(p)reviews are a bit different from our usual coverage, as they discuss comics that haven’t come out yet. As such, we’ll avoid our usual spoilers — think of it as part preview, part review. Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Curse Words 1, which will be released Wednesday, January 18th, 2017. If you’re looking for a Spoiler-y discussion, click here.
I’m outta balloons. Is a baggie all right?
-Lance, Pulp Fiction
Drew: Rules are fundamental to our understanding of any narrative. For most, the only “rules” we need to understand are those of the world we live in — physics, social norms, human nature — but other narratives take us out of this comfort zone. Pulp Fiction may seem like an odd choice to illustrate this point, but when I first saw the movie in high school, the world of recreational opiates was foreign enough to me that someone had to contextualize the line I included above, which explains why Mia Wallace later confuses heroin for cocaine. That heroin was normally packaged in balloons was an important rule, but not in the moment the concept is introduced — a kind of Chekhov’s baggie of heroin, if you will. As a story featuring magic, Curse Words promises to take us even further from the rules we know, but just like that line from Pulp Fiction, its first issue seems to lay some key groundwork for the rules that will govern the series.
A kind of hipster-y wizard who has set up a magic-for-hire service in a Manhattan highrise, we quickly learn that he’s more or less capable of anything his clients can imagine. Anything, of course, that doesn’t violate one of his three rules: no cures, no wars, no love. Those rules don’t seem particularly pertinent in the moment, but like the ballon/baggie distinction, may prove to be key for this series going forward.
This issue is actually littered with rules we don’t yet have context for, like the fact that Wizord’s fee isn’t money, but sapphires. It’s not clear exactly what he needs the sapphires for (though you can bet it’s magic), but you can bet not everyone can afford his services. For me, though, the most salient detail is the distinctive double-chevron layout design artist Ryan Browne employs throughout the issue.
At first, I thought these panel shapes were meant to reflect the facets of the sapphires or the crystal that tops Wizord’s staff, but the more obvious answer is that it simply represents a ‘W’ for Wizord. The key hint comes in the first image I included (which, incidentally, is the first panel of the issue), where we can see Wizord’s ‘W’ cufflinks. It seems this character is less about thematic unity than he is about pure egotism (albeit, egotism kept well under the radar). Either way, I think it’s interesting that the shape is made in the gutter — the space between the panels — which Scott McCloud compellingly suggests is the space the audience fills with their own imaginations.
That may be a bit too heady for a preview of the first issue of a series, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so much of Wizord’s backstory is left to our imaginations. Writer Charles Soule gives us plenty to chew on here, but leaves a lot off the page, which I think is a smart choice for a new series. We still have a lot to learn about Wizord’s past (and the rules that govern it), but this issue gives us just enough to hook us. Well, hook me, anyway. I’m curious to see if it had the same effect on you.
Patrick: If there’s any one thing that hooks me here, it’s the little bit of Wizord’s history that we do get to see. After this opening sequence, full of those “I don’t understand what I’m looking at” moments, Soule and Browne (two creators that love superfluous vowels at the ends of their names), flash back to Wizord’s first day on earth. We know it’s the first day, because the chyrons over the panels that show Wizord materializing read: “Central Park. Day One.” Soule is purposefully orienting the reader in time not based on years or dates, but by Wizord’s experience.
That convention continues as the days unfold and Wizord slowly comes to understand New York City. As far as he’s concerned, New York is an appropriate stand-in for the entirety of Earth. New York is a charming city, but it also takes a minute for anyone to get their bearing. We linger on this “Day One” for a couple of pages, before skipping ahead to “Day Three,” which is the day Wizord casts a spell of understanding on himself in order to hear what everyone is saying. From there, the chyron’s speed up — “Day Six” appears on the very next page. As do Days Seven, Eight and Nine, and those are all in the same panel. Wizord’s being swept up in the simple pleasures of our world.
That enthusiasm is contagious, and all of that momentum leads up to what Soule ominously refers to as “The Final Day,” i.e., the day Wizord is supposed to destroy the world. But how could he possibly when it’s brought him so much joy over the last 36 days. There’s a cool parallel here between Wizord discovering New York and readers discovering Curse Words. Every urban delight that Wiz experiences is also a warm, fuzzy reminder of real magic in our world.
That warmth and fuzziness is perfectly matched by the coloring in this issue. The credit page lists a small army of colorists — Browne is aided by Jordan Boyd and Michael Parkinson — and while that’s a lot of names, the results are irrefutably awesome. The difference in the coloring between the day that Wizord first arrived, and turned some police officers into glass, and the day he had a change of heart and reversed his spell, says everything about the guy’s state of mind.
Of course, Wizord’s I♥NY shirt communicates the same thing.
There’s also an awesome twist that we don’t want to spoil, so Drew and I will be back to discuss it when the issue hits shelves on January 18th. It’s a big enough twist that we felt like there’s no way to discuss the issue without addressing it, so if that doesn’t entice you to come back, I don’t know what will!
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?