It's Dave Lapham's new book this week, and it's a bombastic crime story with input from some Hollywood stars! Radical bro!
The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week that we each take turns selecting. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse's Newstand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.
This week the pick is from Radical Comics, a company we haven't reviewed much before, so that's exciting.
Story - We all know Hollywood has gone down the tubes lately, and it's impossible for pretty much anyone to get an original story off the ground. Even legends like Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg have been forced to do adaptations of other stories or revisit classic movies. This has lead to many movie-makers to head on over to comics, where original ideas are (contrary to popular belief) more welcomed. The hope is that lazy movie producers who balked at the original pitch, will see that the story has worked and been read in the world of comics, and then adapt it. It's a strange system, but has worked on occasion.
Damaged #1 is another example of this phenomenon, as Avatar and Clash Of The Titans star Sam Worthington is given the strange title of 'executive producer'. I'm not sure what ol' JakeSuly actually did for this book, but it doesn't matter. The Hollywood people behind Damaged made the wise decision to get great creators in Dave Lapham and Leonard Manco to create their story, and it's a move that paid off.
This is a crime book, but it's not like many of the other Crime Comics we've had lately, which are very noir and fairly understated in their own way, more concerned with character than anything else. Damaged is primarily a big wide-screen Action crime-thriller. The opening sequence where a mysterious bad-ass guns down a whole bar full of rednecks is gleefully over the top and a lot of fun.
The main thrust of the story involves two brothers, one of whom is a high-ranking cop who is slowly being ushered out the door due to political reasons, and the other who is a Frank Castle-esque vigilante with his own vicious brand of justice. There's also a young cop who is replacing the aforementioned brother. Lapham does a good job at doling the back-story in slow drips, so throughout the issue you're wondering what exactly it is that haunts Frank and what the hell the opening scene has to do with San Francisco crime.
The political element of the story is a little undercooked, and hardly The Wire, but I think Lapham has more to say about it in the upcoming issues.
Overall, this issue was decent, and it is a lot like a Hollywood movie. It has lots of stuff going on, and a lot of flash, but there's not as much substance as other modern crime comics like Criminal or Scalped. In an age when most crime comics are similar to HBO dramas, this is a blockbuster, and it has all the good and bad elements of it. If you like Lapham, you should check this out, it's Dave in a less-insane mode, but still strong. Everyone else... you may as well wait for the movie. But who else to cast apart from Sam Worthington?
Art - I always enjoy Leo Manco's art when it pops up in a Marvel or DC book and was a big fan of his work on Hellblazer a few years ago. His art here is his usual strong work, but is given a bit of a different feel due to the colouring techniques used here, which are more computery than at Vertigo. It gives his work a more photo-realistic look, which really fits this comic.
Best Line - 'I'm back, Big Brother, and it's time we do things my way'
Punchy, BlueStreak and myself might be the only 3 people who read this week's pick and in that respect it's an expected fail on me, but hey at least the comic is pretty good.
So this was pretty much a standard crime story with a bit of a Punisher-esque twist. The prelude is ultra violent and drew me in before the main setup of the story got underway. I don't really care about the potential for Damaged as a film, but as a comic it was satisfactory. I actually probably would have enjoyed it to be a bit more twisted and violent, this was definitely Lapham in a more safe work-for-hire mode.
The art fits the story well even if I'm becoming less and less of a fan of photo referenced art, the only time it bothered me here was with the obvious use of Dr. Dre and the guy who may or may not have been Ed Begley Jr. The action sequences had a good flow to them and only once did a frame feel horribly posed and stiff. I don't know why this took 3 colorists, but whatever the process was it worked.
Initially, this felt like a warmed-over Punisher book, and it still does even after all the revelations of this story, but I liked the latent expectation set up by the prologue, and how Henry's return to San Francisco was treated almost like an oncoming storm. Placing young Jack Cassidy in between Henry and Frank works pretty well, and although the book does feel like a movie script, even with the cliché advice-spewing diner waitress, it's a pleasing book. This isn't the best issue David Lapham or Leonardo Manco have ever worked on, but they're still two of the best guys to get for an action/crime drama.
When you really sit down and think about, you realize how inevitable it was for someone to make a story where Die-Hard meets the Punisher. With the lethal force usually required to neutralize the threats in said movie series, using a Punisher like vigilante to save the day is the story that Damaged #1 set out to tell. As such, what you see is what you get, as this issue definitely feels like it takes its cues from the recent Punisher #1 starting off with a high bodycount. However, unlike Punisher #1 which leaves you with very little beyond that, "Damaged" goes deeper into the characters, the motivations and the world that surrounds them. From doing this, the dynamic that's created is one that has potential to go beyond the obvious "brainless action movie" that this was geared for and produce a story that has some meat to it. It'll all be a matter of whether the creators balance the needs of "Balls to the wall" action vs. having a more nuanced story than most works of this nature. Let's keep hoping that the balance can be served.
Final Judgment: 7.25
A short one, but a good one, and very consistent, every reviewer gave this a score in the 7s. So of course, the overall score is 7.31!
To read the full thread, click here. Join us next week for the Hicklash Part 6: The Hickman Strikes Back in Ultimate Comics Ultimates #1.
Written or Contributed by: Niam Suggitt