Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Patton Oswalt, Jordan Blum
Artwork: Scott Hepburn
Colours: Ian Herring
Lettering: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Release Date: 24th August 2022
Frankie – formerly “Playtime” – is a retired supervillain. Fresh out of prison, she wants nothing more than to put her criminal past behind her. And, after a brief struggle to find gainful employment due to her past, she manages to land a job in a bar for D-list supervillains. However, when notorious supervillain ‘The Stickman’ breaks the unwritten rule by flat-out murdering Kid Dusk, the sidekick of Twilight City’s number one crime-fighter The Insomniac, the city effectively becomes a police state with the entirety of superhero group The Continuum going all-out in a fairly brutal search for the culprit.
I’ll admit to knowing absolutely nothing about this series (outside of the intriguing creative team) prior to picking up the first issue, but this idea is really, really cool, both in concept and execution. Sure, there are echoes of The Boys and Black Hammer at play here, and the direct analogues for the majority of the good guys are fairly on the nose, but framing the entire story from the perspective of lowly wannabe supervillains is an inspired choice by co-writers Osawlt and Blum.
Frankie is an intriguing protagonist; a super with the ability to combine pretty much any assortment of items into a (toy-themed) deadly weapon, she’s constantly battling against her upbringing – her mother was established baddie ‘Toy Queen’, after all – to try and do right by her daughter. However, when her life, and the life of her patrons, comes under threat at the hands of a vengeful vigilante and his personal league of justice, she is forced to embrace her past by taking matters into her own hands.
Blum and Oswalt do a fantastic job of setting the tone here. Humorous at times, but never verging into all-out silliness, and always retaining the much-needed edge that all the greats – including the aforementioned Black Hammer and The Boys – rely on so heavily. The characters are quirky and memorable, and the whole thing crackles with a schoolboy enthusiasm that speaks to both men’s clear love for this type of story.
On the visual side of things, Scott Hepburn puts in a fantastic shift, bringing the streets of Twilight City to life with a real flair, energy and humour. The characters are expressive and subtly caricaturised at times, and while there isn’t a huge amount of action here, there’s certainly a lot coming down the pipe, and I can wait to see what he comes up with to bring it to the page. Ian Herring more than holds up his end of the bargain with some rick, striking colour work that, while never going too bright and lively, still captures the comic book vibe of the story.
This is a slice of high-concept, perfectly-pitched superhero fun that blends established tropes into a fresh, enthusiastic love letter to comic book excess. It’s an opening issue that makes you immediately want to pick up the next one, which – as someone who reads waaay more comics than he probably should on a daily basis – definitely isn’t always the case. Pick up this issue as soon as you can and get the rest of it added to your pull list right away. You can thank me later.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]