What if you had to bear every misdeed and mistake not just internally, but externally? That’s the question that BOOM! Studios’ new book Lawful will ask this summer. Brought to comics by the creative team of writer Greg Pak, line artist Diego Galindo, colorist Irma Kniivila, and letterer Simon Bowland, Lawful grapples with doing the right thing when what the “right thing” is is inextricably tied to what is within the bounds of the lawful. Break that law and a person’s transgressions add up and change them into something monstrous.

Mixing morality, magic, and monsters, Lawful seems to be the perfect romp for folks who like some fantastical mixed with their philosophy. With a writer like Pak, who’s no stranger to exploring ethics in his vast body of comic book work such as Hulk and Mech Cadet Yu, Lawful will likely be as gripping as it is to sit with readers long after setting an issue down.

I spoke with Greg Pak recently about the idea behind Lawful, the themes that he sees running through this book and his other works, how personal the book is for him, and how he hopes Lawful will help readers feel less alone.

The preview pages from Lawful are gorgeous, with a creative team that is sure to bring a thoughtfulness both to the subject and to the characters. Don’t let this book fly under your radar. It has the makings of that perfect combination of high adventure and high-minded story that, with Pak and company helming it, will be sure to hit the mark.



FreakSugar: For folks reading this, what is the conceit of Lawful?

Greg Pak: Imagine a chunk of a big city ripped from our world and dropped down in the wilderness of an alien planet imbued with magic. Now imagine the people of that city cursed to turn into monsters, bit by bit, if they ever break the rules. Our story picks up seventy-five years later as two young people grapple with all of the ethical, moral, political, and personal challenges of the terror and potential of that reality.

FS: The press release for the book says that Lawful will follow two friends who get a wakeup call to their lives that butts up against their desire for adventure. What can you tell us about the cast?

GP: Our heroes are Sung and Eris. Sung is the son of a doctor and the city’s former Champion and has grown up under tremendous pressure to obey every rule to the letter to avoid disgracing and exposing himself and his family. On the surface, that’s worked out pretty well for him, as he’s on the verge of winning a role as a clerk in the Office of the Champion. But he’s about to crack from the impossible, inhumane mandate to be perfect at all times.

Eris is Sung’s wild childhood friend, a trickster and troublemaker who’s cheerfully accepted a bit of monstrousness in exchange for freedom and fun. But in a city as brutally punitive as this, she may be in for great trouble.



FS: This book examines the relationship and sometimes disconnect between what is right and what is lawful. What do you hope readers take away when reading the book and consider?

GP: I’ve always been drawn to stories that explore shades of gray, so I’m deeply compelled by characters who struggle to do the right thing in a complicated world. I think that was always the key to my Superman books back in the day — when you have all the power in the world, the real challenge is figuring out how to actually use that power to help without harming.

I’ve also always been compelled by stories that dig deeper to explore the difference between what those in power say is the right thing to do and what actually might be the right thing to do. I think that’s an eternally relevant story, particularly in an era of growing bigotry and authoritarianism.

So as with every story I write, I hope Lawful helps people struggling with these issues and questions and experiences… and hopefully feel less alone.

F: Following up on that, what kind of research—if any—did you do when crafting the story? Did you delve into any philosophical works? (I ask because I was a philosophy major/nerd.)

GP: As with every story I write with fantastical worldbuilding, everything I’ve ever studied regarding history and politics and philosophy and religion has helped inform this story in some way or another. But one of the things at the center of this particular story is Sung’s overwhelming anxiety. So everything I’ve ever read about mental health and mindfulness and other practices has been important for wrapping my head around this story as well.



FS: You mention in the press release that this is one of the most personal books you’ve ever written. Can you elaborate on that?

GP: I wouldn’t say that Sung is an insert character — he and I are very different in many ways. But I was compelled to tackle these themes because I’ve absolutely struggled with anxiety in ways that I think are connected to growing up as an Asian American kid in the 1970s and 1980s, cursed with the only semi-conscious belief that I needed to be as perfect as possible in order to ensure my success and safety. The rules of Lawful felt like the most extreme way to explore and challenge that mindset.

May is both Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, so I guess this conversation is really timely!

FS: The preview art for the book is gorgeous. What is your collaboration like with the creative team?

GP: I’m so thrilled and lucky to be working with this team!

Line artist Diego Galindo and I worked together on Stranger Things: Tomb of Ybwen, one of my favorite projects of the last few years. We’d chatted about working together again and finally met in person at the New York Comic Con last October, and all the stars finally lined up. Diego’s got an amazing ability to draw immersive, believable worlds that you can lose yourself in and deeply compelling characters whose very real proportions and body language and rendering make the fantastical elements of the story so much more believable.

I first worked with colorist Irma Kniivila on Ronin Island and I just loved her deceptively simple, organic colors. I pulled her on board to color a Sean Chen page in my poetry book I Belong to You / Motherland and then to color Jeremy Arambulo’s line art in the Who Belongs? Asian American history comic book we did for the NYC Department of Education. She used an amazing water color style with both of those projects that made the art feels so tactile and handmade and real, and she’s doing a similar thing with Lawful. I can’t get enough of it.

