My 22 Always Works is, as its author describes, a “noir-tinged tribute to Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work.” The three-page sketch that Wood created in 1980 became the blueprint for many artists throughout the comic world to bring their work to life and was indicative of Wood’s legendary success in creating some of the most beloved comics for both the DC and Marvel universes. My 22 Always Works is an homage to this iconic guide with its beautiful black-and-white ink layout. And also has a compelling story to boot!
Russell Hillman produces the script for My 22 Always Works while David Baf Gaffert is responsible for the comic’s art. In addition, Sergio Calvet letters this work that is published by Freaktown Comics. The story itself highlights a struggling relationship between our main characters Stevie and Peggy. Stevie’s suspicions of Peggy’s infidelity come to a climax as an old flame, Donna, returns to her life. An old flame with a mysterious past. This dynamic eventually builds to an ending that you’ll have to read twice to understand. I mean that in a good way, we get a very inventive twist from Hillman.
The story is set in 1956 Chicago, which Gaffert expertly brings to life. Every page of the comic is a unique glance at this baby booming age. In a city where, despite the millions that live in it, it’s very easy to find yourself all alone. Which is something that Stevie instantly feels in her conflict with Peggy, drawing her down a nostalgic path. It’s also interesting to note how Hillman weaves sexuality into his piece. With Stevie and Peggy, despite both being women, visual taking on more traditional (or you could say outdated) masculine and feminine roles in the way they dress. I guess not outdated for the 1950s. Stevie with her suit and tie and Peggy with her 1950s housewife attire.
Another interesting aspect is how part of Stevie and Peggy’s current situation has to do with Peggy’s personal sexual conflict. As occasionally she yearns to be with a man known as T-Bone Wallace and seems unsure who to choose. Showing an interesting dynamic in which the issue is not Peggy’s homosexuality. Which you’d almost expect that this kind of plot device would be used as a reference towards the discrimination that this demographic suffered in the 1950s. But rather the issue is Peggy’s inability to choose a partner and overall bisexuality. Which is a conflict that we see drive the comic to its end and spark its thrilling twist.
Overall, My 22 Always Works is a fun, quick read that is a fitting homage to the great Wally Wood. It’s very easy to see the passion that this team has in their work and for the comic creators of the past. And the story itself, for as quick as it is, packs a lot in it and becomes a roller coaster ride towards the end. So, when it’s available, go and check out Russell Hillman’s My 22 Always Works! And you’ll see why that’s the comic’s title! Didn’t want to give away all the spoilers.