Writer Andy Diggle
Release Date: Feb. 6, 2013
I make no apologies for my love of who I consider the dynamic duo of comic books, Andy Diggle and Jock. If you’ve never read The Losers, then boy are you missing out because it’s one of the smartest, most entertaining graphic novels you’ll ever read. And the movie ain’t so bad either! The Losers doesn’t do it for you? Fine. Do you like the current CW show Arrow? Well then, it may interest you to know that the basic premise of the show, and at least one of the villains, are based on Green Arrow: Year One by Messrs. Diggle and Jock? I see I have your attention. Well then, with two collaborations under their belt, what do you suppose they have in store for us the third time around? Not much, really. Just a murder mystery involving a hitman with a missing pinkie, a phone with only one contact, and a comic book store employee who probably wishes he’d never gone riding through Golden Gate Park. Ya know, the usual.
Meet Jake Dobson, a decent enough guy who works at Near Mint Rhino, a comic book store in San Francisco. As mentioned before, he’s riding his bike through Golden Gate Park when he happens across an abandoned cell phone. Applying the ancient rule of “Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers,” Jake and his buddy Steve talk shop at the store, make fun of “civilians,” and commiserate over Steve’s wife’s hipster protest group. Speculating over what could be on the phone, Jake manages to unlock it and finds a single contact, Bravura Acquisitions, and when he goes scrolling through the photographs he finds something he didn’t expect: photos of what certainly looks like a murder committed by a person with a missing pinkie. Before he can even process what’s going on, the mystery phone rings and Jake believes that an Agent Warren is on his way to collect the phone as part of an on-going investigation. Well, it’s true he’s there to get the phone but Warren doesn’t exactly want there to be any witnesses left behind. Jake manages to escape and takes the phone to the real police where he relates his story but gets thrown for another loop when the supposedly dead man in the pictures turns up to collect his phone!
There’s so much more to the plot, but it’s too good to spoil. In a sea of comic book writers, Andy Diggle always rises to the top as he manages to craft not just an intriguing mystery, but stories filled with engaging and likable characters – even the ancillary ones. Jake and Steve are a great example. The plot may be a murder mystery, but Diggle takes the time to get us invested in two out of the four characters we meet in this issue. Jake and Steve may be comic book geeks, but they’re not social outcasts. They drop the occasional reference here and there (my favorite being the Looney Tunes line) and other than their slightly dickish treatment of a “civilian” who drops by the store looking for stationary, they’re just two regular guys. A lot of that is in the dialogue. It’s hard to write dialogue that convinces you that a person is acting like…a person. When you’re used to superheroes spouting grandiose lines declaring their intentions all the time, there’s something refreshing about a dude talking to his wife on the phone and it actually sounding like a guy talking to his wife.
Jake also makes for a great protagonist because he’s got all the qualities of an everyman involved in something he doesn’t quite understand. He does everything that any one of us would do in the same situation, his only sin being the unfortunate decision to take a phone lying on the ground in the park. But just because he’s smart or capable doesn’t make him brave or heroic. Jake displays several shades of his personality throughout the issue. He’s snarky, indecisive, confused, and cowardly. He’s human and that’s what makes him an instantly relatable character. Grounding Jake in this way makes his reactions to the escalating circumstances of his current situation easier to digest. Of course you’d beg for your life when a gun’s pointed at your head! You’d make a deal with the Devil if it meant staying alive! Considering how the issue ends, it’s anyone’s guess as to what Jake will have to do to break free of a really bad decision he made that morning.
But I’d be remiss not to talk about the absolutely gorgeous art provided by Jock. And it’s all Jock in this book. Nary a colorist in sight. Instead, Jock keeps everything in black and white, showing us just how powerful an image an artist can produce with just black ink. Jock has always put a greater emphasis on the eyes of characters as the true conveyers of emotion. If you removed the dialogue entirely, you’d still be able to follow the story by looking at the characters’ faces, especially their eyes. And I love, love, LOVE the composition of this book! Everything pops from the page and Diggle and Jock keep guiding you merrily along the panels until there’s a gun pointed in your face that seems to defy all comic book conventions. Like I said, beautiful!
Final Thoughts: For the love of God, read this! You wouldn’t want Warren coming after you, would you?