Bad Luck Chuck #1
Matthew Dow Smith (artist), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colourist), Lela Gwenn (writer)
Dark Horse Comics
March 27, 2019
DISCLAIMER: A copy of this issue was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Lela Gwenn is a former contributor of WWAC.
Chuck was born with a very special ability: bad luck. Instead of letting her bad fortune get her down, Chuck has found a way to turn her misfortunes around by orchestrating disasters to help clients get those insurance payouts. Her lucrative little business attracts the attention of a certain type of clientele, but it has also attracted the attention of a very determined insurance fraud investigator. Throw in an angry cult leader and a disillusioned teen and Gwenn’s got a really fun and unique story to tell.
Charlotte “Chuck” Manchester is not a likable person. That is to say, she is only concerned with getting the job done and getting her paycheque. She has great powers, but she doesn’t care about the great responsibility that’s supposed to go with them. She’s not a villain though. Just someone using her talents to get by. Illegally.
Gwenn describes her creation as “way sharper than I am. She’s the kind of tough that I fantasize about being, but probably wouldn’t like in real life.” This is the kind of character that I love. She’s not so tough or cruel that she would completely leave an innocent victim high and dry, but that edge gives her an attractive personality with lots of room for the writer to play with the range of expectations people have of her and how Chuck meets or scoffs—or growls—at them. Gwenn describes the story as “slapstick noir,” where the private detective-like elements of Chuck’s line of work meets the pratfalls that result from the accidents that her mere presence can cause. Starting with a knock on the glass of her one-room office door, we meet a client promising Chuck a lot of money to rescue her daughter from the clutches of a nearby cult that the young girl keeps returning to. A rescue mission doesn’t seem like something that falls under Chuck’s purview, but the client is clear on her expectations: make sure there is no cult for the girl to go back to this time.
No time is wasted in revealing just what Chuck’s relationship with entropy can do. Disaster literally follows her around, and there’s only so much control that she can maintain over it. This first issue covers all the bases when it comes to establishing the characters and the major hook, diving right into the plot and flowing smoothly between panels of intense action and Chuck’s calm and stoic acceptance of the fact that this is just how her life works.
The story is filled with dark humour. None of it is necessarily laugh out loud, despite the slapstick elements. Gwenn’s approach is much more subtle, like a consistent, knowing smirk as Chuck leaves a gauntlet of disaster in her wake. Dow Smith complements this dark humour with artwork that very much reflects the noir genre. Shadows take centre stage, and Fitzpatrick steps in with gorgeously muted colours—until disaster strikes. Then Dow Smith’s shadows flicker around vibrant flames and backgrounds that, while simple in some cases, still pop with intensity thanks to the colour choices.
Chuck’s going rates are probably a bit beyond my price range, but I’m keen enough on a unique new comic that I’m happy to invest in more of this four-part series to see where disaster strikes next.