Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #190 by Drew Barth

Thank You for Being Afraid

Battle Royals have been the preeminent form of entertainment for the past few years. Due to its dominance in the video game market, Fortnite’s battle royal style of game play is one of the biggest things in the world. But while this genre isn’t new, especially if we look at the film Battle Royale from 2000, its recent saturation has led to a large variety of experiments within the genre that push away from the simpler winner-take-all attitude of the game and focus in more on those unwittingly caught in the mass violence brought to them. This is where Golden Rage by Chrissy Williams, Lauren Knight, Sofie Dodgson, Shayne Hannah Cui, and Becca Carey brings in their island of grandmothers who are looking to murder one another. 

Although we don’t know why the murder is occurring just yet, The Island is still resplendent with violence. From the first splash page we’re presented with grandmas wholesale murdering one another for unknown reasons. But then that’s where we meet Jay and Rosie. Jay is very much not a grandmother and Rosie is larger than a sedan and swinging an ax at anyone that gets close enough. But Rosie grabs Jay and takes her back to a lighthouse hideout with Lottie and Caroline—a pair that have been on the island for an unknown amount of time, but are still somehow making a small living among the violence. All of this violence, however, still catches up to them. 

Golden Rage, though, is the kind of comic that keeps its hand close. It wants you to work for the information on the page. No one is yelling about what is happening in the panel or spelling every aspect of the story out—it trusts you to figure it out as you go along. It doesn’t feel like a revolutionary thing in comic storytelling, there’s dozens of mystery stories coming out that want you to find those clues, but for a more action-oriented series that presents itself as “Battle Royale meets The Golden Girls” it’s honestly refreshing to see it go in this more subtle route. And with this first issue, we’re getting that piecemeal approach: small bits of dialog, a splash page with minor hints here and there, a map of the island at the end. All of these elements build toward uncovering what this series is really trying to accomplish.

As far as first issues go, Golden Rage is a pile of secrets already. We’re given precious little, but then we’re looking through the eyes of Jay and her limited knowledge of The Island. But then that works out incredibly well. This is Jay observing the story of Rosie, Lottie, and Caroline as the newcomer and creators like Williams, Knight, Dodgson, Cui, and Carey know how to convey that newness in a first issue. It’s that newness that also immediately hooks you for the next as the cliffhanger on the final page just makes me want the second issue all the more. 

Get excited. Get golden.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.