Writer: John Allison
Illustrator: Max Sarin
Publisher: BOOM! Box
WHAT IS IT?
A modern-day detective mystery with elements of slapstick and a highly episodic structure.
Think Scooby-Doo meets Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in the hands of creators who have worked together for years and have found ways to bring out the best in each other.
Note: This should probably be looked as as a "celebration" of the series, more than a review of it. I may not be at my most objective here. You have been warned.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Charlotte “Lottie” Grote has just been nominated for “Teen Detective of the Year (16-18)” and is certain that she is on her way to becoming a great sleuth…until she ends up framed for murder! Well, attempted murder, for now; it’s a coma thing.
In any case, while waiting for her suspected victim to die (or preferably wake up) Lottie is put under house arrest and is assigned to work with the local police, putting her crime-solving skills to good use.
Mysteries and laughs ensue.
Allison’s plotting and pacing are astonishing. Every page is its own story, like a Sunday comic strip. Every issue stands alone yet builds the story. This whole series is a master class on how to build entertaining and effective comics.
Sarin’s art is sublime. The characters in Wicked Things just exude personality and attitude. Sarin has a remarkable ability to tell mounds of story with a single expression or pose, and their comedic instincts are Carl Barks-ian (of Scrooge McDuck fame). And no, I don’t care if "Barksian" isn’t actually a word, it should be. I’m coining it myself if I have to.
Sarin is also excellent at creating real, tactile rooms and spaces. This helps characters and motion feel grounded and authentic even as they are rendered in Sarin's overtly cartoony style.
Whitney Cogar was great with Allison and Sarin on Giant Days, and her work continues to be clean, bold, and confident. The colors on each page channel the emotions and actions of the story, but also help to bring a dimensionality to Sarin’s art.
I also love how Cogar uses color as a vehicle for comedic timing. Her choices amplify the art, focus important expressions and details, and generally elevate the jokes, the mood, and the story.
Jim Campbell is also a veteran of Giant Days and has spent years placing John Allison’s words amidst Max Sarin’s drawings. The balloons, effects, and other text preserve and assist Sarin’s story flow and deliver Allison’s punch lines exactly when and where they need to be for maximum effect.
Perhaps just as importantly, Campbell's lettering is controlled and clear, providing little islands of sanity amidst a sea of expressive poses and strong colors.
Lottie, the main character, previously appeared in Allison’s Bad Machinery series. Fans of that series will be happy to see her again, but the story stands completely on its own and no background reading is required.
While technically a mystery series, Wicked Things is more about the characters than the crimes. The crimes and solutions are clever and satisfying, but Lottie and her supporting cast steal the show. Charlotte’s new boss, D.I. Dennison, and her friend Claire are particularly memorable and entertaining additions to the cast.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
There is nothing wrong with these comics. All six are perfect. Does that surprise you? Perhaps you just don't believe that a perfect comic is possible. Fine, I shall nitpick.
One of the detectives looks a lot like Susan from Giant Days, and that bothered me a bit. Although, it did remind me of Giant Days, which I guess was nice.
Maki’s actions and motivations did not entirely make sense to me. Hopefully, all will be explained eventually though, as this run ends with a big mystery still unresolved, setting a clear path for more stories.
Bringing me to my one real complaint about Wicked Things: There is simply not enough of it. If someone could put Allison and friends under house arrest on trumped-up charges and task them with producing more Wicked Things, I would greatly appreciate it.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
I am not much for “best of” lists. There are just too many variables to consider, and too many different ways things can be exceptional. But I do have favorites, and for 2020, my hands-down favorite comic series is Wicked Things. This book is clever, it's funny, and every page is absolutely beautiful.
If you don’t enjoy reading Wicked Things, you should probably just give up on comics altogether*: this is just as good as they get, in my opinion. Wicked Things is a joy to read and to look at. Moreover, it’s a great way to get a bit of a break from the constant monotony and crushing negativity of this pandemic. My hope is that you have already consumed these books and are just here for validation of your good taste. But if you haven’t read them, then for heaven’s sakes, what are you waiting for?? Go! Obtain and enjoy these precious nuggets of comic book goodness.
*Editor's note: Please don't give up on comics. Comics love you and there's probably one out there for you even if this one doesn't suit your tastes.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Bad Machinery by John Allison
Steeple by John Allison, Jim Campbell & Sarah Stern
The Spirit by Darwyn Cooke
If you like the art:
Giant Days by John Allison & Max Sarin
The Mines of King Solomon by Carl Barks
Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore
ABOUT THE CREATORS
John Allison – Writer
Has been making comics for a long time, starting with a webcomic called Bobbins in 1998.
Award Winner: Wrote the long running series Giant Days, which went for 54 issues and was nominated for numerous Eisners, winning twice in 2019 for Best Continuing Series and Best Humor Publication.
Outlander: Born and resides in England, where both Giant Days and Wicked Things are set.
Max Sarin – Artist
Dream Team: Joined Allison, Cogar and Campbell on Giant Days as of issue #7 before continuing to Wicked Things with them.
Award Winner: Along with Liz Fleming, won a National Cartoonists Society award in 2017 for their work on Giant Days.
Outlander: Sarin is Finnish, but their website and blog is in English at maxsarin.com. Follow them on Twitter @max_sarin.
Whitney Cogar – Colorist
Besides her work with Allison and co., Cogar has colored numerous other comics, including a number from the Adventure Time franchise.
Multitalented: Has also worked as a storyboard artist!
Hails from Georgia and is therefore the only non-U.K. member of the Wicked Things crew. You can find her on Twitter @smashpansy.
Jim Campbell – Letterer
Has established himself as one of the finest letterers currently working in comics, as evidenced by Eisner nominations for Best Letterer in both 2019 and 2020. Interesting note: the Lettering Eisner has been given out 28 times. Todd Klein won 15 of the first 16, and overall he and Stan Sakai have won 23 of the 28 between them. Yeah, those guys are great. But isn’t that a bit much? The RNG engine for the Eisner lettering award seems to be broken…
Prolific: His 2019 nomination identified twenty different series that he had worked on the previous year.
Outlander: Campbell resides in Nottingham, England. His Twitter is @CampbellLetters.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
All six issues of Wicked Things have already been released. If you are having trouble finding them, the collected edition will be out early next year.
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