I didn’t fall in love with comics reading a comic book with “#1” on its cover. It was Suicide Squad #6 that lured me in with the midpoint in a story filled with characters I didn’t recognize, a premise I didn’t understand, and a plot concerning a war I hadn’t lived through. Yet, no matter how much discussion there is about accessibility at DC and Marvel today, nothing can match the allure of that issue. It was confident in its storytelling, delivering action and character beats that resonated on each page, even if you were piecing together how it came to be. That’s how COPRA #1 introduces itself to new readers, and I could not imagine a better comparison.
For the uninitiated, COPRA is the brainchild of Michel Fiffe, originally sold on Etsy, who handled every element of production, including the writing, artwork, lettering, and even the printing and shipping of each issue. It was a passion project in its purest form fueled by Fiffe’s love of Suicide Squad and a variety of other classic superhero creations and creators. The titular team of COPRA is a black ops unit filled with empowered misfits who are sent on missions that could certainly be deemed suicidal, and that premise quickly expanded to include all sorts of personal drama, not limited to foreign coups and extraterrestrial gods. It quickly became a cult hit and ran for 31 issues before going on a hiatus. Now, COPRA #1 from Image Comics, delivers the 32nd issue in this sprawling revenge saga and the completion of a cliffhanger that has been anxiously anticipated for over a year. That may not sound like an ideal jumping on point, but that assessment only applies if you haven’t read the comic itself.
The first few pages are a testament to Fiffe’s scripting abilities. As an astute student of superhero comics from the 1980s, it’s clear he appreciates both the soap opera complexity that defines this era and the contradictory accessibility found within many of these comics. Both action and dialogue are used to simultaneously introduce and deepen the current state of affairs. Location, relationships, and motives are all on display to create momentum for new and returning readers. Whether or not you’re invested in Wir and Guthie’s relationship, flying bullets and pooling blood make for an irresistible hook. Exposition is delivered via captions and speech balloons, but is not easily recognizable as such. There’s confidence that readers can infer what they need to know and appreciate what is occurring in the moment. That confidence fills the entire issue, even as past enemies reappear and events spiral into entropy.
While connecting the dots between current and past events may require some grey matter, COPRA #1 is a thrillride before all else and captures reader attention as if they’ve walked into the middle of a screening of The Raid: Redemption or Mad Max: Fury Road. From the very first spread, there’s a compulsion to keep flipping pages and discover what happens next. That remains true through the bloody end and a cliffhanger that’s sure to leave every reader with their jaw hanging.
There is a visceral quality to Fiffe’s presentation of violence. Each blow, whether it’s a head smashed against a dumpster or a machete embedding itself in a cyborg, resonates on the page. Hand drawn sound effects make each moment pop along with inks that cut through the page like rivulets of blood. There are no accidents in COPRA; every choice of perspective and layer of details adds to the moment. This is also what prevents some extended dialogue at the issue’s midway point from slowing the pace. Mentions of past destruction (that also function as foreshadowing) are delivered in such a concise fashion that they appear like a duel.
As a reader returning to COPRA after feeling its absence for more than a year this feels like a homecoming in more ways than one. The satisfactions of a favorite story returned and a cliffhanger fulfilled are certainly present, but this issue is also a reminder of why I first fell in love with both this medium and genre. Every page of COPRA #1 delivers at least one element bound to impress. Not all of them are flashy, but they all far exceed the expectations of competence. Even the simplest moments are told with the confidence and careful consideration. It’s the craftsmanship present in COPRA that make any issue irresistible, as the medium becomes the message. There is a sprawling story of revenge, violence, and absurd antagonists being continued in these pages, but the most enthralling element of all is how that saga is continued. COPRA #1 is a masterclass in comics storytelling, a must-read issue whether it’s your first or thirty second issue.
Published by Image Comics
On October 2, 2019
Created by Michel Fiffe