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    Don’t Miss This: “Curse Words” by Charles Soule and Ryan Browne

    By | November 15th, 2017
    Posted in Columns | % Comments

    There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This,” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we look at the mystical humanist insanity of “Curse Words.”

    Who Is This By?
    “Curse Words” is written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Ryan Browne. Browne along with Jordan Boyd and Michael Parkinson provide the color while Chris Crank letters.

    What’s It All About?
    (warning: contains spoilers)

    Wizord, a wizard, was sent to Earth with the intention of destroying it. However, he quickly fell in love with humanity and decided not to destroy it, choosing instead to dive into hipster fashions and open up a business where he uses his mystical energy to solve people’s problems.

    But his troubles didn’t end there. The beings who sent him to Earth aren’t happy with his turn, and his attempt to join humanity may have endangered them more than it’s helped.

    As “Curse Words” progresses, we learn more about Wizord’s past in the Hole World, which opens the door for some serious heartfelt drama. And when his power gets cut off, Wizord has to rediscover the magic in humanity and help others find the way as well.

    What Makes It So Great?
    When you hear the basic concept, “Curse Words” seems like it could be a run-of-the-mill fantasy series where one man has to fight against an all-powerful enemy to save humanity. But “Curse Words” goes to great lengths to dig deeper, to really examine those tropes and turn them all on their head. In all honesty, I don’t even necessarily think of the fantasy elements when I think about why I like “Curse Words,” though they are essential elements to the story. Instead, the first things that come to mind are its bombastic, chaotic, colorful visuals, its absurd humor, and its deep reverence for humanity. And it just so happens that these things all play themselves out within Soule’s reinterpretation of those fantasy tropes.

    The most striking visual aspect of “Curse Words”’s is the way Browne and his assistant colorists depict everyone’s mystical powers. Each of Sizzajee’s minions gets a different color and design for their power, like Wizord’s bubbling sapphire lightning, Cornwall’s pink interconnecting rings, and Rubys fittingly ruby fractal-like square pattern. Each of these has such energy that there’s a constant feeling of the power bursting off the page, even when everything remains within the panel borders. Beyond the colors, Browne has populated the Hole World with distinct lands and creatures that would fit right into a self-serious fantasy series lauded for its “expansive lore.”

    “Curse Words” is anything but self-serious, though. Soule and Browne know exactly how absurd each and every thing they’re dealing with is. You’ve got beards as a symbol of power. You’ve got a talking koala sidekick masquerading as a service animal. You’ve got the Vegas strip’s Eiffel Tower gaining consciousness and running off into the Nevada desert. It’s absolute absurdity. Soule and Browne also have a thing for running gags, never letting a callback slide by as the book goes on. The only thing I can think to compare it to is the later seasons of Arrested Development, where so many tiny gags have piled up that everything seems in complete chaotic, yet hilarious, disarray. There’s really never a dull moment in this book.

    While the book never takes itself too seriously, that doesn’t mean it’s not capable of getting real and revealing truths about humanity. The book has a serious humanist streak, staying positive and believing in redemption from that first issue. As the series progresses, we’re learning more about what it means to redeem yourself, and not exclusively from Wizord. How far gone can someone go before they can no longer be redeemed? What does it mean to redefine yourself and try to start anew? As these questions are explored, Soule also makes the genius move of figuring out what we mere humans find inspiring or wonderful and treating them as if they are literal magic.

    Continued below

    And here we are back at Soule’s trope reversals. Just by examining the idea of magic in this purely human way, “Curse Words” has created a world that will never fall into the trap of being too obsessed with its own rules. It’s always about the characters, it’s always about humanity, it’s always ready to make you laugh, and it’s always going to dazzle you with its brilliant visuals.

    How can you read it?
    The first volume, containing the first five issues, is already out in comic shops, online retailers, and on digital platforms. Issue 10 comes out this week, and other back issues are available online or at comic shops. The paperback containing issues 6-10 will be released on January 10, just in time for issue 11’s debut in February.

    //TAGS | Don't Miss This

    Nicholas Palmieri

    Nick is a South Floridian writer of films, comics, and analyses of films and comics. Flight attendants tend to be misled by his youthful visage. You can try to decipher his out-of-context thoughts over on Twitter at @NPalmieriWrites.


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