The Paybacks is a new series from Dark Horse about repo agency for superheroes. It’s written by Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal, illustrated by Geoff Shaw, colored by Lauren Affe, and lettered by Michael Heisler. Is it good?
The Paybacks (Dark Horse Comics)
Superhero comics outside of the Big 2 can be tricky things. When readers spend so much time, energy, and money on well-established characters and universes, it can be hard to get them to take a chance on yet another set of superheroes. Many such comics end up forgotten as a result. Sometimes, the only way around this, as is the case with comics like Astro City and Watchmen, is to be really, really good.
So let me be clear: The Paybacks is not as good as Astro City, or at least not the several issues that I’ve read (give me a break, Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross have been on that comic for like 20 years). And it’s certainly not as good as Watchmen. But it’s a fun read that is absolutely worth your time.
A lot of that has to do with the characters. Whereas most comics like this would attempt to create analogs of well-known Marvel and DC characters, this does not appear to be the case with most of the characters that Cates, Rahal, and Shaw have created, and there’s some pretty clever stuff there as a result. “The only man to have ever fought in the Cold War,” the (very funny) introductory page says of The Soviet Nunchuck. Even repo target Night Knight, an obvious take on Batman, isn’t completely analogous, given the hilarious fact that his sidekick is a unicorn. That’s amazing! There are too many characters introduced in this first issue to adequately get to know any of them, but I look forward to learning more about all of them.
The art is also a huge part of the book’s appeal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Geoff Shaw become a much more in-demand artist (albeit not necessarily by the Big Two) after this book gains some more traction. It has the scratchy, detailed line work of Sean Philips, with the weirdness and manic energy of Chris Burnham. Shaw’s use of facial expressions could use some work, but at least this debut issue isn’t particularly emotional. The coloring by Lauren Affe is also quite strong, as is the lettering by Michael Heisler.
Is It Good?
Though I hope that this comic adds some emotional depth in later issues, at the moment, it’s getting by on action and humor. If you’re looking for a fun twist on the superhero genre by a fresh new creative team, you should give The Paybacks a shot.