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The Losers vol. 1 review

The Losers is the
best Hollywood summer blockbuster you’re never going to see at the local
cineplex.

It’s got explosions. 
It’s got gunfights.  It’s got
helicopters, airplanes, speedboats, oil tankers and armoured cars.  It’s got an eclectic cast of funny, cool and
clever characters.  It’s got daring
heists, ingenious escape plans and devious doublecrosses.  It’s The A-Team with a $200 million budget,
James Bond mixed with Ocean’s Eleven and The Usual Suspects.

You’re never going to see it on the big screen – at least,
not the way it’s meant to be seen – because there’s simply not a director in
Hollywood cool enough to pull it all off. 
Perhaps James Cameron could have made a good run at it before he became
obsessed with antiques at the bottom of the Atlantic.  Robert Rodriguez would have been a good
choice if he hadn’t made so many bad movies after Desperado.  If you could somehow combine the genes of
Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg, you might just have
yourself a director who’s up to the job.

But really, why worry about the adaptation when can have the
real thing in your hands?  Writer Andy
Diggle and artist Jock have produced an action-packed spectacle that will draw
you in and have you pushing your copy on all your non-comics-reading friends
telling them they’re going to love it. 
And you’ll be right.

The Losers used to
be a special ops military unit doing dirty work for the CIA.  Cool-as-ice Clay is the leader; there’s also the
hyperkinetic techie and conman Jensen, all-purpose getaway man Pooch,
hard-nosed Roque and taciturn sniper Cougar. 
They’re a motley bunch – hence the name – but are damned good at doing
all the things people aren’t supposed to be good at.  Then something happened in Afghanistan – we
don’t learn what, or when – to make them re-think their allegiances.  This didn’t go over with their Agency bosses,
who tried to have them killed, and succeeded as far as the paperwork was
concerned. 

So now they’re officially dead, and if they show their faces
in the wrong places, they’ll be really officially dead.  They’re faced with a fairly daunting task:
Take revenge on the CIA and get their names off the “Death List”.  They have the advantage of being familiar
with many of the dirty tricks the CIA are involved in, and decide to turn them
to their advantage for both profit and blackmail. 

First up is stealing a package that’s being transported
under very heavy guard in an armoured car. 
That requires a helicopter, and walking into Crazy Al’s Discount
Helicopter’s just isn’t going to cut it. 
Diggle weaves the plot with the intricacies of a master craftsman,
giving us Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3 before finally telling us what it’s all
supposed to accomplish.  When he does,
you’re left shaking your head in amazement because it all makes perfect sense
and you wish you had the brains to plan a job like that, either in fiction or
in real life.

From there, it’s on to oil tankers, insurance offices,
computer hacking, illegal drugs and arms shipments and ruthless CIA
hit-squads.  Telekinesis is used to
escape a tricky situation (or is it?) and an innocent marlin falls victim to an
M-16 assault rifle.  There’s a place for
gasoline, magnets, a game of paintball and a catastrophically destructive MOAB
bomb.  The plot twists and turns like a
rattlesnake on acid as plans fall apart and are replaced instantaneously with
even more brilliant plans. 

The Losers are
joined in their schemes by Aisha, a veteran of the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan
who’s working for the CIA.  Her
motivation for helping them is kept to herself, but there’s no question she’s a
handy to have around when you find yourself in a tight corner – as long as
she’s not just there to double cross the team when the moment is right.  She’s all business, but still provides one of
the book’s best comedic moments when she tells the super-suave and
ever-so-slightly egotistical Jensen about her hobbies.  Diggle’s got the knack for inserting clever
quips and repartee at all the right moments, fitting them in amongst the
automatic weapons fire but never detracting from the very serious fact that
people are occasionally being shot in the head.

The killer script is brought to life by artist Jock.  Now, before you even open the book, you
notice two great things about Jock. 
First, the covers are beautiful; they’re dynamic and distinctive,
playing nicely with Vertigo’s willingness to move the titles and logos
around.  Second, his name is Jock.  How cool is that?  Jim Lee, Mark Bagley, John Romita Jr. and
John Cassady may all be jim-dandy artists, but their names aren’t even three
fifths as cool.  So Jock’s off to a great
start and he hasn’t even drawn a panel yet.

The panels in question live up to both Jock’s covers and his
name.  It appears moody and dark by
default, occasionally reminding one of Mike Mignola’s work.  But when the occasion calls for it – and
occasion calls so frequently it should have its own private line – Jock turns
in great action sequences.  People’s
insides splatter about just so when repeatedly punctured by automatic weapons
fire, and the full-page shot of Aisha with her grenade launcher will knock your
socks off – and that’s before you realize what she’s shooting it at.  Jock’s personalized all the characters a
great deal, and it’s obvious both he and Diggle have an affinity for
Jensen.  In the theoretical The Losers movie, Jensen would be the
guy who’s not quite the main character, but still manages to steal the
spotlight whenever he’s on screen. 
Jock’s weak points are few and far between; occasionally Roque &
Clay become indistinguishable when shadows or angles prevent the showing of
Roque’s scars.  And every now and then,
Jock seems to skip a panel, as though he and Diggle are so in synch that he
forgets everybody else hasn’t already read the script.

DC is giving The
Losers
quite a bit of support by producing a trade so soon after the
original issues were out. (Issue 6 was just released in November) This is a
book that deserves its proper place in the spotlight alongside such Vertigo
heavy-hitters like 100 Bullets, Y The Last Man and Fables.  It’s a safe bet that you’ve never read
anything quite like it in a comic book, and it’s probably just as safe to say
that many people have no idea a comic book can be so cool and exciting.  Buy a copy for yourself.  Loan it out to all your friends.  You’ll love it, they’ll love it, they’ll love
you for making them love it. 

And then, in a couple years, when Hollywood makes a watered-down,
lacklustre version with a big but wasted budget and casts Jennifer Lopez in the
role of an Afghan freedom fighter, you’ll be so much cooler and informed when
you tell people that it doesn’t even hold a candle to the original.

Published in Books