There’s a trend in comics publishing to try and translate action flicks into comic books. I’m not talking about licensed properties or movie adaptations here. No, I’m referring to the idea of taking the things that are great about an action flick and translating that into the static medium of comic books, which is seemingly a difficult thing to do. A lot of books try and few succeed.
Marvel has tried ever since the first Blade movie was released to pass the glitz of that film franchise’s hyper-kinetic fight sequences to their publishing division, with nothing short of abject failure as a result. Mystique, on the other hand, would probably be succeeding in aping the James Bond movies if not for Marvel editorial’s glacial “made for trade paperback” pacing mandate.
This is all by way of introduction to The Losers, Vertigo’s next attempt to capitalize on what has certainly been a financial renaissance for the imprint (I would argue that it’s a creative one as well, though some would justifiably disagree; it’s simply a matter of taste). In any event, what The Losers is, at its heart, is a caper movie (along the lines of Out of Sight, though markedly more high-tech and with an inherent conspiracy theory bent).
So the question then is, given the mixed track record in comics of trying to clone the charm of movies, how does The Losers fare? The answer: somewhere in the middle, tending more towards the good than the bad.
The book’s high concept revolves around a team of rogue black-ops CIA operatives (Clay, Pooch, Roque, Jensen and Cougar), presumed dead by their former employers in The Company after an unspecified atrocity which the group refers to simply as The Pass, and their elaborate ongoing quest for revenge and reinstatement into the world of the mundane and legally living. This opening issue devotes the bulk of its time to establishing what makes each team member unique, while at the same time throwing the reader into the midst of the opening salvos of Clay’s personal war against those in power.
The boys stage a flat tire on a flatbed trailer outside a military base for the sole purpose of ambushing the courtesy call from the troops stationed within, which in turn allows them to radio in a request for med-evac, which leads to their actual goal: hijacking and stealing a military-grade transport helicopter. Using their newfound, ill-gotten hardware, Clay and his team stage a daring, broad daylight raid on a government convoy, using the chopper to airlift away an entire truck. In between these two heists, the reader is introduced to the newest member of Clay’s dysfunctional family, a woman named Aisha who breaks up a forced prostitution ring that pulls its victims from amongst illegal immigrants.
Overall, it’s a solid debut issue that seems to give a decent impression of the tone that the series will likely take. However, I had the same problem with The Losers that I also had with the first issue of Born (also released this week): namely, the books’ writers can’t seem to decide if their stories are dark and violent or dark and humorous. This is not to say that a story cannot effectively be both. Quite the contrary, Born‘s writer, Garth Ennis, has done so on multiple occasions on Punisher. However, the simple fact for me remains that a good portion of the humor in both books seemed simply out of place due to the generally grim tone throughout the rest of the issue. So while I can appreciate Diggle’s efforts to lighten the mood a bit, I think it served to break the flow of the narrative for me rather than enhance it.
Also, I feel more than little overly critical in making this comment after only one issue, but the characters in The Losers seem nothing less than cookie cutter. I mean, all six members of the team fall into very neat categories. Clay is the grizzled veteran that leads the team. Roque is his right-hand man who is sometimes critical of Clay’s leadership. Cougar is the stoic marksman who is also recognizable by his constantly wearing a cowboy hat. Pooch is both the black guy and the machinery expert. Jensen is the techno-wizard, as well as apparently the rookie. And Aisha is the woman and the stealth expert.
Like I said, it’s really too early to start criticizing Diggle for using archetypical characters. After all, he’s only had one issue so far, so he can hardly be expected to have made each and every character memorable yet. So I guess what I’m really saying is just that it seems to me that these characters seem like they would be easy ones to just play by stereotype rather than treat as individuals.
In the end though, I stick by my previous assessment of the book as a solid debut. I’m always thrilled to see something crime-related get a good bit of press behind it and I’ve previously enjoyed quite a bit of Diggle’s work (I thought his Lady Constantine mini-series was really rather entertaining). The book has the feel of 100 Bullets mixed with Queen and Country and when you consider that both of those books are outstanding titles, you can definitely predict a favorable future for The Losers, so long as its creative team stays away from some rather obvious pitfalls. So again, despite some problems, I think the first issue of The Losers is indicative of a book that will really come into its own in the near future; it’s definitely worth a look.