By Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Curse Words 11 ends with a welcome letter from writer Charles Soule. Is the end of the issue maybe kind of a weird place to welcome his readers? Well, that’s the trick — it’s not particularly welcoming, and neither is the rest of the issue. You’ve got a weird issue of a weird series in your hands, and if the rapid expansion of cast and the mythology is making your head spin, then you’re feeling exactly what Soule and artist Ryan Browne want to you feel. This is Curse Words in all of its cold, unwelcoming glory: which of course means that it’s impossibly fun.
The crusty, uncooperative fun begins on the second page, as Violet opens her mouth to speak, as she always does, in the language of the evil wizards of Hole World — the Language Mystique. All of the text in her speech balloons has the telltale <brackets> around it, with a helpful little asterisk that leads us to a supposably helpful editorial note. But when the reader’s eye drifts the inch and a half to the right, it’s assaulted by a mini editorial tantrum: Soule refusing to explain what this crazy language is, chastising the reader for not already knowing what’s going on, and ultimately relaxing and acquiescing to niceties of the form.
But that may be the last time Soule and Browne do anything to coddle their readers. This exciting antagonism is best typified by The Confounders. Who / what are The Confounders? Soule leaves the majority of the heavy lifting to Browne on that one.
By the time we’re done with them, Soule has named Papa Bones (the dude in the green hat and carrying a skull scepter), but, y’know, he also kills him. This is the shotgun blast approach to introductions, and it’s sort of astonishing how much character Browne gets across in so little page-time. I instantly want to know more about all of these Confounders. By tapping various earthbound magic tropes, Browne has outdone himself in the clarity of design put forth for Sizzajee’s denizens. We can recognize a stage magician, a voodoo doctor, a witch and a technomancer among their ranks, and it’s hard not to see parallels to magic users from DC and Marvel in the bunch here. But that glimmer of familiarity only makes their appearance more complicated, as both Wizord and the reader struggle to put together what exactly is going on here.
That’s the speed of the series at this juncture: a slap in the face and a challenge to keep the fuck up. Pig men can be transformed into snake men! Worlds can be destroyed with the drop of a bottle! Ex-girlfriends can start a competing business right next door. And we just have to hang on and try not to be confounded.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?