In anticipation of the upcoming Syfy adaptation of the same name, IDW Publishing has kicked off a new “Wynonna Earp” series by creator Beau Smith and newcomer Lora Innes. Fans of Smith’s original run will notice some visual changes which align more with the images and video clips already seen from the television series. The overall modern-day paranormal western vibe remains intact, though; while longtime readers might be taken aback by Innes’ artistic tweaks, the approach is plenty accessible to new audiences whose first experience with the character will be on the small screen.
Smith knows that both new and existing readers need a synopsis of Wynonna’s world. Though it has been several years since the last comic, he and Innes also know exactly how to present their exposition. With a one-page intro that presents an array of bullets, badges, photographs and strategically placed captions, Smith and Innes present the kind of world Wynonna lives and works in. Innes’ panels show some specifics of that world, while Smith’s narration complements those snippets with a broader explanation without reiterating Innes’ work. Innes adds other clever touches, like how the mug shot of a vampire includes both his human and transformed appearances. These bring depth and intelligence to the issue early on, respecting readers and taking full advantage of the comics medium while giving those migrating over from the television series something truly expansive.
The story itself takes that same kind of intelligent high road. Throughout the issue, Smith populates the story with clever and peppy character dialogue, providing insight into the main players while keeping the pace of the issue elevated. Smith and Innes demonstrate tremendous synergy here, with his script superbly staged by her panel arrangements and paced to continuously evoke excitement and plenty of surprises. This creative chemistry is demonstrated as soon as the story begins; Wynonna’s dialogue about her boss establishes the tense nature of their relationship, while Innes well-structured layouts give way to the first of many darkly comical moments that set the scene and tone of the issue.
Smith’s witty dialogue also goes a long way towards establishing the tense relationship between Wynonna and her U.S. Marshall boss, Agent Dolls. There’s an element of the archetypical law enforcement odd couple, but — as managed by Smith — it’s fresh and dynamic, not stale or cliched. Innes embellishes this as Wynonna, covered in zombie guts, leaves unpleasant bits of undead goo in an ever-increasing number of places in Dolls’ vehicle; Dolls’ distaste is never stated or even shown, but strongly implied through Innes’ structuring of the scene.
Smith and Innes maintain this lockstep throughout the entirety of the issue, and even throw in a good twist near the end. The strength of Innes’ art is in her layouts and construction; her actual line work fits the horror vibe of the story, but is a little raw in places and the character motions are a little stiff. Amidst the strength of her storytelling abilities, though, these lapses are not only forgivable, they’re almost unnoticeable.
“Wynonna Earp” #1 is a deliberately well-timed and well-constructed comic. Though its proximity to the anticipated television series is notable, Smith and Innes’ debut issue is an excellent example of how great comic book storytelling can impress newcomers and old fans alike.