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Comic Review: The Paybacks #1
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The Paybacks #1

The Paybacks #1
Written by Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal
Art by Geoff Shaw
Colors by Lauren Affe
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Geoff Shaw and Lauren Affe
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: September 16, 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

A beautifully self-aware new series from Dark Horse Comics answers the question: What happens to superheroes who miss their loan payments? The Paybacks are sent as repo men. Goodbye, super-car, jet-sub, and invisible plane. The tropes are familiar, yet the writing of Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal is smart and the characters, original. The Paybacks #1 pays off.

The first issue covers two parallel storylines. Archibald Primrose III a.k.a. Night Knight is a vainglorious caricature of an English Batman. His clichéd confrontation with arch-villain Reflectoid is interrupted by a heroic ring tone – his butler announcing that the Paybacks have come to collect.

Standing in the secret underground lair beneath the Primrose mansion, we meet Emory Rains, Bloodpouch, Skisquatch, and The Soviet Nunchuck. These characters could have been invented during a late-night game of drunken Madlibs. Waiting in their van outside is Driver, who looks like a spooky version of “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Miss Adventure and her crew of Paybacks have a harder time confronting Billy Bob Spartan, leader of a superhero team called The Command. Imagine trying to invade Avengers Tower to repo all of Iron Man’s suits. Miss Adventure radios for back-up, and Driver tells her, “Stepping out for a smoke. I’ll check back in a bit. Do your job, Zoe.” When have you ever seen that response in a hero comic? The text-bubble understatement of this crisis builds suspense to a colorful, dynamic battle scene revealed in the middle of this first issue.

Geoff Shaw demonstrates his versatility throughout the book, shifting from rooftop cityscapes to close-ups to complicated panoramic scenes. Action explodes from the page with ripping lines, but his talent is most evident in the painstaking background details that contribute authenticity to the Paybacks’ world. Lauren Affe’s colors control the mood of the story, highlighting tongue-in-cheek melodrama, breakneck combat, and every scene in between. The fluid collaboration by the entire creative team bodes well for this title which builds on their previous collective work: Buzzkill.

In The Paybacks, superheroes are deadbeat, unicorns talk, and calls for the cavalry are ignored for a pack of smokes. The Paybacks repossess our heroic expectations.

The Paybacks #1 cover

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