Let’s be entirely clear about this: There are action movies,
and then there are Action Movies. The
former are cheap and plentiful and can be found at your average movie theatre
on just about any given weekend. They
usually come with a big budget, plentiful advertising, mid-range acting talent
and a script dragged from the bottom of the “Generic Action Thriller”
barrel. They’re made by directors who
assume that viewers don’t care about characterization as long as they see some
big explosions, and that spending a lot of money on special effects and CGI is
a substitute for being intelligent and inventive. They often compete for the much sought-after
title of “Shortest Time From Theatrical Release to DVD”.
The latter are much rarer.
Take your vintage Spielberg, Cameron, Tarantino or Rodriguez and look at
how they make a movie: Big budgets and explosions are still found aplenty, but
they realize there’s no point in blowing up a building if the audience doesn’t
care about the people inside, and that all the rock-em sock-em action
spectaculars in the world don’t make up for a lazy script.
Andy Diggle’s The
Losers falls in the latter category.
At root, the book is about a team of rogue special forces operatives who
go around blowing stuff up and shooting people.
But Diggle keeps the script smart and snappy, throws in twists and turns
aplenty, and the artistic team keeps finding ways to show off action sequences
in ways that grab your attention and hold it down while they pummel it with
even more breathtaking sequences.
This third volume continues The Losers search for Max, the mysterious person pulling strings at
the CIA and funnelling money around the Goliath Oil Company. The first part of the story takes them to the
Persian Gulf kingdom of Qatar, where Max had invested in a seemingly abandoned
and useless oil rig. Their arrival is
not unexpected, though, and the Qatari government soon ropes them into sticky
situation: The CIA and a terrorist cell are at each other’s throats, and the
government wants to avoid American bloodshed without actively opposing the
Anti-American factions within the Royal Family.
The art for these opening chapters is provided by Nick
Dragotta, whose style is a fairly jarring change for those used to Jock’s
stylish and edgy work on the title. It
at times feels a bit too light and cartoonish for the dark and realistic style
Jock has established, but once you’re past the stylistic differences, it
becomes clear that Dragotta’s got a style and sense of design all his own. He turns in some fantastic action sequences,
including a chase through the streets of Doha and the terrorist attack on the
Ale Garza’s work on Blowback is much more in line with the
books’ overall style. Diggle and Garza
turn the spotlight on Aisha, the freedom fighter, terrorist, CIA informant and
who-knows-what-else as she attempts to break an old comrade out of CIA holding
in Turkmenistan. Aisha goes into all-out
James Bond mode as she employs deception, disguise and a whole mess of violence
take down prison guards, soldiers and the CIA.
Her nearly-invincible, totally-lethal approach brings to mind Frank
Miller’s Miho, and she may enjoy her brutal brand of violence more than
strictly necessary. The story spends
expands on her personality and motivations, yet still leaves plenty of
questions unanswered – such as what the heck she’s doing with The Losers.
The highlight of the third volume – and perhaps the entire
series to this point – is The Pass, in which Diggle finally explains the events
that led The Losers to their current
path as officially “dead” and rogue agents. Working as “military advisors” in
Pakistan in 1998, The Losers are sent
to eliminate a suspected terrorist connected to Al Qaeda at his stronghold in
the Khyber Pass. The plan is simple:
Stake the place out, wait for Ahmed Fadhil to show up, then signal an airstrike
with a laser-guided missile.
As is usual in The
Losers, everything is not as it seems.
Fadhil shows up as scheduled, but the unexpected cargo that arrives
forces a spontaneous rescue mission.
From there, everything spirals out of control as they encounter a secret
that was supposed to be dead and buried.
The status quo seems to change with every page, and Diggle keeps the
script tight and full of tension.
Regular artist Jock returns and makes every page count, from the early
and carefree days of The Losers to
the breathtaking conclusion. The team
appears more human than ever as they alter their mission parameters to perform
a truly heroic deed. The final chapters
are nearly impossible to put down, and the inevitable “death” of the
team is heartbreaking. On top of that,
the volume ends on a fantastic cliffhanger that makes me wonder if I can stand
to wait another 6 months for the next trade.
The Losers shows
that action and excitement don’t have to preclude intelligence and
characterization. Despite a somewhat
cliched premise, the book remains excellent because of the attention paid to
the little things: Diggle, Jock and the others have defined each character
well, given them both large and small motivations, and made sure they’re not
just cyphers for the advancement of the plot.
The story itself remains intelligent and unpredictable – there are
plenty of unexpected twists and “Ooooh, cool!” moments to be found
The relatively poor sales of The Losers continues to be somewhat baffling. While not every great book can be a hit, The Losers is one of those books that
really should be. It’s not a
particularly artsy, literary or intentionally obtuse book; on the contrary,
it’s got to be one of the most accessible appealing books on the market. Put it on film, and it would be right up
there at the box office with X-Men and Spider-Man. While the comic market currently marginalizes
non-superhero books, The Losers is
one book that deserves to break the pattern.
It’s one of the fastest, funniest and most exciting books on the stands,
and Trifecta just about takes the formula to the max.