Friday, May 24, 2013

Pull List Review: Half Past Danger #1

I am not qualified to get into the finer points of what separates homage from rip-off. But I can say that while the characters of Half Past Danger #1 seem to be aiming for the former, they end up very much the latter, which is the biggest weakness in a generally enjoyable debut. Protagonist Tommy Flynn is, you guessed it, Irish. Not only Irish, but the drinkingest, fightingest, most offensively stereotypical Irishman I've seen in a long while. The same goes for intelligence agent Elizabeth Huntington-Moss who, in spite of her sort of interesting last name, is ever the droll, eye-rolling Brit. John Noble is the square-jawed American with a John Wayne complex, and to top it off there is a nameless Asian gentleman who, surprise surprise, is great at martial arts. None of these characters ever evolve beyond their most one-dimensional versions, and those have all been done something like a million times before.
     What bring these stock characters together? A goddamn island full of dinosaurs with a secret Nazi camp. Now that is a fun, fresh, inviting concept. Soldiers fighting dinosaurs isn't at all new territory, but having it be spies infiltrating a Nazi facility adds a layer of political intrigue that is... damn intriguing. Seems safe to assume that the Nazis already know about the dinosaurs, because why else would they have a secret base already in operation? When the bad guys have the edge, and the edge is, say, control of fucking dinosaurs, then you can probably count me in.
     Sadly, this aspect is left largely unexplored for now in favor of, sigh, character introduction. The issue is split into two halves, set two months apart in 1943. The first section focuses on Flynn, a sergeant in the army, leading his men on a recon mission on the aforementioned island, which they assume is nothing special. Just another Japanese-controlled island in the South Pacific. The troops, who have names but are largely indistinguishable in both appearance and voice, get pretty quickly eaten by dinosaurs, and only Flynn makes it out alive. Then we jump to New York City for the second half of the story, where Huntington-Moss and Noble try to recruit Flynn for...something. Presumably it's connected to the Nazi dinosaurs. We don't find out the details because they get in a bar brawl with each other and some nameless background dudes instead. It's a weak closing to the issue, because the opening was guns vs. dinosaurs, but it does make the whole thing quite action-packed, which is clearly the goal.
     Half Past Danger is written and drawn by Stephen Mooney, and on the whole I prefer his art to his writing so far. It's not amazing, but he does draw a nasty-looking dinosaur. There is some really fine detail in the giant lizards, and they inspire the appropriate awe and fear in cast and reader alike. Mooney's not as strong with his humans, who each have only a small number of facial expressions available to them. But they look distinct from one another, at least, save for Flynn's troops who suffer from wearing the same uniform. The rest of the cast is physically varied, different body types and clothing based on their personalities, however watered down those may be. And even if their faces don't change much, they are emotive and realistic, at least.
     What Mooney does very well, though, is action. Which, again, seems like it's kind of the whole point here. Dinosaurs being gunned down, Flynn thrown through a window, and the spreading chaos of the bar fight all have a strong sense of motion and liveliness to them. If this title does in fact intend to put more weight on its action sequences than anything else, then it's certainly playing to its creator's strengths.
     This is not a deep comic, nor is it particularly original as of yet. But there is the seed of an awesome core concept in this debut, and a lot of great-looking fight scenes. So if you're looking for a fun, violent popcorn comic about dinosaurs and 1940s spies, look no further friends. I'm still sticking around, in spite of the flimsy cast and thin plotting here, because I still had a pretty good time.

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