This Exists! is a semi-regular column about particularly strange, ridiculous, and/or obscure comicbooks I happen to have stumbled across.
In the backmatter of Washouts—I guess techincally it's Washouts #1 but since, as far as I can tell, it's the only issue ever published of this tile, I'm not going to use the number—writer/artist Michael Cohen explains how the three short stories contained within the issue came to be. Basically, he wrote them several years before as part of his development of a different comicbook concept, Strange Attractors. That book was Cohen's idea originally, but he had a hard time selling it to any publishers on his own. It was until he collaborated with Mark Sherman to more fully develop and tweak Strange Attractors that it actually got published and, apparently, received some critical acclaim. Now, I haven't read that series, so I can't properly make a comparison between the two, but I will say this: Washouts absolutely reads like a comic that would've benefitted from having someone other than Cohen providing their input. It meanders, it fails to properly introduce its cast or their world, and two of the three stories barely have a plot, let alone a reason to exist. Nothing gets said by this comic, because it only barely manages to give its characters anything at all to do. If Cohen had even a single collaborator to give the book some purpose or drive, it's not out of the question that it might've become something worthwhile. Instead, we get this.
The concept of the title, as much as we're ever told, is that the Washouts are a team comprised of young women who flunked out of the "Academy." What that Academy trains people for is never explained, and neither is why, exactly, the cast of this book didn't cut the mustard. The Washouts themselves seem to be interstellar explorers/heroes, so maybe that's what the Academy is all about, too? I'm pretty sure it's part of the world of Strange Attractors, which I guess is why Cohen didn't feel the need to provide much information about it here, but whatever the Academy's up to, the Washouts aren't involved anymore. This doesn't stop them from having dangerous, action-packed adventures of their own, though, which makes me wonder if maybe they are operating illegally. Perhaps the Academy is how one gets licensed in this reality for a life of adventuring, and the Washouts are an underground gang of do-gooders who don't have the proper paperwork. But that's all speculation, and much of it is baseless, so instead of wondering about the possible explanations of things that aren't clear, let's look at what's actually present in this comic.
Lucky for the Washouts, Stargate Sally doesn't abandon her pursuit just because her targets disappear on a mysterious world. She follows them without hesitation, able to safely land without taking the same damage the Washouts' spaceship did. At first, this seems like bad new for our heroes, who don't even realize Sally has managed to keep up her end of the chase. But once Sally meets the natives, her aggressive behavior makes her their captive as well, and their top pick for outsider to kill. So in the morning, rather than either Freeda or Squinch being selected as a sacrifice, they are both set free, not even aware that it was their old enemy Sally who their new enemies chose to kill in their place. And if that wasn't enough, the three Washouts who came to save Freeda and Squinch arrive at more or less the same time, and all five members of the group reunite at the site of Sally's spaceship, where it waits unguarded and in perfect condition for a pilot who will never return. So the Washouts use it to take their leave of the strange, harsh place, and everyone goes home happy. Except, you know, for Sally.
Which is basically my whole problem with Washouts top to bottom: Cohen never covers his bases. He lays no groundwork, has no foundation on top of which he can construct these tales. Things just happen with no rhyme or reason, and we're never told why we should give even the smallest shit about it all. The Washouts do stuff and we have no insight into why or even how. Again, I assume some of this has to do with this kind of introductory material being covered previously in Strange Attractors, but Washouts is its own series and deserves to have its reality freshly established, even if that info does technically exist elsewhere already. This is a comicbook that throws its readers into the deep end of what ends up being a very shallow pool overall.
Finally, there's "Make Way!" a X-page piece about a Washout named Phoebe racing against the clock to make it...somewhere on time. We don't actually know where she's headed until the story's last page reveal that it's just a hair appointment, making all her anxiety, selfishness, and law-breaking on the way there seem way more annoying than it already did. She evades law enforcement and steals a transportation pass off of a guy she knocks unconscious after carelessly plowing into him in her hurry. All so she can get to her haircut on time. It's extremely petty, and it makes Phoebe seem spoiled and vain and intensely unlikable. Not that she was all that endearing before the haircut reveal, because the whole story is pretty inane. From the start, it's just her worrying about being late, trying to use different shortcuts in this unexplained, confusing, futuristic sci-fi setting and getting more and more lost and flustered until she decides that picking the pocket of a dude she flattened is an acceptable means of getting what she wants. While the other Washouts give us no reason to root for them, Phoebe actually has me rooting against her by the end of her story, a terrible way to close an already underwhelming comicbook.