Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Claire Roe
Release Date: 20th April, 2016
So the penultimate issue of Welcome Back is here, and I’ve mixed feelings about it. As a comic book fan I fell completely in love with this series and the ideas it ensued. When the news broke after issue two that it was to be commissioned as an ongoing series, I was seriously pumped. The potential for story in the world of Mali and Tess is enormous. However, for one reason or another, by the time issue five was published the run was capped at eight. Unfortunately, the comics business, as much as we as fans wish otherwise, is a business about making money. I guess the final numbers were not as good as hoped for, but this creates a big problem for Chris Sebela.
Let me explain what I mean. Even with my high school equivalency in English I know that every story, at a basic level, comprises of three parts: a beginning, middle and an end. That’s why we have trilogies, or trilogies of trilogies (if you are Stephen Donaldson). In an ideal world, BOOM! would have throttled Welcome Back to 12 issues. This would give Chris 4 issues per story block to create a more rounded reading experience. Unfortunately the way it has worked he’s had 4 issues to flesh out his beginning, and now only 4 to create a suitable ‘middle,’ and ‘end.’ The flow of the story is already skewed leaving him an uphill battle.
That being said, I have to say he’s risen to this challenge admirably. Yes, there is a sense that the pace of the narrative has increased to cover as much as is feasible. There is a lot more narrative, and several panels per page to get as much story in as possible. It’s a busy issue, but I have to say it doesn’t overpower the reader. The writing holds true as well. The humour has not been sacrificed for narrative, nor has the dynamic between Tess and Mali, or Tess/Mali and Lorena. Also, Sebela is tying up the open elements of the story. In my last review I commented that Tess’ mother and Showtime were both open elements that I hoped would be addressed before the conclusion. Both are picked up in this issue, and one of them you definitely will not see coming and sets up an interesting premise for the finale.
Tess’ mum is a great character, and makes a good antagonist. The arrogance and (obvious) power she commands makes a convincing argument that this will be a character you’ll love to hate. Although she’s only an Atlas, she seems to be one of the big players in the eternal war and I’d wager would be a great character to develop. It’s clear she is a singularly hateful character, one more interested in how to manipulate Tess for gains than actually have any feeling for her daughter.
Claire Roe has done a great job here with the story flow. With the amount of panelling in this issue it’s clear this was no small job, but even though there is a lot happening, the layout logic is sound. Not only that, she still manages to create that feeling of tenderness in her art between Tess and Mali, as well as the hissy fits Lorena takes being stuck in a 10 year old’s body. Lorena holding her breath until she’s allowed on the plane I found particularly funny (I knew a kid that did that same thing). Claire has a very distinct style, it’s what makes her art stand out – for me – and it’s great to see that the quality of the drawing is not compromised due to the volume of the panels.
We(l)come Back 7 has set us up nicely for the conclusion of Tess and Mali’s story. Christopher Sebela has worked a little bit of creative magic with now having to tie up the story that little bit sooner than expected. I’ll lament the passing of this title, I really wish there was a green light for four more, and we’ll probably never know the reason why. Tess’ mum makes for a fantastic enemy, and it looks like Sebela has managed to distil enough of her into part 7 that I’m looking forward to her comeuppance already. The final teaser is something no-one will be expecting, and despite my grumbling this is still a great episode. It looks like we’ll bid adieu to Tess and Mali with a bang.
[Click to Enlarge]
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.