“The Paybacks” features a badass lesbian superhero

There’s a reason why critics are calling The Paybacks “an upended Suicide Squad”  and that’s because it’s good. Very good. The Paybacks tackles a world where our heroes are forced to quit their dreams in order to pay off the debt that they accrued while chasing them. Sound familiar? *Cough cough college debt cough*


Written by Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal, this book is filled with wry, often absurd, and amazing visual humor. Geoff Shaw‘s dynamic illustrations are anything but lackluster and are exactly what I pictured this universe to look like. And the coloring? My complements to the chef—er, rather, colorist.


The primary focus is on an aging hero named Knight Knight who self-narrates his expeditions and keeps a journal. We see Knight Knight facing his own morality and judgement as he is forced to work alongside his worst foes in order to get his own freedom back. Oh, and his sidekick just happens to be a unicorn named Knight Mare. No Big deal.

One of the most refreshing aspects of this series is that Rahal and Cates tactfully included a queer character—Zoe Hart—who has a life outside of her sexuality. I’m often annoyed by mainstream comics whose entire focus on an LGBTQ character are about them being gay or queer, almost as if being gay is an abnormality. The two fill in the reader in on this by subtle hints and nuances while keeping the focus on her skills.  

The Paybacks issues One and Two are available through Dark Horse Comics. I can’t recommend this series enough. Cates and Rahal are a dream team and have created one of the most unique and funniest series on the market today.

I was lucky enough talk to Donny and Elliot about their creative process, working with Dark Horse, and the inspiration of Zoe Hart.

AfterEllen: The illustrations, writing, and coloring all sync up perfectly. Did you know the artists and the illustrator?  

Eliot Rahal: Absolutely. They are our friends and collaborators. Lauren has been with Donny and I since the beginning. She did the colors for our first Dark Horse Presents story, Hunter Quaid. Now she has grown to be one of the best colorists in the industry. She is incredible. And Geoff—man, I haven’t known Geoff as long as Donny. But he’s been working with Donny for a while. His art is in total sync with our story. He adds layers and elements that make us look a lot smarter than we actually are. 

Donny Cates: Absolutely, when we approached Dark Horse about The Paybacks we really wanted/needed Geoff on board. His acting and ability to set a mood or place a joke is second to none. In fact, the book was supposed to come out alongside Ghost Fleet, another book I did earlier in the year with Daniel Warren Johnson, but Geoff had made a prior commitment already. Dark Horse was way into the book and offered to let us find someone new so we didn’t have to wait and we flat out said no. Geoff is as much a part of the team as we are.