One pretty sure-fire way for me to realize I need to read a trade that has been sitting on my shelf for a while is for me to see that its next volume has come out.
This brings us to today’s book, Welcome Back. (Your dreams were your ticket out.)
A secret war rages through time. Certain individuals, known as sequels, hunt each other to the death. One sequel kills another before committing suicide to follow his or her quarry onto their next life. Both are reborn. Both grow up knowing nothing of their past lives, until other sequels activate them. Then they remember everything and begin to hunt one another again.
Welcome Back focuses on a woman in her 20s named Mali, who stumbles through her life. She’s hiding from her past as the stepdaughter of a serial killer. She scrapes by, struggling with nightmares and visions of past lives. You see where this is going, right? One day, someone tries to kill Mali and activates her in the process. She remembers everything, including that she’s sick of running and killing and never getting to live her life. Aimless as her current life might be, she wants to see it through.
While this sounds like high-concept science fiction, Christopher Sebela keeps it grounded in character. Both Mali and her quarry, Tessa, struggle against what they have to do. They face disillusionment as they rebel against their missions. They fight outside forces conspiring to make them stay on task. To say that Welcome Back is about rejecting society’s expectations or being the pawn of larger social forces feels reductive, though. Those are two facets of what is going on, yes. But it’s also about breaking smaller habits. It’s about characters having to figure out who they want to be. It’s about the value of living life instead of living forever. Sebela doesn’t lay it on too thick with any of these ideas, but they’re all there.
As much as rebellion sits at the center of Welcome Back, it makes sense that the book’s art rocks a punk vibe. Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Claire Roe give the comic a strong sense of motion, to the benefit of its many fight and chase scenes. Their choreography is clear and fluid. And as dark as the book might sound, they keep it visually upbeat. The liveliness and energy they provide—along with Carlos Zamudio and Juan Manuel Tumburús’s color work—help create a sense that there might be a happy ending in reach for Mali.
If you’re looking for an action-heavy, high-concept science fiction comic, Welcome Back is a solid option. It leads with likable characters with relatable issues—anxiety, feeling lost, struggling with the fallout of leaving college and entering the world in the middle of a financial crisis. Character and high-energy visuals make for an engaging story; its sci-fi elements make it something unique.
- Welcome Back, Vol. 1: Help, I’m Alive (#1-4)
Writer: Christopher Sebela | Artists: Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Claire Roe | Colorists: Carlos Zamudio with Juan Manuel Tumburús | Letterer: Shawn Aldridge | Covers: Jonathan Brandon Sawyer | Designer: Scott Newman | Associate Editor: Chris Rosa | Editor: Eric Harburn