Weirdworld #1

Sam Humphries picks up where Jason Aaron left off in "Weirdworld" #1, a new ongoing series following the five-issue "Secret Wars" tie-in from earlier this year. Fortunately, Mike Del Mundo stays on as artist, as his rich, masterful illustrations defined a unique look for the series that will be a welcome continuation for returning readers. Del Mundo captures the same visual magic that he did before, in a world lush with all things weird, and Humphries capably takes the baton from Aaron with reimaginings of obscure characters from the forgotten corners of Marvel Comics history.

Humphries provides a brief cameo featuring Arkon, the protagonist of Aaron's miniseries, but he isn't content to just rethink old ideas. Arkon's appearance gives way to a pair of new and very different leads, who form a compelling dichotomy and are both intriguing enough to carry the issue, enticing readers to follow them into the next installment. Becca Rodriguez is a scared but nonetheless courageous teenager who ends up stranded on Weirdworld for reasons yet to be fully investigated, and Goleta -- the self-proclaimed Wizardslayer -- is a statuesque, green-haired barbarian who immediately proves she's worthy of the name she's given herself. This diverse pairing is so odd it's fun, and Humphries convincingly establishes a bond between the two almost instantly.

Humphries scripts with the same kind of mystique that pervaded the original series, with one strange phenomenon giving away to the next. The issue is a fast-paced rollercoaster of weirdness, yet doesn't overshadow the characterization that he organically establishes. There are both mentions and appearances of characters readers have seen before, but Humphries expands on that with new and even stranger menaces. At the same time, he keeps the series grounded in the human element, with a sad but brief flashback that sheds some light on both Becca's character and at least part of the reason why she has ended up in Weirdworld. It's a real world flashback that Del Mundo succinctly captures with emotion and the same skill he demonstrates in rendering all of the oddities of Becca's present circumstance.

With a chance to portray both the regular world and the weird one, Del Mundo gets to stretch his legs by drawing something else remarkably cool and weird, even by Weirdworld standards. He continues to impress; the stellar work he accomplished in the previous series is equaled if not exceled here. Humphries' script challenges Del Mundo to extend himself, and he does a tremendous job doing so. There are countless gosh-wow images that occupy a full page or more, but don't seem gratuitous in the least; in fact, they are welcomed. If Humphries ever wants to plot a "Weirdworld" poster book, Del Mundo's contributions would be highly anticipated.

Anyone who admired the last "Weirdworld" series will relish this one. Conversely, anyone who missed it will find themselves at no disadvantage if they decide to jump on board here. Humphries and Del Mundo know exactly what they need to do to keep readers engaged, and they do an amazing job of it in this introductory issue.

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