ASSASSINISTAS #4 by Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez
Tini Howard's sense of comedic timing makes ASSASSINISTAS #4 a fantastic read. Moreover, Gilbert Hernandez's bright illustrations support the quick paced character development in the latest issue of this IDW series.
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ASSASSINISTAS is picking up speed as the hit woman, Octavia “Red October” Price, tracks down kidnapper and former Assassinista, Rosalyn “Blood” Diamond, along with her son, Dominic, and his boyfriend Taylor. Tini Howard’s perfectly timed dialogue brazenly carries the audacious plot forward. And thanks to artist Gilbert Hernandez, the comic is filled with dynamic characters with guns blazing. ASSASSINISTAS #4 from IDW Comics ties together many threads but leaves even more loose.

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ASSASSINISTAS #4: In the Family Way?

ASSASSINISTAS #4 follows the previous comic’s structure, blending flashbacks to the old Assassinistas trio with the present. In previous issues, the throwback sections revealed Octavia’s romance with Carlos, Dominic’s dreamy mustached father. The comics also alluded to Rosalyn’s relationship with the comic’s bizarre antagonist: Julian. As Rosalyn says in ASSASSINISTAS #4: “They call it Stockholm Syndrome.” Indeed, while Octavia and the other Assassinista Charlotte recover from traumas caused by Julian Domino, Rosalyn can’t fully escape the past. The comic does not treat the issue of Stockholm Syndrome or sexual abuse as seriously as it perhaps should. However, although the comic presents Rosalyn as a victim, it also attempts to reaffirm her autonomy. As a result, Rosalyn becomes a formidable and nuanced character.

Image courtesy of IDW.

Unfortunately, the past quickly catches up to everyone in ASSASSINISTAS #4. Each Assassinista faction faces a reckoning. Octavia must reckon with her past as well as her son’s sexuality. Carlos must face his relationship with his ex-wife, Octavia. And, encountering suddenly real dangers, Taylor and Dominic have to grow up quickly as they help Octavia. The two young men realize that tracking bad guys is not as easy as their favorite video games. ASSASSINISTAS #4 hints that the pending family reunion is sure to be tense.

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Technicolor Intensity

Gilbert Hernandez’s artwork for the ASSASSINISTAS series playfully pays homage to 1970s flare. However, ASSASSINISTAS #4 feels brighter than previous issues with intense colors supporting each character. Much of the comic focuses on Rosalyn. Her signature orange-red hair is offset with bright teal backgrounds. The colors around Octavia, Taylor, and Dominic are more subdued, combining purples and darker greens. Of course, where the barbie-like Charlotte comes into play, childish purples, yellows, and greens follow.

Hernandez’s illustrations develop the character’s emotions in interesting ways. For example, while Octavia is highly focused and professional, Taylor and Dominic’s millennial spirits shine through. Octavia is usually mission-focused, cool, and stable. Taylor and Dominic are often bouncing around, wide-eyed and distracted. As a result, Hernandez perfectly draws out the different mindsets in each character.

Image courtesy of IDW.

Family Matters

Howard lards ASSASSINISTAS #4 with witty one-liners and subtle humor. Rosalyn’s dark sarcasm cuts the sweet and awkward rapport between Octavia and Dominic. For example, while Rosalyn’s scenes are brutally honest, Octavia fumbles with Dominic, trying to unearth sensitive information at inappropriate times. This perfectly captures what coming out is like for many LGBTQ+ people: it can be awkward, but still funny. Howard paints Octavia as intentionally oblivious, despite Dominic’s frustration. The results are hilarious.

Image courtesy of IDW.

On the other end of Rosalyn’s dark humor is Taylor’s slapstick timing. Indeed, Taylor provides the foil to the Assassinistas. The young queer punk pacifist is out of his league but desperate to impress Dominic. Indeed, it seems that most of ASSASSINISTAS’ characters are on the mission against their better judgment. But Taylor especially is hilariously incompetent.

ASSASSINISTAS #4 also alludes to details about Carlos, Dominic’s estranged father. Whatever role Carlos will have in future issues, Howard’s writing will surely bring out the rich possibilities for humor.

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 A Classic Cliffhanger Leaves Readers Wanting More

ASSASSINISTAS is a highly satisfying comic, but Howard and Hernandez always leave some questions open. ASSASSINISTAS #4 rounds out Rosalyn’s character, and brings Carlos back into play. But otherwise, many questions are yet to be answered.  Indeed, the series keeps readers on the edge of their seats with tantalizing developments and showstopping art. ASSASSINISTAS #4 takes exciting turns with Octavia and Dominic’s relationship, and a better understanding of Rosalyn and her dark motives.

ASSASSINISTAS #4 is available here

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