Wailing Blade #1 Review: The Thrill of the Fight
In “Wailing Blade” #1, a sword from a bygone era screams with the agony of the souls it takes, so the people don’t have to.
Turns out, some people aren’t super down with that.
Story: Rich Douek
Art: Joe Mulvey
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: Comix Tribe
“Wailing Blade” #1 is an example of a pretty successful story built around a weapon, with a decidedly JRPG flair in Douek’s writing and a solidly Western sensibility thanks to Mulvey’s art. Douek introduces us to the fascist, post-tech world of “Wailing Blade” with a nice balance of world-building and action to make for an entertaining first issue. The Headtaker and the Wailing Blade are good points of gravitas in a comic book story, and Mulvey’s character design is fun and over the top without straying too far into comedy territory.
Mulvey’s art is incredibly detailed, and with that much fine detail on the page a lot of the book blends together without achieving visual depth. Backgrounds are a bit too meticulous, and with that kind of attention paid to each physical detail, a page can often feel too static for the kind of action “Wailing Blade” is going for. Mulvey’s action shots and pops work well, but there are often too many characters or too many action beats to allow the eye to linger in any one place. Once the Headtaker enters the scene in the present day there’s a bit more balance, as the focus of each page becomes the sword. Without that focal point, quite a few of the early pages feel overly stylized and crowded. A more streamlined, minimal style or abstract backgrounds might serve the narrative better. Mulvey’s character expressions and imagination explode off the page, however, and there are some choice reaction shots throughout that help punch up the mood where some of the intricacy stumbles.
Sotomayor and Rivera’s colors are sickly and garish – all good things in this comic. The world in “Wailing Blade” is chock full of old, weird tech, and the colors help pump up Mulvey’s good detailing. That said, “Wailing Blade” feels like an acid trip at times, and it can be hard to draw focus to one panel or stay centered on Tychon’s emotional state when there’s so much to look at. In tandem with Mulvey’s precision detail, a simpler palette with fewer colors could help direct our attention on the page a bit better, and make for a much tighter visual experience. Esposito’s lettering is up to his usual standard, with some great ‘90s-style sound effects and a clear, tall font that adds a note of steadiness and calm to a chaotic world. It’s also readable and pleasing to the eye, and often serves as a visual landing zone when the more intricate panels start to blur together.
Overall, “Wailing Blade” is a fun concept with too much detail on the page. Dialing back some of the background bombast wouldn’t hurt the tone or the pace of the story, and could even help sell the high drama of the Tyrant’s world. That said, Douek and Mulvey’s imaginative bent on technology as artifact is intriguing, and worth a read.