By: Jimmie Robinson (story & art), Paul Little (colors)

The Story: The Staff Club motto: speak softly and carry a big stick—minus the “softly” part.

The Review: I have a pal who’s an aspiring screenwriter/film director/producer.  When you go to his house, he has stacks of DVDs lying around, and all of them are “good movies”: Hitchcock, Scorcese, and Kubrick; French, Italian, and Dutch art films; movies watched by fewer people than those who read my reviews.  You’ll find a lot of stuff about the nature of life, death, the unbearable lightness of being, but you won’t find, say, Princess Bride or Airplane!*

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t go through those movies endlessly without some kind of break where we watch something just out of fun.  That’s the same sentiment I have about comics, but if anything, the world of comics has even fewer works that operate on a purely fun level.  That’s why titles like Five Weapons are kind of a precious commodity in this market.  Sometimes, it’s nice to read something that embraces silliness with only a wink of irony.

And a story about a kid who goes to assassin’s school, determined to make it without ever touching a weapon or even fight anybody, sounds like it fits the bill.  That kind of premise has a built-in curiosity factor: how will Enrique get out of confrontations with kids conditioned to respond to tension with violence?  Obviously, it takes a clever mind and some masterful strategy to survive in those instances, which is always a good test of a writer’s creativity.

Maybe this is a consequence of the title’s lighthearted, kiddish nature, but so far, a lot of Enrique’s tactical victories has relied on rather broad leaps of logic (deducing that Jade the Blade wears a rifleman’s vest under one arm because she’s hyper-ticklish, for example) and a poor man’s version of Batman’s prep-time (“Tricked ma’h machine gunners widd’a string of paperclips,” complains one teacher; “He greased the strings in my archery class,” says another).  Enrique hasn’t actually shown much inspiration to validate his own cockiness just yet.*

In spite of this, Enrique is an eminently likeable lad because he genuinely wants to avoid a fight and he cares so sincerely about the other put-upon kids at the school.  It’s kind of predictable that in an institution where everyone’s segregated into little cliques (i.e. five clubs, each devoted to one style of weapon), the story will inevitably put our hero in a position where he can unite them.  Here, Enrique makes friends with the kids who’ve been bullied by the Staff Club, presided by the aggressive (and very Jamaican) Rick the Stick: “Whaddup, rich boy?  Heard you been skippin’ classes cuz you got no weapon.  Whaddup with dat’?  You scared?”

Underneath all this levity and school charm, there is the complication of Enrique’s true background and the real reason why he’s here.  Last issue already established a strict divide between assassins and their servants, and this issue reiterates that point through Dominic, Enrique’s dad.  But we’ve also seen Enrique show a talent for the fighting business, and considering the fact that the assassins his family works for are being targeted by a longtime enemy, it’s probable he’ll encounter a situation where he’s forced to defend himself on the spot, without any lead time to prepare elaborate strategies, traps, or tricks of any kind.

It’s always kind of nice when a writer can be his own artist because he often knows how best to execute his vision.  With his sprightly and kinetic art, he provides the perfect support for his generally upbeat story.  It retains the same energy and positive feeling of your school-silliness manga without actually poaching off the manga style, which you have to give Robinson kudos for.  Little’s colors are bright and vivid, but not so saturated that it’s overwhelming; it’s a very delicate and tasteful spectrum of colors he puts in here.

Conclusion: It’s about time for Enrique to really show off his talents instead of coasting on some narrative trickery, but otherwise Robinson continues to deliver guilt-free fun.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Both of which I have on Blu-ray in my collection—and I’m not ashamed to admit it, either (mostly).

* I’m much more appreciative of Enrique’s common-sense flashes of the obvious to his opponents: “You can’t disarm an unarmed opponent.  So you can’t win.”