Written by carlos a. s. lising
There’s some truth in the adage: It’s not so much the story itself that matters – it’s how you tell it that makes the difference. EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: IRIS, ENEMIES AMONG US #1 goes some way to prove that truism. The basic premise of a young girl trained to become a living weapon and professional killer is not an especially unique one. As a character, however, Iris possesses just enough individual flavor and spin that she manages to stand on its own as an independent entity apart from those many others with which she shares her genre. That’s the good news. The bad news, unfortunately, is that IRIS does a remarkably uneven job of telling the tale of her past. Its two separate chapters are of such differing quality that the whole of the book – and its main character – suffers for it.
For those unfamiliar with her story, IRIS is a prequel, detailing the past of the eponymous character that serves as the story’s protagonist. Iris was raised as a young girl in a special academy in China that provided “Executive Assistants” – women serving in roles equal parts secretary, bodyguard, and assassin – to the world’s ultra-rich.
The prequel is divided into two distinct chapters. The aptly-named “First Assignment” tells the story of Iris’ meeting with Mr. Ching, the man that is to serve as her employer, and her first assignment at his side. This is by far the most enjoyable of the two parts of the story, as writer David Wohl does an excellent job of portraying the sense of innocent wonder and raw inexperience young Iris possesses at this stage of her career as an Executive Assistant. Artist Giuseppe Cafaro balances a modern comic style with a sense of stark dynamic that I found added to the tone of the story significantly. Colorist Wes Hartman is a perfect compliment to this style, and his use of shadow and texture in brought Carfaro’s art to life wonderfully. The story being told is nothing revolutionary, but it’s told with enough verve and style that the reader is more than satisfied at its conclusion.
The second chapter, “Pain Drops”, depicts Iris’ first meeting with an Executive Assistant named Thalia. While writer Vince Hernandez does a solid job of telling the story of the assassins’ fateful encounter, the manner in which it’s laid out is well-worn ground. This is standard genre-fare that at times borders on the hackneyed and readers will likely detect that immediately. Randy Green’s stylized art feels rough and rushed in this chapter. Even Hartman’s coloring suffers here, seeming flat and lifeless. It’s almost as if this second chapter was added to the first as an afterthought. On the whole, it’s a pedestrian effort on all counts that diminishes the overall quality of the whole of the book.
EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: IRIS, ENEMIES AMONG US #1 is worth the price of admission, if only for its first chapter. Fans of the Iris franchise will definitely want to add this book to their collection. It does much to fill in the gaps in the character’s history and Iris’ portrayal as a wide-eyed and inexperienced Executive Assistant paints her in a new light that her devotees will likely enjoy immensely. On it’s own, will it pull in readers new to the character and her story? Much like the comic itself, it’s a 50/50 proposition.