Jingle Bells At The Airport: ‘Bad Karma #1’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

Dictionary.com defines “karma” as an “… action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation…” Bad karma comes from doing bad things. You pay for your actions. What’s troubling about Bad Karma being the title of Alex de Campi and Ryan Howe’s new series from Panel Syndicate is Ethan and Sully were doing their jobs. Killing is wrong but if it’s done in the service of the military does that mean bad karma is still collected?
Or was there something dodgy about this mission from the start? Given there’s a man on death row who’s about to die for murdering someone Ethan and Sully killed, the answer points pretty strongly towards yes. Aaron Carter got the blame for something Ethan and Sully did, but that doesn’t mean they should be judged by karma.
On the cover Ethan and Sully are smiling and at one-point Sully confesses, “Everybody’s talking about peace on Earth and here I’m hoping it’ll kick off again somewhere.” As soon as they find out about Carter, though (and I’d be curious to know if de Campi meant to name him after the singer), Ethan and Sully are prepared to clear his name. They want to do the right thing but their approach, however well meaning, is sloppy and ill-planned, leading to a conversation that’s equal parts funny and cringe-inducing, while de Campi’s letters add to the casual tone and Dee Cunniffe’s colors put the focus on the characters’ movements.
It’s that sloppiness that gives Bad Karma it’s dark sense of humor. Setting the issue at Christmas time was a stroke of genius on de Campi and Howe’s part. Nothing says festive like tinsel on a prison visitation booth and the out of place decorations are put on equal footing with the ‘thank you for your service’s’ Ethan and Sully receive. It’s like Ethan’s mother-in-law making cruel remarks in a Christmas sweater. It doesn’t work if it’s is all for show.
Ethan’s ex-wife, Cheryl, makes the best character entrance this issue. Having her come in cursing, after a voice has just implied that Ethan and Sully have a guardian angel, couldn’t have been better timed and, like all of de Campi’s comics, sound is really important. “Swearta god” is a much better way of writing “swear to god,” and of course “Jingle Bells” is playing at the airport.
One thing that’ll be exciting to see future issues explore is the dynamic between Ethan, Sully, and Cheryl. Starting with the loaded image of Sully lifting Cheryl into the air, it’s an image that feels straight out of a romantic movie, where the couple reunites at the airport, except Sully and Cheryl aren’t together and Ethan’s missing one of his legs. He couldn’t lift Cheryl up if he wanted to – a sore spot for him – and while nothing appears to be going on between them, their shared love of Ethan or a preexisting friendship has left Sully and Cheryl very close.
Bad Karma #1 is available now on Panel Syndicate, where you can name your price for a digital download.

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