Welcome Back #1 is the first issue of a new series about a small group of assassins, who have been continuously reincarnated throughout the ages to kill one another time and time again. They face one another as Japanese Samurai, Aztec warriors, and Viking berserkers, among others before finally reincarnating in the early days of the 21st century. The story and art is every bit as action-packed, bloody, and full of secrets as one would expect from such a premise.
The story starts with a nice montage of the assassins’ previous lives – the Samurai, Aztecs, and Vikings mentioned in the previous paragraph – leading up to the current incarnation, an unemployed, disenfranchised, college graduate by the name of Maizie Lirah, better known as Mali Quinn. She doesn’t know anything about her history of reincarnations nor does she know about her link to a secret organization of assassins. Mali’s father was an infamous serial murderer known as The Omaha Ripper, making her something of a minor celebrity. As such, she gets harassed by reporters, serial killer fans and fetishists, and other ne’er-do-wells. She also has a roommate, Shena, a dog, Showtime, and a boyfriend, Mick. Shena and Showtime are Mali’s family while Mick is a sort of passing phase who ends things quickly when Mali accidentally bloodies his nose while they were sleeping together – Mali, in the midst of a dream about her last incarnation unconsciously throws a punch and breaks Mick’s nose. Meanwhile, in Lisbon, the incarnation of Mali’s arch nemesis, Miss Vos, is busy tracking her down by finding the reincarnation of a previous employer of them both. Back in the United States, Mali is attacked by another reincarnated assassin which causes an instant flood of memories to rush into her conscious mind reminding her of her past lives and her true nature. After the attack, Mali heads back to her home only to find it occupied by a little girl who claims to be the reincarnation of her father who is there to tell her more about who and what she really is.
Sebela’s plot is just as tight and fast-paced as a blockbuster action film. There is barely a moment to breath from beginning to end, with only a brief pause near the beginning of the book to provide Mali’s backstory. Sebela offers just enough to get readers to sympathize with his protagonist before getting right back into the swords, kicks, and gunshots. However, despite the fast pace, Sebela’s script hints at much more to come in terms of both character and plot development. Who is the mysterious man Vos is interrogating? How did Mali and Vos become enemies? How does the reincarnation process work? What is the ultimate goal of these assassins and who hires them? Sebela will surely answer at least a few of these questions as this series progresses.
Sawyer’s illustrations and Zamudio’s colors sync up nicely with Sebela’s almost frantic pacing. Even the panels detailing Mali’s normal, daily activities are wrought with action and bright colors as evidenced by her walk home on page seven, her entrance into her house and subsequent greeting by Showtime on page 8, and her post lovemaking argument with Mick on pages 12 and 13. There are very few panels depicting anyone or anything standing still which is completely in keeping with the theme of this book. One does not expect reincarnated assassins to stay still for long periods of time. The actual action scenes are perfectly rendered with Mali’s back flipping kick to her assailant’s face on page 19 being arguably the best action panel in the book. You can almost feel the impact of her boot to the poor guy’s face as her kick causes him to leave his feet in a backwards arc, blood spraying from his mouth as Mali executes a graceful flip that sees her land gently on her feet. It is a thing of beauty.
Sebela’s premise and Sawyer’s and Zamudio’s art make this an instant “must have” for anyone who loves action and violence in their comics. However, don’t think this book is only about mindless swordfights and gun slinging, there is a lot of story here and hints at greater depth to come in forthcoming issues. Welcome Back #1 is a visceral, fun read that is well worth the price of admission.