By Zack Quaintance — Calamity Kate #1—from Magdalene Visaggio, Corin Howell, Valentina Pinto, and Zakk Saam—has a fantastic first page. You’ll see it should you decide to read this comic (which, I think you should), and you may have already seen it in previews, but I still want to take a moment to talk about how much I liked it here. The creative team does an excellent job pulling the audience’s gaze down through a set of five page-spanning horizontal panels, each one of which unveils a new detail about the titular heroine, Calamity Kate.
It gets the always tricky business of info dumping out of the way in a quick burst, in a way that doesn’t bog down its narrative once it gets going while still telling us most everything we need to know about our character, where she’s at now, and what she seems to want out of life. We learn she’s leaving alone, she’s been eating takeout, her dark apartment is covered in posters of monsters, she was married, she’s been divorced, she has swords, she has a leather jacket. Then at the very bottom, we get her mind state: I’m not dead, far from it.
By page three she’s jumping, teeth gritted and sword drawn at a giant monster, we know pretty much everything we need to be oriented as an audience, and the only reasonable reaction becomes, hell yes, let’s do this!
The intro was perhaps what stood out to me most, but the rest of the comic goes on to be great too. Between this book and Morning in America, writer Magdalene Visaggio continues to make a strong case that she’s one of the best (and most complex) dialogue writers in comics right now. When her characters talk to each other, there’s always a sense that what’s being communicated is a great deal more than what’s being literally said. You can feel strains in friendships, complex histories, and tiny agendas. It makes for well-realized characters and tons of additive interactions.
And it’s not always about the interactions. Sometimes the lines crackle with interesting juxtapositions (this one jumped out at me, I packed up, left my job, left my apartment, and drove west in an old continental and started hunting monsters). Another bit of very solid writing here is how the emphasis of the plot stays on Kate’s emotions. The opening was about her loneliness, first and foremost, with the book (wisely) waiting a bit longer to establish that she’s a famous monster hunter in a world where monsters have become a too-common disaster, not unlike wild fires or mass shootings. It’s a bold move, and it pays off excellently, grounding a genre story in the feelings of real people (my favorite).
Corin Howell, the artist for the series, is also having an ascendent year as a creator, having drawn other notable books like Girl in the Bay and Dark Red. On Calamity Kate, Howell is joined by colorist Valentina Pinto, and the result is what in my opinion is her best artwork yet. The lines are clean and sharp as all get out, and the visuals oscillate seamlessly from anguished quiet moments of honesty to a woman combating scaly drooling creatures with a katana. It all slows super well, and the flourishes really pop, driving the action and big emotional beats in equal parts.
Overall: A really well-done first issue, Calamity Kate is a tight and well-told story with a solid concept and great characters. Come for the famous monster-hunter living in Encino premise, but stay for the quiet look at honesty, friendship, and feeling alone. 9.0/10
Calamity Kate #1
Writer: Magdalene Visaggio
Artist: Corin Howell
Colorist: Valentina Pinto
Letterer: Zakk Saam
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.