And then I’ve worked with letterer Simon Bowland for almost two decades at this point on everything from Hulk and Hercules to the Princess Who Saved books I did with Tak Miyazawa and Jonathan Coulton to Mech Cadet Yu and Ronin Island. Simon’s a tremendous artist whose letters are always right on point and seamlessly carry the narrative and embody the rhythm and quirks of the characters’ voices.

Finally, I’m working with editor Shantel LaRocque, who’s always asking just the right questions to make the book so much better, and who’s pulled in a slew of astounding cover artists like Qistina Khalidah and Erica Henderson and Miguel Mercado who are just blowing my mind.



FS: You’ve had a wide and varied career. Do you see any themes that repeat in your stories?

GP: I think I’ve always been compelled by stories about outsiders and underdogs and stories about moral complexity. Those kinds of things run through all my Hulk and Vader stories for sure. And I’ve always been compelled by stories about folks of different backgrounds struggling to find their way and do the right thing in societies that might not accept them. That’s absolutely part of my Superman stories, and you can see that in many of the stories I’ve written with Asian and Asian American characters.

I also love monsters and robots and magic and sci fi hijinks. So I’m constantly combining these human, emotional, and political stories with big genre fun.

FS: What are you reading right now?

GP: I’m sadly way behind in reading anything that I haven’t needed to read as background for specific projects. That’s one of the curses of the job — we all love comics, but when you work on ‘em, sometimes it’s hard to find enough time to read ‘em as much as you’d like!

But I worked on a book called A Story in Every Object! AN ASIAN AMERICAN COMICS ANTHOLOGY for the NYC Department of Education, and I absolutely love love love the stories by the contributors, including Trung Le Nguyen, MariNaomi, Shing Yin Khor, Nidhi Chanani, and Gene and Kolbe Yang. They’re funny and sad and deeply moving and I highly recommend everyone check ‘em out — the book’s free to download right here! https://www.weteachnyc.org/resources/resource/a-story-in-every-object/

FS: Do you have any other projects you’d like to discuss?

GP: This is totally unrelated, but I’m finally finishing my analog photography how-to book, 35mm Love Letter! I’ve got high hopes of wrapping it up in the next couple of months. If you’ve ever been interested in film photography, you’re gonna want this. You can pre-order it now at 35mmLoveLetter.com.

FS: If you had a final pitch for Lawful, what would it be?

GP: What would you do if you turned a little more into a monster every single time you broke a rule?

Lawful #1 goes on sale Wednesday, June 12, 2024, from BOOM! Studios.

From the official press release about the book:

BOOM! Studios today revealed a first look at LAWFUL #1, the brand new fantasy series by renowned and award-winning author Greg Pak (Mech Cadets, Planet Hulk), acclaimed artist Diego Galindo (Stranger Things: The Voyage, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), colorist Irma Kniivila (Ronin Island), and letterer Simon Bowland, about moral imperfection and monstrous consequences, available June 2024.

Magical meets modernity in a walled city with strangely familiar architecture, where two young heroes with a sense of adventure get a grim reminder of their reality…

Because every mistake, every lie, every misdeed one makes in this world will cause them to transform into a monster. Bit by bit, one small change at a time. In the eyes of society, there is no distinction between being lawful and doing the right thing.

LAWFUL #1 features a main cover by fan favorite artist Qistina Khalidah (Power Rangers) and variant covers by Miguel Mercado (House of Slaughter) and Erica Henderson (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl).

LAWFUL is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including BRZRKR by Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt, and Ron Garney; Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera; Grim by Stephanie Phillips and Flaviano; Stuff of Nightmares by R.L. Stine and A.L. Kaplan; Damn Them All by Simon Spurrier and Charlie Adlard; Once Upon a Time at the End of the World by Jason Aaron, Alexandre Tefenkgi, Leila del Duca, and Nick Dragotta; Know Your Station by Sarah Gailey and Liana Kangas; A Vicious Circle by Mattson Tomlin and Lee Bermejo; The Neighbors by Jude Ellison S. Doyle and Letizia Cadonici; Ghostlore by Cullen Bunn and Leomacs; Sirens of the City by Joanne Starer and Khary Randolph; Coda by Simon Spurrier and Matías Bergara; Rare Flavours by Ram V and Filipe Andrade; Underheist by David and Maria Lapham; and Animal Pound by Tom King and Peter Gross. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties, including Dune: House Corrino from Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, and Simone Ragazzon; Mighty Morphin Power Rangers by Melissa Flores and Simona Di Gianfelice; and The Expanse: Dragon Tooth by Andy Diggle and Rubine.

LAWFUL #1 will be available in comic shops June 12, 2024. It is available for pre-order at your local comic shop. Digital copies can be purchased from content providers, including Kindle, iBooks, and Google Play.

Lawful #1 A Main: APR240015

Lawful #1 B Variant: APR240016

Lawful #1 C 1:10 INCV: APR240017

Lawful #1 D 1:25 INCV: APR240018

Lawful #1 E Unlockable Variant: APR240019

For continuing news on LAWFUL comic books and more from BOOM! Studios, stay tuned to boom-studios.com and follow @boomstudios on X.