We Love the City

The monologue is my preferred method of discourse.

The Losers vol. 4 review


In previous reviews of The Losers, I’ve pointed out that the series is tailor-made for a
film adaptation.  It’s a big-budget
action movie on paper, with smart storytelling and strong characterizations by
Andy Diggle and killer action cinematography by artist Jock.  It’s an unholy mixture of The A-Team, Oceans
Eleven, James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino that barely needs
to be changed to be successful on screen. 
And apparently Hollywood has realized this, as Diggle & Jock’s
magnum opus was recently optioned by Warner Brothers.  Just like Sin City, The Losers is a good candidate to become a far bigger film than it
ever was a comic, something that’s both a tremendous accomplishment and a huge
disappointment.

 Diggle has made The
Losers
about more that just government conspiracies and terrorist
plots.  He’s brought paranoid
conspiracies into the 21st century by focusing on the one thing both terrorists
and corrupt government officials need: Money. 
Close Quarters opens with The
Losers
travelling to London with a goal more suited to a team of
accountants than special forces operatives: They’re following the money they
know belongs to the government operative known only as Max.  They stake out Cayman Credit Internationale,
the bank owned by Max, in hopes of learning something about their target.  Instead, they find CIA operative Marvin
Stegler, who is also hunting Max despite the recent death of his supervisor in
an unlikely boating accident.

 When a familiar face shows up to collect some of Max’s
money, The Losers set off to the
Azores, where Diggle further complicates the plot with a rusty oil tanker, a
Russian submarine, and two very delicate US Navy shipments. It’s here that the
book really blows wide open as Diggle and Jock unleash their particular brand
of stylish violence upon the audience. 
It’s nasty and brutal, but even the most pacifistic reader can’t help
but marvel at the style with which it’s conveyed.

 Ben Oliver, who illustrates the first half of Close Quarters,
is a good stylistic fit for The Losers.
His dark, sketchy figures suit the mood of the book, and the particularly
story, almost perfectly, and on a quick flip through the book one might not
even notice that it’s not the work of regular series artist Jock.  Unfortunately, Oliver lacks Jock’s
superlative storytelling skills.  At
times, Oliver’s work is too dark, and his characters become indistinct.  Stegler seems particularly ill-defined, and
Jensen isn’t recognizable enough even though he’s supposed to be under cover.  The normally excellent colouring doesn’t help
– Pooch’s skin tone varies at one point, leaving one to question whether it’s
him or the white man he’s pursuing we’re meant to be following.

 Oliver’s action sequences are pretty good, but they suffer
from one major factor: He has to share the book with Jock.  When Jock returns for the second half of the
book, he bring with him the dynamic and explosive style Losers readers are
accustomed to.  Action sequences jump off
the page – Jock breaks out more “wow!” moments than just about any
artist in comics – and his characters always remain distinct and identifiable,
even when they’re skydiving and mostly visible in silhouette. As much credit as
Diggle deserves for his smart scripts and twisting plots, Jock is just as, if
not more, responsible for the book’s success. 
As good as the fill-in artists have been, it’s not hard to feel that if
it’s not Jock, it just isn’t The Losers.

 The disappointing part about The Losers‘ potential transition to the screen is how criminally
ignored the book is in its own medium. 
While I can accept that my other favourite books, like Street Angel, Desolation
Jones
or Scott Pilgrim, may have their particular niches, The Losers is a book with mass appeal if ever there was one.  While it’s a smart book, it’s by no means
academic or highbrow: For all its strengths and plot twists, The Losers is ultimately a book about a
special forces team blowing stuff up getting into shootouts while hunting down
a rogue CIA operative.  There’s no such
thing as a book that truly everyone will enjoy, but how often does one really
hear comic book fans saying “No, I don’t really like action sequences; I
prefer more introspective and contemplative books”?

 As much as I love The
Losers
– it’s unquestionably one of the top books on the market right now –
one wonders if it’s not the metaphorical canary in the coal mine: If the
majority of comic fans ignore a book like this and leave its discovery to
Hollywood executives, what does that say about the medium? For as much as The Losers thrills me by showing off
exactly what a comic is capable of, it depresses me that the majority of
readers will never even consider reading it. 
Thankfully, the upcoming film adaptation, combined with what seems to be
an accelerated trade program for the book, give hope that some day, The Losers will find the audience it
deserves.