Curse Words is now in its second issue from Image Comics, written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Ryan Browne with colors by Michael Garland, Ryan Browne, and Michael Parkinson. Letters are by Chris Crank. A wild blend of sword and sorcery traditions, perhaps even a little RPG flavoring, many a fantasy element, dashes of world building and mythologizing from classic superhero comics, and the occasional commentary on modern life, Curse Words is an incredibly entertaining comic.
The comic moves swiftly, is visually appealing at every turn thanks to Ryan Browne’s consistently lithe artwork, and has a really upbeat and poppy color palette. It also has the visual and plot benefit of moving between a version of New York City and various myth-like locations in “The Hole World” a magic-laden place whence our main character, “Wizord” hails. Stated simply, the comic follows the exodus of a kind of magical demigod to our world, which he has been sent to destroy, where he relents from fulfilling his mission.
As this issue explores, he’s found a new identity is possible on earth, rather than simply playing the bad guy as he was tasked to do in his homeland. This poses a question: if a devilish figure had an opportunity to recreate itself as a hero, would it take that opportunity? And secondarily, if it tried to do so, could it, or would its old nature permeate things?
Those seem like serious questions, but Charles Soule handles them with a mixture of lightness and weight. Throwing in a talking koala bear as Wizord’s magical familiar, for instance, adds pure comedy (#TeamMargaret). The text of the comic is full of linguistic inside jokes, resonances, and references, too. God-like powers and massive ethical dilemmas take the backseat to the visual goofiness of being able to shrink and freeze millions of people and put them in a zip-lock bag in order to prevent a media scandal that might make you less worshiped as a hero.
Curse Words is rightly getting attention and praise–it’s a comic that is stuffed full of things to notice, react to, wonder about, and mostly, just enjoy. If it’s hailed as a very different kind of comic that has suddenly arrived on the scene, though, I wouldn’t say that’s the case. It takes some of the elements of recent trends in comics and does them very, very well. Humor has been creeping into more mainstream comics in the past few years in a more marked capacity, and it seems almost like the Big Two are having a public argument with themselves about whether humor sells. By side-stepping this question of how humor can be handled in superhero comics through going full-on fantasy instead, Curse Words clears the board to play its own game.
Publishers like Black Mask Studios and Heavy Metal have been dabbling in wackier-than-wacky comic experiments in recent years, too, showing us that the emerging artists bringing us new and vibrant styles and colorists concocting fascinating palettes are pretty much perfect for off-the-wall science fiction and fantasy. That’s not to say Image hasn’t played a large role in doing the same–the consistent proof of Saga has opened the doors for all kinds of experimentation in comics.
I’m sure that the creative team behind Curse Words would agree that this is the kind of comic readers are looking for, and stems from greater possibilities of diversity in theme, content, and style in comics right now. Hopefully humor is here to stay and comics like Curse Words will encourage comic creators and publishers to push further into new varieties of storytelling.
Curse Words #1 and #2 are currently in shops. Curse Words #3 arrives in shops on March 22nd.