Jimmie Robinson’s ‘Five Weapons’ #1: Killer Execution, Satisfying Package [Review]
The short version: Jimmie Robinson's Five Weapons is a textbook example of how to create a first issue that leaves readers wanting more as soon as possible. Robinson introduces the main character, uses his unfamiliarity with the setting as an excuse to drop a lot of information on us, gives us brief and evocative descriptions of the cast, seeds a few mysteries, delivers a good amount of action, and then leaves you wanting more. It's a good comic, with an absurd idea played perfectly straight for a setting, with a good protagonist. The art is engaging and the story shows promise. It's well worth your time.
Now, the long version:There are two major twists in Jimmie Robinson's Five Weapons. The first one comes fairly early on, and is what convinced me to stick with the comic through its run. The second twist comes later, and it's not so much a plot twist as a plot twist of the knife -- it takes what you think you know and holds a knife to its throat in a dark alley. The second twist is killer. But I'm not going to ruin that for you.
Five Weapons features a school for the children of assassins as a setting. The school has five clubs: knives, staves, archery, exotic weapons, and guns. Each club is supervised by a teacher who specializes in that weapon, and led by a student who serves as class representative. There's no fighting allowed in the halls, but during a test or challenge? It's on.
Tyler Shainline is your hero, and he's the son of one of the most respected families of assassins ever. People react to his name with shock and awe. You would think that Tyler would be stuck-up, arrogant, or even just violent, but nope -- he's more Ferris Bueller than Wolverine, more Jason Bourne than James Bond. He pays attention to things, he keeps a sense of humor about everything, and he's smart as a whip. He also doesn't appear to use a weapon, which you would think is a huge mistake, considering that every single other student in the club is packing something, or sometimes even several somethings.
As near as I can tell, Robinson is working from the idea that it ain't the tool, but it's how you use it. Having a knife, gun, or baseball bat is all well and good, but it doesn't mean much when someone can out-think and out-maneuver you.
The first issue is largely a getting-to-know-you affair, as Tyler meets the staff and the students, and Robinson manages to stuff the issue with a lot of info without it ever feeling like an exposition dump. It feels more like a travelogue of a place that you're about to have free reign of, rather than a guided tour that's determined to tell you everything about a setting in the name of "world-building."
Tyler is the most normal person in the book, in terms of appearance and temperament. The rest of the cast are a mixture of people that are crazy, mischievous, liars, unhinged, or worse. But, they're crazy in a way that makes Five Weapons feel like a Young Adult comic, rather than something as extreme as Robinson's Bomb Queen or even most modern cape comics.
Mixing kids and violence can go south in a big way, especially when you're as specific about things as Robinson is, but he sticks the landing very well. Five Weapons isn't bloodless or neutered, but it definitely features guilt-free violence. It's pop comics, essentially -- Ryan Ottley and Robert Kirkman's Invincible is leagues more extreme than Five Weapons, but both share a "This is a comic book, so let's have some fun" flair.
That follows through to the art, as well. I dug Robinson's art on Bomb Queen, but this is more stylized, more like a really high budget cartoon, than I expected. Robinson's linework feels very clean, free of overcomplicated hatching or spotted blacks, and the colors by Paul Little gives everything a sunny, daytime kind of feeling.
The character design gives me the same feeling. Robinson uses each character's specialty to influence their outfits, but there are also flourishes beyond that. Joon the Loon, class rep of the exotic weapons club, wears her clothes backwards and is really, really weird. Ms. Featherwind, teacher of the archery club, has a costume that includes an arrow embedded in a target. That makes sense, right? Only the target is attached to her face and the arrow is coming out of the back of her head.
It's a visual joke, one that explicitly calls to mind the fake arrows that Steve Martin used to use in his act, which softens the blow when you realize that, wow, this lady really has an arrow that punched through her skull. It's a good way to defuse the tension and keep the book light.
I said there were two twists. The second is too good to ruin, and the first is a lot of fun, but a staple of adventure tales. I'm not going to blow it for you, but let's say that someone, or several someones, is keeping secrets they shouldn't, and they seem like the kind of secrets that will backfire spectacularly, perhaps somewhere near the end of the series?
Five Weapons really worked for me. It's a good comic that blends a goofy but intriguing idea with strong workmanship. It does a good job of sparking my imagination, making me very curious where Robinson is going to go with it. But more than that, it's just a pleasing comic book experience. The pacing, density, art, and dialogue are all on point, a combination that can feel rare in adventure comics these days. TJ Dietsch of ComicBookResources interviewed Robinson to great effect if you're curious about his approach. Look below for a quick preview of the comic. It's on store shelves, both physical and digital, now.
Five Weapons is available now at your local comic shop, and digitally via Comixology.