“Freelancers” #1 is a strange book, if only because the six-page back-up story by “Freelancers” creators Matt Gagnon and Felipe Smith is infinitely stronger and more charming than the primary story by Ian Brill and Joshua Covey. It’s curious why Gagnon and Smith, as the creators, would hand off the lead story to another creative team under any circumstances, but it’s especially odd since the back-up is the superior story in every way.
The first story, which introduces our two heroines, a bit of their backstory and their basic mission as Freelancers, as well as their current “case,” is pretty paint by numbers. There aren’t a lot of surprises and most of the ideas are rather conservative and basic. Covey gives the two leads nice distinction, and the character design on the whole is good, but the action is extremely weak. In one panel, a character falls over for no reason, and a panel later we’re supposed to assume that he’s been hit by a chair because a character is standing there with one. It’s either amateur work or lazy, which is a shame because some of the acting and character design is very nice. But Covey has a long way to go before he can easily tell a story with any significant action the way it deserves to be told. Additionally, the colors have an almost garish pop that feels too cartoonish and flat for the penciling style.
On the whole it feels like there’s an unfortunate disconnect between the writing and the art. One example is a joke Val makes negatively referencing the large cup size of another character. Meanwhile, she’s talking to Cassie who easily has the largest cup size in the whole comic (possibly in several comics).
The second story, titled “Tiny Fighters” focuses on Cassie and Val as young girls in the “orphanage/house o’ kung fu” where they were raised. It has a ton of charm and humor to it despite being only six pages long. The art by Smith is expressive and funny, striking just the right tone for Gagnon’s story. While Brill and Covey feel out of sync, Gagnon and Smith create like a well-oiled machine, playing to one another’s strengths and delivering a hilarious and heart-warming story in just a few short pages. Smith’s character acting is pitch perfect and adorable, while Gagnon delivers some great lines (Val gets all the good ones). It’s particularly unfortunate for the first story that Smith’s handling of the action is stunning — both effortless and fitting of the humorous over-the-top tone — as the comparison only emphasizes how far apart the skill levels are.
I would absolutely read an ongoing comic about the young adventures of Cassie and Val by Gagnon and Smith. I would consider reading the grown up adventures of Cassie and Val if Gagnon and Smith were delivering those as well, but with the current creative team on the main story, even at this bargain basement price, I’m afraid this is a skip.