Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez's ASSASSINISTAS #2 is an exciting development in the story of hitwoman Octavia "Red October" Price. The second issue takes time to develop the characters, introducing intriguing facts about Octavia's personal history. What the issue lacks in plot, it makes up for in brilliant and humorous details.
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Octavia “Red October” Price is bringing the heat in ASSASSINISTAS #2. Following ASSASSINISTAS #1, Octavia is hot on the trail of former teammate Blood Diamond who has been accused of kidnapping their friend’s child. In this issue, published by IDW Publishing, Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez’s intense heroine has her work cut out for her. Instead of her old Assassinista teammates, she has some new recruits: her son, Dominic “Carlos” Price, and his pacifist boyfriend, Taylor “Riot.” Hernandez’s artwork bolsters the exciting continuation of Howard’s action-packed writing. His signature line work and color-blocking add humor and intrigue to the comic.

Howard’s sense of humor balances the otherwise dark comic, contrasting violent activity with Taylor and Dominic’s youthful romance and incompetence in the field. Octavia’s hard-ass attitude barely covers her protective instincts for the two young men. Furthermore, ASSASSINISTAS #2 gives a few tantalizing hints into the Assassinistas’ background, including Dominic’s roller-rink obsessed father, Carlos. The diverse cast meets new challenges as they take their next steps towards Blood Diamond and the unfolding mystery.

ASSASSINISTAS #2: The Complicated History of a Hitwoman

Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Although this issue was not as plot-driven as the last, Howard makes up for this by taking time to develop her characters. ASSASSINISTAS #1 set readers up for a high-speed chase after a dangerous kidnapper. This issue, more time is spent on fleshing out the characters. Octavia’s troubled past ties her to the Assassinistas. The three were unified by their training and survival skills. However, why the group disbanded is still a mystery. And Octavia isn’t keen on explaining much to her new recruits.

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Howard adds dimension to Octavia’s character as she navigates her rapport with Dominic. She is simultaneously blunt and protective. It is a compelling look into Octavia’s psyche. She is critical of coddling children and seems to think Taylor is naïve. Nevertheless, her motherly love is obvious. Although her past traumas have led her on a challenging road, her compassion for Dominic and her Assassinista friends is obvious.

Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Howard’s efforts to develop strong characters is worth the time in ASSASSINISTAS #2. Along with Octavia, Dominic’s personality sees some development. He is a little rash, but he and Taylor provide a sweet romantic element. Dominic and Octavia butt heads a little, primarily over the history between Octavia and Carlos. The tension is set aside, though, largely thanks to Taylor’s friendliness. Taylor is enthusiastic, and clearly wants to make a good impression on Octavia. Details such as Taylor’s punk-rock aesthetic and vegetarianism conflict with Octavia’s murderous background. Nevertheless, the two seem to hit it off. The juxtaposition gives the comic a buddy cop movie dynamic.


The Devil’s in the Details

In the case of ASSASSINISTAS #2, Hernandez’s artwork is full of fantastic details that bring the comic to life. For example, while camped out for their first mission, Taylor and Dominic get tossed out of their beds for a quick reconnaissance mission. However, Octavia leaves no time for Dominic and Taylor to change. As a result, Dominic ends up running around in his pajama bottoms and Taylor has on only converse sneakers, a tank top, and pink undies that match his pink mohawk. Taylor, in particular, resembles a punk-rock Ken doll next to Octavia’s G.I. JOE seriousness. The priceless visual contrast between these two characters is entertaining yet speaks to Dominic’s duality. He is one part sweet young man and one part fierce fighter.

Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Other remarkable details add humor to the comic. For instance, although the kidnapped child, Kyler, is supposedly “allergic to everything” as his shirt suggests, he is pictured with a jar of peanut butter and pixie sticks. In another scene, Blood Diamond has a large iguana in her bag at one point. Even though that detail is a non-sequitur, it is evocative of her powerful and mysterious character. Visual details such as these work with Howard’s writing. Scarlet, former Assassinista and mother of Kyler, is pregnant. Nevertheless, her colleagues send her a basket of wine as a condolence gift. She angrily smashes the wine, reasonably asking what kind of people send a pregnant woman wine? Howard and Hernandez’s sense for even the most minor details gives nuance to the action adventure story.


Final Thoughts: Bullseye!

Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

ASSASSINISTAS #2’s focus is on character development, adding humor and intrigue using creative details. As in the first issue, Howard and Hernandez make an ideal team. Hernandez captures the bizarre, silly, and sometimes violent aspects of Howard’s story with ease. The art is refreshingly distinct, and Hernandez’s character design matches Howard’s efforts to develop each character.

ASSASSINISTAS #2 introduces a compelling dynamic between Octavia and Dominic. In coming issues, it will be interesting to watch how this plays out. Will Octavia’s motherly instincts get in the way? Can Dominic and Taylor keep cool heads? Whatever happens, Howard and Hernandez will surely continue to produce a thrilling adventure comic with many humorous surprises.

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