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

The Story: Pop quiz at the School of Five Weapons!

The Review: As difficult as it is to find a teenager who’s got his act together, it’s almost as difficult to find fiction about teenagers that’s got its act together.  As the characters meander in that tense gray area between immaturity and responsibility, they often guarantee that the story will go through a rapid shifting of tones, one moment reveling in its own juvenile obnoxiousness, the other striving desperately to be taken seriously.

Such is the case with Five Weapons, which from its very premise seems incapable of stepping away from its childish good humor long enough to tell a story grown-ups can appreciate.  It strikes me as odd to write about an assassin school, but never allow any character to actually die.  This lowers the stakes of the series quite dramatically, making it hard to get invested in any skirmish, since no one is really at risk of a fatality or even lasting injury.

It does make you question the competence of every single person in this series, especially the teachers.  Despite thoroughly archetypical character designs, the teachers have never been anything more than mere obstacles in Enrique’s way, and rather silly, bumbling ones at that.  Not a single one of them has ever managed to develop beyond a bare minimum of personality, and though experts in their fields (ostensibly), they seem incapable of taking down anyone unless it’s a child and they’ve rigged the fight first.

In this fashion, Robinson has neutered every threat that’s wandered into this story. Last issue, Principal O went from having an irrational enmity with Enrique and the rest of the school to having an incomprehensible motivation for being at the school in the first place.  Similarly, Vera, probably the most legitimate antagonist of the series to date—it was she, after all, who prompted the Shainlines to flee and use Enrique as a decoy in the first place—turns out to be all heart, without even the stomach to paralyze her opponents for very long, much less take them all down.

These are twists that serve only to annoy and baffle, not surprise, you.  Why make Enrique have a whole scene of panic and internal conflict if he already deduced Vera’s harmlessness?  Why would the Shainlines even bother to go through this elaborate plan of gathering Vera and O in the same room and clearing things up, when all it would have taken to achieve the same result was to, oh, I don’t know—gather Vera and O in the same room and clear things up?

The easy answer is that we wouldn’t have much of a story, then, if he did that.  Then again, all this seems to prove that Robinson didn’t have much of a story to begin with.  In terms of plot development, he has relied on an increasingly dry and bland series of revisionist monologues, backtracking and filling in the past like gravel to potholes, leaving the storyline uneven and bumpy.  Unlike the Harry Potter novels, to which Newsarama apparently compares this series, Robinson never lays the groundwork for his revelations first; it’s easy enough to come up with new twists on the spot when you don’t have to fit them anywhere in your plot.

The strongest suit of this series, though it’s not saying much, is the art, which has always been cute and full of charm in that proto-anime fashion.  There’s no doubting that Robinson applied the very best style for this series; it’s too bad that his script consistently failed to provide material that could challenge his artistic sensibilities.

Conclusion: A hopelessly rushed affair with little credibility, it’s best to describe this mini as a bunch of good ideas with suitable art, but nothing more.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Whatever happened to Hannah, one of the outcasts Enrique befriended early on?

– Only at Image could a series that barely ranks within the top 300 comics be considered fit for an ongoing. Dial H is a superstar by comparison.