Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. This week, Matthew assesses the first volume of Image Comics’s ‘Curse Words’, available now in trade paperback.

Cover to 'Curse Words' Vol. 1 TPB. Art by Ryan Browne and Michael Garland/Image Comics

Cover to ‘Curse Words’ Vol. 1 TPB. Art by Ryan Browne and Michael Garland/Image Comics

By Matthew C. Brown. Curse Words is as irreverent as it is fantastical. It is a classic fish out of water story, and as in most stories of that kind, the fish is not only physically out of water but also mentally and emotionally out of its element.

Let’s set the scene: In this case, our fish is Wizord, a wizard who is not a fish but definitely a wizard, and yes, that should give you a sense of the silliness and chaos to come. Wizord is from a fantastical realm of magic and destruction. He is sent to our dimension under orders from the dark lord Sizzajee to destroy us. When Wizord arrives in New York City, and after spending a month or so here in our world, he realizes how nice it is and that nobody really seems to be afraid of him at all. They just think he’s another crazy New Yorker at first. This is quite abnormal for Wizord, who is used to people fleeing from him in terror. Charmed by this change in pace, Wizord decides to stay here and protect our world instead of destroying it for his dark lord.

The trouble is, Sizzajee’s pissed about this betrayal for sure, and now Wizord has to deal with the consequences of his decision. One by one other powerful wizards, including Wizord’s ex-lover, Ruby Stitch, are coming to fight him, Oh, and there’s his trusty shape-shifting sidekick, Margaret, in the form of a fluffy koala. Yes, this book is ridiculous in all the right ways.

This story very easily could have leaned into the overly dramatic, kind of like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, which pits the world we know against some fantastical realm. Instead, Curse Words feels tied to the darkness and silliness of Ghostbusters II, where the comedy comes from the juxtaposition of our normal world and way of thinking with a fantasy realm hellbent on our death and destruction.

The series’ humor is conveyed by the way its characters interact with one another. Sometimes they orate the standard badass epic monologue, but most of the time Wizord and Margaret speak to each other like two old bickering friends, with zero sense of grandiosity. It makes sense to an extent because, to them, making magic is routine.

The team behind Curse Words has created something unlike anything we’ve seen before. The series is beautifully rendered, wonderfully hued. It pits Wizord’s sapphire palette against the ruby reds of his past life. The art’s effect gives this world the scale of a Hieronymus Bosch triptych, neither of which is paradise, and both are spilling into one another. It is at once medieval and modern, fresh and familiar.

As classic as this fish out of water concept is, this book is unquestionably unique. It is its own world with its own rules. It feels like the beginning of a series with real vision. Lines are drawn between worlds, pieces shift into place, and what’s to come will undoubtedly be exponentially more insane.

Image Comics/$9.99

Created by Charles Soule and Ryan Browne

Colors by Ryan Browne and Michael Garland

Letters by Crank!