Recognized as one of the only (the only?) American cartoonists making original manga for the Japanese market, Peepo Choo creator Felipe Smith is one of the best crazy-sex-and-violence comics guys around. His latest project is an action-comedy concept called Freelancers, and it's the story of two martial arts mistresses who were raised in a kung-fu orphanage and now operate as knucks-for-hire in Los Angeles. Launching from BOOM! Studios next week, the main series is written by Ian Brill (Darkwing Duck) and drawn by Best Art Ever (This Week) guest star Josh Covey. We checked out their work in a previous post on Freelancers, but also contributing to issue #1 are Smith and co-creator Matt Gagnon, with a backup story that goes into the surprisingly adorable (but still punch-and-kicky) origins of Valerie and Cassie during their time at the House of Little Fortunes dojo. Take an advance look below; we think you'll dig it.Featuring covers by Felipe Smith, Phil Noto, Stephane Roux, Khary Randolph, Fan Yang, and Ibraim Roberson, Freelancers is envisioned by BOOM! as a badass heroine comic, to be sure -- but it's also meant to be a more mindful and actually fun version of that type of female-lead action comic; the kind of thing we believe Wednesday shoppers have been wanting for a long time. Nobody wants to see such a comic succeed more than me, but honestly what I think I like even more is the kind of material in this cute, ass-kicky backup by Gagnon and Smith. It's a great an unexpected change-up from Smith's usual hyperactive style, and I hope to see more flashback stories in this vein as Freelancers continues.

(click images to enlarge)