Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #65 by Drew Barth
Detective of the Century
John Allison is one of the most consistent comic writers of the past twenty-five years. Starting out with Bobbinsin 1998, his characters and story evolved into Scary-Go-Rounda few years after (around the time I jumped in), which led to Bad Machinery, and a later return to Bobbins. But what makes Allison’s work so good and so consistent over these many years is how he is able to take a character from Scary-Go-Roundlike Esther de Groot and expand into a new series, Giant Days, without losing anything from her original voice or character after ten years since her inception. And he is working with those same skills with Charlotte Grote in his new series from Boom! Studios, Wicked Things.
If you’re at all familiar with Bad Machinery and its mystery kids, you’re already familiar with Charlotte and her companion, Claire Little. If Bad Machinery is a series you’re not familiar with, then now is a great time to get caught up as it is a stellar work of comics. And luckily, as Allison had done with Giant Days, Wicked Things is a new story and setting with a couple existing characters—you don’t need all of the previous work to understand who they are as they’re established within a few panels. And those few panels help establish the story here: Charlotte Grotte is nominated for “Teen Detective of the Year” before going to university and must travel to London to attend the award ceremony and, while in attendance, a murder occurs. From this first issue, we’re going full Agatha Christie in the best way possible.
What truly elevates all of these characters and their moments of humor and absurdity is the wonderful line work of Max Sarin. Every panel is packed with fluid motion, expressive faces, and the kind of keen sense for detail-packed composition that makes a reader never want to miss anything on the page. They help to establish a different mood and feel from Bad Machinery while still maintaining the heart of what made characters like Charlotte and Claire so memorable and endearing. At times, it’s like reading through storyboards for a cartoon as the fluidity sings through the bleed-space into each moment.
When I say that John Allison is consistent, Wicked Things is one of the reasons why I say it. Sometimes it’s hard to find a first issue I want to look through over again and again like this—for the Charlotte being the same Lottie I’ve been reading for a decade, for the art that springs forth with so much life—and it makes me so excited for how this medium can express so much on the page. And there is still so much to this story for Allison and Sarin to explore with the cliff-hanger the first issue ends on that I’m shaking with excitement for it to return. This is what good comics can do and it’s always time to read as much as we can now.
Get excited. Solve a mystery.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.