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

The Story: All of us would be more motivated to race if there was a kiss waiting at the end of it.

The Review: I knew from the start that Five Weapons isn’t really aimed at the adult reader.  With names like Jade the Blade and Joon the Loon, you know that Robinson’s appealing to a more innocent demographic.  Even so, I continued to labor with the idea that this title would fall along the lines of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-type series: upbeat and fun, but with a serious side as well, open to more angst and violence than, say, something from Johnny DC.

This issue forces me to recalibrate that understanding. Five Weapons sits comfortably between TMNT and Tiny Titans in the maturity spectrum of comics.  It’s not quite as frothy as the works of Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, but it doesn’t seem given to moments of sobriety the way TMNT frequently does, either.  In other words, it has just enough narrative complexity to occupy the mature mind, but not enough to challenge it.

After all, none of Enrique’s plans to beat the various weapons club presidents are particularly elaborate, nor do they require a great deal of craft to pull off.  His defeat of Jade was as much the result of freak chance as it was of his own ingenuity.  The fact that Enrique deduces Rick’s vision problems is praiseworthy, but in order to take advantage of it, Robinson has to add a few retroactive details: “Since I first arrived here,” Enrique claims, “I saw that you sweat a lot.  So, I applied Vick’s vapor rub under my clothes which transferred to your staff.  I knew I’d take a beating, but your defeat was sealed once you wiped the sweat out your eyes from all that fancy stick work.”  Well, cool—but without actually seeing any of this, it all feels a bit unsold.

This is especially true with his little homily to Rick about dropping the “street thug act” to let his intellect shine through, a speech that feels very after school special-ish.  We grown-ups know that there’s no actual contradiction for someone to be smart and urban at the same time, and Rick’s not that thuggish; he’s just a Jamaican bully.  Besides, at no point did we ever actually see Rick conceal his smartness; we just have Enrique’s word to go by on that.  So that whole scene is more for the benefit of easily influenced ten-year-olds reading the book than anything else.

Still, there are plenty of enjoyable points to this little mini: the manga-inspired school festival with its one inexplicable tradition, a kiss between the king and queen of the event; the innocent, endearing friendship Enrique builds among his band of outcasts; the puppy-love triangle between Jade, Joon, and Enrique; and the always appealing underdog tale, pitting our hero against the school’s faculty and administration.  If Robinson can combine these small charms with a little more substance, like exploring the beef between Nurse and Principal O, or giving some more specifics about what led to Enrique to the school in the first place, this series would be golden.

Robinson’s art matches the sweet tone of his script.  If you’ve ever read one of those high school-life mangas the Japanese are overly fond of, that’s generally the feeling Robinson evokes here, minus the excessive cutesiness.  Let me put it this way: you never see anyone blushing in comics anymore; I suppose we’ve grown to expect our characters to be less self-conscious than that.  But here, it works, giving vulnerability to an otherwise off-puttingly weird character, making her an object worthy of sympathy rather than derision.  Little’s colors are bright, but soft, and just like the story itself, they’re bold without ever being threatening.

Conclusion: A very small-scale sort of story, but one with its own set of charms.  More suited for kids, but adults will find things to enjoy as well.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I do like spotting Joon creeping in random corners of panels as Enrique travels around.  My favorite is when she peeks from under the lid of the ammo-recycling bin.

– I also like the signage around the school.  “Observe all safety signs,” says one, depicting a beheaded figure, “Don’t be ‘that guy.’”