Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trade Waiting - The Losers: Book One

Image from The Losers by Andy Diggle and Jock

With the movie adaptation of The Losers premiering less than two weeks from today, on April 23, now is an excellent time to go back and look at the source material. More specifically, I'll be giving you my two cents on volumes 1 and 2 which were recently collected in The Losers: Book One, just in time for the movie.

The full run of The Losers, written by Andy Diggle with art by (primarily) Jock, actually covers five volumes – previously collected in as many trade paperbacks – but the movie version draws its inspiration from the first volume as well as the main crew's “origin story” from volume three. I happen to be a satisfied owner all of the trades, but for the purposes of this review, I'll be focusing on the newly released edition, complete with a the “Now a major motion picture” banner on the cover. Hit the jump to find out why I'm looking forward to this movie and why I'm a fan of the comic.


The Losers: Book One
Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Jock
Collects The Losers #1-12

I'll start off by saying that I'm not surprised that The Losers has been adapted for the silver screen. While the comic book medium might be considered to have a great deal in common with cinema generally, this is even more true of The Losers. Reading the series is very much like watching a high intensity mix of action movie and suspense thriller. Jock is superbly gifted when it comes to rendering action scenes in a way that makes it easy for the reader to follow along, and Diggle is on fire here when it comes to writing clever dialogue that feels true to how real people actually talk (were they to find themselves in some of the near impossible situations featured on these pages).

In terms of the story itself, what The Losers really has going for it is the diverse and interesting cast of characters that populate the book and the smart writing that keeps getting them into increasingly tricky situations. The "Losers" themselves are a CIA black ops team who are struggling to get their lives back while going after the enigmatic enemy, a man known only as Max, who set them up. Presumed dead, they have the initial advantage of operating without drawing attention to themselves, but in every other way, this is a David versus Goliath kind of story.


The cast includes the smart-talking computer whiz Jensen (my personal favorite), the beautiful and deadly Aisha, quiet marksman Cougar, family-man pilot Pooch, the stone-cold Roque and their leader Clay. They all add special skills and diverse personalities to the mix, and are interesting in part because they often come across as not only far from perfect, but sometimes even downright unlikeable. You root for them - how can you not? - but these people are not your rescuing kittens from trees kind of heroes. Personally, I wouldn't want them to be.

I mentioned that the writing is smart, and there are plenty of reasons for why it needs to be. Just within the space of the very first issue, we see the team hijack a helicopter, pair it with a powerful electromagnet and use them both to literally lift an armored car off a bridge. This may sound completely over the top, and it would be if it weren't for the fact that I'm actually buying how someone might pull this off. That's not to say that this and other elements of the story aren't out of this world, but the plot is planned carefully enough, and Diggle has obviously done enough research to make me go "Hell, yeah!" rather than "Yeah, right..."

The Losers is also full of twists and surprise reveals. This is another area where writers must skillfully walk the line between springing events on the readers in deus ex machina fashion and making each event seem organic to the story without being too obvious. Any good caper story, which is what The Losers is to a great extent, needs for these elements to work and Diggle impresses throughout what turns into an intricately layered plot.

The majority of the art in all five volumes of The Losers is by Jock, and here in Book One, it's all Jock except for a couple of the original issues which feature art by Shawn Martinbrough. I have to say that it took a while for the art to really grow on me. Initially, I found it a little on the crude side for my tastes, with its broad strokes and heavy use of inks, but the more I got into the story, the more I realized how inspired the art really is. I already mentioned how cinematic this book feels and a great deal of that is due to the clever panning and zooming and the use of interesting angles. The characters' faces, without being extremely detailed, are both distinctive and expressive.

As mentioned, Book One comprises the original volumes one and two, or issues 1-6 and 7-12, respectively. Issues 1 to 6 are extremely heavy on the action and gets to the meat of the story by involving virtually all of the major players right from the get go. It also has a nice cliff-hanger ending that, of course, takes the reader into the next chapter of the story, but it does stand alone pretty well. This is an interesting thing to consider given the knowledge that the movie adaptation is based primarily on volume one and, with a few tweaks, I can see it coming together nicely on screen.

Luckily, us comic book readers have the option of reading the next chapter, and issues 7 to 12 sees the intrigue kicked up a notch while the story gives us a little more focus on each of the characters.

Verdict - Buy It The Losers is a fun, high-paced story that combines a big slice of badass and skillfully choreographed action with a plot that is as clever and thought-provoking as it is entertaining. I can't wait to see these characters come to life onscreen. In the meantime, I recommend you check out this book.

Interested in The Losers: Book One? Buy it on Amazon.com and help support the Weekly Crisis!


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7 comments:

Servamdp Gomez said...

awesome review. Has me pumped for the movie and the actual comic. I hear though after a certain amount of issues it becomes dull though. I mean the ending peters out.

Other than that, great first review Chrisitine for the site.

Christine Hanefalk said...

Thank you! Though it's not my first review... ;)

Anyway, yes, the full run could have benefited from being about 20% shorter and the final ending doesn't quite live up to the quality of the rest of the series (even though it's still good). I don't think it ever becomes dull at all though, but I'd agree it could have been cut for length overall.

mrpeepants said...

i've read green arrow: year one (same creative tame) and that was aces. been meaning to get around to this so i will now. i like jock's art.

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