RETCON Vol. 1: REVERSE ENGINEERED TP by Matt Nixon and Toby Cypress
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
You can tell Matt Nixon and Toby Cypress have a lot of fun making RETCON Vol. 1. You'll have fun reading it if you like retcon in general and tongue-in-cheek humor.
89 %
Over-the-Top Fun

When ComicsVerse reviewed the first issue of the Image Comics series RETCON, the reviewer aptly pointed out that he “never felt connected to the world” that writer Matt Nixon (WOLVERINE) and artist Toby Cypress (THE GRAVEDIGGERS UNION) were building. The issue had a great action sequence, but it was really hard to get a sense of the characters. Fortunately, the larger scale of RETCON Vol. 1 makes it easier to grasp the series’ multi-faceted fantasy/sci-fi world and characters.

In order to understand a fantasy world, you have to understand the “rules” that exist in that world. When watching DOCTOR WHO, for example, you have to understand that the Doctor can travel through space and time in his big, blue police box, the TARDIS. When writing RETCON, Nixon reveals the rules that govern the world slowly, bit by bit. For example, early on in RETCON Vol. 1, we learn that there was an army outfit tasked with combating “things most people think ain’t real.” Thus, we learn that (1) the government knows about paranormal beings and (2) the army is working to stop those very same things. Those two details are essential to following the RETCON Vol. 1 storyline. But other details that help explain what’s going on, such as the relationship between the protagonist Brandon Ross and the demon inside of him, don’t come until much later. Consequently, when reading the volume, I frequently had to turn back pages as my brain tried to put together the plot.

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A Demon Named Merry Sue

RETCON Vol. 1
Courtesy of Image Comics

You can tell that Nixon and Cypress have a lot of fun creating the characters that make up RETCON Vol. 1. On Nixon’s part, there are the names and some really quirky characterizations. Take Brandon Ross, for example. He has a demon named Merry Sue living inside him. Yes, you read that right … Merry Sue. And when he meets some aliens and the world is ending, he remarks, “Crap. I need to feed my cat.” That line alone is enough to get a chuckle from some readers. But then Nixon raises the humor up a notch. He follows up the previous remark with dialogue between Ross and the alien about cats being “obligate carnivores” and the alien missing “what you might consider a pet” back home. Lines like these didn’t exactly have me on the floor laughing, but they do a nice job of setting the tone for this series.

And what is that tone, you ask? Quite simply, you can’t take yourself too seriously when reading RETCON Vol. 1. The series doesn’t even take itself seriously, which is good and precisely the enjoyment of reading it. We learn that Ross is covered by tattoos because a witch put them on him so that his body will become a cage for Merry Sue. Thanks to the tattoos, Ross and the demon have a more mutual relationship and he can wield the demon, serving as an ultimate weapon for the witch. When the witch reveals this, she remarks, “Of course tattooing an infant is very fucked up. I agree, Brandon.” Moreover, Nixon takes cliches that we often encounter in fiction and shows how absurd they really are. For example, there’s the human sacrifice, a common adventure story trope. In RETCON Vol. 1, it’s preceded by a group bath.

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RETCON Vol. 1
Courtesy of Image Comics

And it’s not just Nixon that has all the fun. Cypress, too, seems to be taking an over-the-top approach to the art in RETCON Vol. 1. Some images are more functional than anything. For example, the picture that werebear Chris Dodge reveals early in the volume becomes a major item in the plot as the story goes on. Taken after a successful combat mission in the Middle East, the picture contains not only the genie they defeated but also the witch who is responsible for Brandon’s and Chris’s powers. She also manages the time jumping that’s necessary to try to keep defeating the same enemy over and over. (Their time jumping is kind of like hitting reset on a game console each time your character dies.)

Meanwhile, other drawings in RETCON Vol. 1 can be best described by one phrase: over-the-top. The werebear has eyes all over it and the Skinwalker looks absolutely disgusting as he’s dying. And I won’t even mention how gross it is when the villain finally reveals its true form. Again, the over-the-top nature of the art seems purposeful, just like the “ha ha” aspect of a demon named Merry Sue.

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Final Thoughts: RETCON Vol. 1: REVERSE ENGINEERED TP

I’ll be honest with you. RETCON Vol. 1 wasn’t my cup of tea. Even after reading it twice, I found it hard to be interested in the characters or where the story is going. That said, it’s not a bad series. I can see readers who like anything involving retcon or stories that poke fun at themselves liking this one. Overall, my favorite part of the volume is the jokes, especially between the witches and the cop-turned-human-sacrifice. RETCON is the best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Fortunately, Nixon has some good one-liners throughout the volume.

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