The most important question ever asked is, “Why?” Sometimes it’s more important than even what actually happened.

In this debut issue of Smoketown from Scout Comics, we explore one woman’s reaction to abuse, and it really begins to help me understand why she takes serious action to resolve the situation.

It’s gripping reading.

Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Scott Van Domelen
Published by: Scout Comics
Cover price: $3.99

Previously in SMOKETOWN: From acclaimed writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Warlords of Appalachia, Lost Sons of America), and introducing artist Scott Van Domelen, comes the first in an interconnecting series of chapters in the transition of David Lapham’s Stray Bullets, Brubaker/Phillips’ Criminal, and Pulp Fiction. Each chapter explores the final days of a murdered soldier from a new perspective, each one exposing the criminal side of a small industrial Pennsylvania town. In Chapter One, “Killing Marcus,” after a life-and-death situation, a battered wife and mother has until sunrise to cover up her husband’s murder, not knowing that her actions have set her up for a confrontation with flame even more dangerous people.


This comic fills an important need for me, and that’s to start to understand abuse. I’ve been fortunate in my life in that I’ve never experienced it. That often leads me to wonder how people feel and react to such a situation. I learned quite a lot about it by reading this issue.

Jen Mosley has had enough of being the target of abuse, and she’s decided to take serious action. When the comic begins, she’s already potentially resolved the situation. The rest of the issue shows us her dealing with the consequences. Because I don’t want to spoil this important part of the story, I’m not saying what it is, but many of you likely have already guessed what’s happened.

It’s not that she’s happy about what she’s done. Instead, she’s torn, constantly wondering if she’s done the right thing. She knows others won’t understand what’s going on, so she’s hiding it from others. Of course, it’s rare that any action goes unnoticed, and she encounters several neighbors and friends as she tries to keep things quiet.

What’s great about this story is that it is chock full of dynamic characterization as well as shocking surprises. When Jen is about to, as she sees it, take the ultimate step to make things right, she is amazed to discover that she might have a second chance, a way out of what’s happened. How she reacts stunned me!

I have to give credit to Mr. Johnson, who crafted a mesmerizing tale that gripped me even though much of it is expressed in Jen’s inner dialogue. There are enough twists and turns in the story that both her thoughts and the difficulties she encounters that I found this book a serious page-turner. We feel for Jen a lot, especially given the circumstances she’s been living in. And so I was pulling for her time after time even though I found what she had done to be quite awful. Now that’s good writing!

I did enjoy the cover, which shows a car sitting in the rain with the driver’s side door open. That’s important to the story, and it’s important to remember that even though the art is cool.


I’m always interested in how facial expressions are displayed, and I liked what I saw in this issue. The details and portrayals of Jen’s emotions helped me “get” what she felt, so the clear art worked very well with the script.

I’m also drawn to action sequences, and Van Domelen’s ability to show movement and activity, though somewhat subdued at times, was strong in that it not only showed us what was going on, but brought the thoughts in Jen’s head to life through what we saw. Well done!

BOTTOM LINE: Powerful Storytelling

How this story interacts with future issues will be something I’m very anxious to see. I mean, this issue was powerful and well-told, so I loved it! It already stands on its own as a single-issue tale, so I’m going to be fascinated as I watch what happens next! And I’m from Pennsylvania originally, so that’s also another hook for me!

Look, I know I can’t begin to truly grasp what Jen and people like her have experienced and will continue to go through. However, this comic gave me a glimpse into that experience, and I think it’s quite an amazing accomplishment. I always adore it when a comic takes me where I’ve never been before, and this one does that superbly!

Highly recommended! This is the first book of the series, so I strongly suggest you jump on board now so you can enjoy future issues!

Smoketown #1



User Rating: 0.65 ( 1 votes)

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Smoketown #1



User Rating: 0.65 ( 1 votes)

About Author

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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