project that he can finally devote time too. Having previously worked on flagship titles for Marvel and DC, this project won't bolster his name recognition beyond what he has already accomplished, but with how well this comic has been received this independent outing could boost his reputation in alternative comics circles. After this, Soule could afford to do more creator-owned work or go back to Marvel and DC without losing any steam.
Artist Ryan Browne has a couple of independent titles under his belt and has worked on a few titles for Marvel in the past, but he has nowhere near the body of work of Soule. Browne's career is set up to get a big boost from working with Soule on this project. With his connections in Marvel and the success of Curse Words, Browne could see himself being brought on to a major title. Even though his art is not traditional Marvel fair, he could do great work on some of Marvel's prosperities.
Curse Words follows Wizord, a sorcerer who has come to Earth from the Hole Dimension. Wizord's initial purpose was to subdue Earth so that his master Sizzajee could easily conquer the planet. Wizord, however, had a change of heart and now he and his companion, a talking Koala named Margaret, are Earth's only defense against Sizzajee and his army of magic users. One of these magic users is an assassin named Ruby Stitch, who also happens to be Wizord's ex-lover.
All the conflicts in the series come from Wizord being a self-centered character. His major character flaw is that he is powerful and lets it get to his head. Wizord was originally a slave who was raised to power by Sizzajee, but when he finds himself on Earth, he is finally the most powerful person in his world and he lets it get to his head. He decides he no longer needs Sizzajee and decides to defend Earth against his former master, taking the mundane world as his own protectorate. When Sizzajee cuts him off, Wizord gets instantly humbled and must now grow to earn his power.
Wizord is also concerned with protecting his image as the most powerful being on Earth. When he accidentally causes massive collateral damage in his first battle with one of Sizzajee's assassins, he uses his magic to cover it up and no one on Earth can explain what happened. This, of course, causes him to clash heads with Earth authorities that want answers.
Ruby and Wizord have a more intimate conflict. They were romantically involved but as Wizord started rising in the ranks they grew apart. Wizord used her for his own gains and burned her. Now she's vindictive and wants to get back at him for mistreating her. They clash at the end of the first arc.
They have an interesting dynamic as they only ever come into direct conflict in the last issue. Until that point, it is mostly a matter of internal growth for both of them with Sizzajee doing what he can from the shadows to undermine Wizord. The conflict has a satisfying ending that marks growth for both characters as they both make a choice that works for them as individuals but still manage to foil Sizzajee's plan as a side effect.
Pros and Cons
The strongest part of Curse Words is its writing. Soule seamlessly ties the world building and character development into each other. Exposition is kept to a minimum and much of the world is left intentionally vague. The rules of magic and the different aspects of the Hole Dimension are only revealed in moments of character development, but in such a way that the reader isn't berated with information. Soule pieces out small amounts of information over the course of an issue so that it appears as if the world is changing alongside Wizord.
Another great aspect of the series is the character's personality and the dialogue. Each character has a unique voice and is often juxtaposed with a supplementary character. Wizord, the condescending know-it-all, is paired with Margaret, the wise & caring companion, or Sizzajee, the "biggest-bad there is" and knows it, with Ruby, the strong and independent scorned lover. These characters set against modern-day New York and a culture that speaks in slang and text jargon makes for hilarious banter. It also offers an opportunity for some surprisingly genuine moments where the reader develops a strong empathy for these characters because there is no one else like them.
Curse Words falls short in terms of art consistency. The lines in the penciling are generally solid throughout but there are several insistences in the first volume where the lines aren't clean. Issue three was particularly weak in this regard. Many of the character's facial features were lost in sketchy line work, especially in panels featuring Ruby Stitch. This problem seems to have been mostly resolved by the fourth issue. Browne displays some clean and intricate designs in this issue and gives the faces a lot of strong detail in the close-ups. With this issue, Curse Words jumps into contention for some of the best art on the market today.
A great element of Curse Words art is its vibrant palette. Magic in this world is unconventional and is incredibly powerful. Colorist Michael Garland and Ryan Browne visually demonstrate the impact of the magic in this world by making it pop with bright and vibrant colors. The colors also reflect the punk-rock feel of the series and the characters, making use of the same neon colors popular in band promotional materials from the 80s and 90s.
Overall, this is a strong series worth checking out.
- Great world building and character development
- Strong dialogue
- Stylish and fitting color palette
- Inconsistent art