You have to be at least a little weird to be a fan of Ryan Browne’s work, I’m convinced. I speak from experience. So naturally I was geeked to hear of a new post-God Hates Astronauts Browne-Charles Soule collab. Fresh from his stint as narrator of Browne’s absurdist, surreal-as-fuck superhero epic, writer Soule rejoins forces with the artist for a new series that’s every bit as insanely fanciful and over-the-top as one would expect from this team.
Curse Words, which debuts January 18, is the story of Wizord, a displaced (what else?) dark wizard trying to escape the transgressions of his former life in the modern world. After stunning the public with a magical act of apparent kindness, Wizord proceeds to sell himself as a wizard-for-hire/superhipster/superhero, earning tremendous fame overnight. With talking rat-turned-koala Margaret, his trusty familiar, by his side, Wizord makes dreams come true for would-be athletes, grieving parents, douchey pop stars, you name it, all while still finding the time to make TV appearances and meet with the UN. He appears to be living the good life in more ways than one…until the foes of his past catch up with his present, and not only threaten to blow his cover and expose his past crimes, but threaten the very existence of those he claims to protect. But the true threat may not be what it seems. The true threat may be Wizord himself.
Soule’s story is a fresh–and refreshingly, expectedly weird–take on the classic themes of a superhero tale (good vs. evil, betrayal, revenge, yada yada), masterfully spun in a non-linear narrative peppered with quirky jokes and asides; ample room is left for questions, while none is left for plot holes. Its hilariously self-effacing, satirical bent holds a mirror up to today’s web-obsessed culture of instant fame and gratification. The pacing is such that every small step closer to the heart of who Wizord truly is ultimately leads to some explosive, deflective event, clearing the way for the next plot point while building suspense and intrigue for the reader. Its cast of characters and creatures is immediately likeable and memorable; subtly tongue-in-cheek names like “Botchko” and even that of Wizord himself indicate that Soule, like Browne, watched too much TV as a kid.
Speaking of Ryan Browne, I can’t think of any other artist better suited for the story of an evil wizard-turned-folk-hero-superstar-hipster and his talking rat-panda. (And I mean that to be a very high compliment.) His eye-popping, explosively dynamic style and psychedelic 80s-infused aesthetic suits the likes of Curse Words to a T; however, it bears such an immediate and strong resemblance visually to God Hates Astronauts–right down to Browne’s trademark penchant for that just-shy-of-Pepto, Lisa Frank shade of pink–that it could easily be mistaken for a tie-in to the cult hit series, making it hard at first for me personally to remember that it was not. But by the same token, Browne’s work is consistently stunning, so who am I not to forgive any self-plagiarism? Fans expecting more of the bawdy, irreverent sight gags of GHA may be disappointed this time around, as there are few, but it is to Curse Words’ benefit; most of its humor is delivered via dialogue, allowing for more character development than the all-out insanity of GHA requires. (Browne saved some of the humor for the variant covers, though, for anyone interested; hardcore GHA fans will recognize the artist’s cat, Simon, as one of the cover stars. Well, hopefully you’ll recognize him, anyway; he does have a long white beard…)
Soule and Browne clearly work well together, and Curse Words, as I fully expected, is further evidence of this. It’s funny, it’s original, it’s smart. It’s got magic, wizards, and something called a hogtaur. (Nothing says party time like mythical creatures looking to carry out a hit. Shit, it worked for Star Wars.) So on the quest for your next good time in forty pages or less, give Curse Words a holler.