ASSASSINISTAS #1 by Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez
Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez bring fast-paced energy and brilliant artwork, respectively, to ASSASSINISTAS #1. The series' badass lead, Octavia, and her son, Dominic, make this issue a fabulous start to a tantalizing new series.
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CHARLIE’S ANGELS, step aside — there’s a new team of (literally) killer women in town! IDW Publishing brings us a new hit. Tini Howard’s smart writing and Gilbert Hernandez’s stunning artwork create a fast-paced comic with ASSASSINISTAS #1. The adventure highlights the life of Dominic Price and his mom, the expert assassin, Red October.

Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

ASSASINISTAS takes after Gilbert Hernandez’ classic series, LOVE AND ROCKETS. The story highlights powerful female characters, and the artwork reflects a similar aesthetic. Hinting at Octavia’s history, ASSASSINISTAS #1 focuses on the dynamic between the leading ladies and the mother-son bond. The comic includes surprising tenderness to match the nefarious adventure.

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Many moms do housework, but Dominic’s mom is not that kind of cleaner. Octavia Price, also known as “Red October,” is a highly-trained member of the Assasinistas. Alongside Scarlet and Blood Diamond, Octavia was on an efficient squad in the 1970s. Eventually, however, the Assassinistas went their separate ways. Now, Octavia is an empty-nester working as a kidnapping insurance agent to cover Dominic’s college tuition. Octavia is about to make a successful sale to her old friend Scarlet when things quickly turn bad. With Scarlet’s child in danger, Octavia must enlist Dominic as her new sidekick. Their lives — and Dominic’s tuition — hang in the balance.  

Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Octavia’s skill is as great as her son’s heart. Octavia, a master of high powered artillery, carries a knife in her purse and only uses the best bulletproof vests. Octavia and her assassinista friends seem excited and confident. By comparison, Dominic’s flirtatious relationship with his boyfriend, Taylor, is as tender as a college student can be. Dominic’s dedication to his junior Ethics class contrasts starkly to his mother’s work. Consequently, ASSASSINISTAS #1 strikes a balance between violent action and sweet moments, highlighting the importance of loving relationships. For example, Dominic and Taylor calmly deal with the stress of college and coming out to Octavia. Howard humorously downplays the reality of Octavia’s career as an assassin. ASSASSINISTAS #1 lets the ironic juxtaposition between Octavia’s hardcore employment and Dominic and Taylor’s lighthearted naiveté flourish to good result.

Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

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Hernandez & Howard: A Match Made in Heaven

It would be hard to think of a better artist to work with Howard’s murderous writing than Gilbert Hernandez. Hernandez’s artwork is especially evocative of the 1970s, the setting for Octavia’s backstory. Hernandez’s distinct line drawing and color blocking give the comic a classic feel. However, his signature punk edginess with its highly textured line work effectively captures subtle details from rumpled shirts to the rundown roller rink. As a result, his style is particularly well-suited to ASSASSINISTAS’s frank humor with a deadly edge.

Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Dominic and Taylor, who wears an outlandish bright pink mohawk, are wide-eyed and youthful. The two appear in humorous opposition to Octavia’s business-like attitude and smooth formal attire. Some of the comics’ highlights include flashbacks to the old days when Red October was in her prime. The disco balls, roller rinks, and sophisticated weaponry stand out.  

Comics featuring badass women of color are always exciting but few and far between. AMERICA CHAVEZ is the most recent character that comes to my mind. While there are more action stories with female leads, it is hard to think of an action series with a woman of color at the helm. ASSASSINISTAS’s Octavia is a compelling example of the kind of heroines comic books need. Tini Howard’s character is strong, smart, and out for blood. Octavia is a humorously hyperbolic take on the narrative that mothers would kill for their children. Mostly, though, she is a fierce mother who would do anything to help Dominic. 

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Final Thoughts: One Hell of A Study Abroad

ASSASSINISTAS #1 leaves you wanting more, especially about Dominic and Taylor. The characters are thrown together in a whirlwind sequence. Howard only provides a few hints as to Dominic’s father — a mustached hottie reminiscent of Freddie Mercury. Additionally, Howard gives little information about the other assassinistas. What is clear is that Octavia and her son have a close relationship, which will likely come in handy.

Whether or not young Dominic and Taylor can successfully help Octavia on her new mission is up for grabs. However, ASSASSINISTAS #1 makes way for what is sure to be a remarkable series. Howard’s neat writing and fast-paced plot compliment her skilled heroine. Moreover, Hernandez draws upon all of his strengths to create engaging new characters. Howard’s writing and Hernandez’s art make for a striking combination.

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