Saturday, November 17, 2007

Danger's Dozen - A Review

Jim: In the last Independent review, http://comicsand.blogspot.com/2007/11/independent-preview-review-january.html , Lee and I included Danger's Dozen #2 from First Salvo. I picked it to point out I didn't think this was the best concept for a new company to start with. Apparently the publisher noticed our remarks and invited us to review the first issue. As often as possible we like to have all three of us included in a review and therefore we get our roundtable format in reviewing this book. To mix up the style of our review we will do a little back and forth and then try and summarize our feelings at the end.
Lee: First, let’s start with a plot summary.
The Preview blurb states:
Boss Aman, mysterious man of action. Following WW2, this former RAF pilot was ready for his next mission – the defense of the earth against new dangers created in the wake of a terrible tsunami which broke the boundaries of reality! Aman’s surviving 11-man crew of handpicked, ex-military men and women – including a former Australian air ace, a US Army Corps of Engineers genius and an earth elemental –carry out their mission, test-piloting the incredible new technologies, exploring new accessible dimensions, employing the incredible energies now available to earth! This Danger’s Dozen, led by Boss Aman, mad adventurers of the extreme who have survived each mission, must not fail in their duties. Will they? Better call the Dozen!
My only problem with this blurb, besides some really atrocious grammar, is the fact that it contains more information about the story than I was able to get from the actual story itself. The book opens in September 1945 in Italy as our hero, Boss Aman, tries to capture an Italian war criminal called Immortalian. In the middle of the battle, the blazing eyeball, Wadjet, gives Aman a vision of a galactic catastrophe that is destroying worlds. Aman recovers from the vision just in time to help defeat Immortalian. He then travels home to warn the newly founded UN about the impending galactic storm. The UN doesn’t believe him but one of the British delegates introduces him to a delegate from Magnolia, a newly formed country. Apparently Magnolia has advanced technology and wants to help Aman assemble a team to attempt to stop the galactic thingee that’s coming. He is then sent to a secret British intelligence agency that tells him he needs to get help from an American with superpowers called Ex. Aman goes to Ex’s castle, gets his help and the two of them fly off to get another member of the future team that will be needed to stop the mysterious galactic whizzeee.
There’s also a backup story by Mike Baron and Gabe Eltaeb which I assume is about an adventure Aman had prior to the current storyline.
So, that’s the story in a nut shell. On with the reviews.

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Jim: I have been told that it is best to always say something positive first so I will state that Norm Breyfogle's artwork still looks great. Hard to believe that the guy who used to be a premier Batman artist and was the driving force for a character called "Prime" from the short lived Malibu comics is working for what is a small press publisher. Norm's work still has his very unique style which has a really clean lines and dynamic super hero action.

As for the story, I feel like I jumped into the middle of a very complex storyline and had no clue where I was going. After the opening confusion we jump from scene to scene and I never quite grasp what the heck is going on, what is the premise of the book and who the heck all of these people.

Lee: I couldn't agree more about the art. It is obvious that Breyfogle is still at the top of his game. The quiet moments flowed smoothly and the action sequences had lots of zing. There were some ridiculously melodramatic moments and pointless nudity but I blame them on the writers and not Norm.

The story and plot are a different matter. It's obvious the writers have a grand plan in mind but the execution doesn't quite pull it off. There seemed to be too much going on in too little space to give the ideas any form of justice.

I didn't understand the flaming floating eyeball. It's supposed to be something that is powerful and can do things. Trust me, it took two reads of the book to figure that out. AND, to really make it a random thing, no one could see it. So, in every panel with the main character there was a flaming eyeball that typically wasn't doing anything but floating and flaming. It was more distracting than anything else.

Another thing that bothered me was the name of the characters. I understand that I read comic books and there are all sorts of silly names out there, but the characters name has to be at some minimal level cool. Calling the flaming eyeball a "wadjet" is strange. I assume "wadjet" is some mystical myth mumbo jumbo from some religion but I sure don't know it. And, I'm really not going to look it up either which means "wadjet" is just silly. And, having a nation that supposedly has super advanced technology named "Magnolia" is a bad decision too. Once again, I understand silly names but Wakanda sounds a lot cooler than Magnolia.

Gwen: I have to agree with the general consensus about the art here. As much as it was a bit cartoony for my taste, it was still very well done. The one thing I really enjoyed were the expressions, they were excellent. Honestly I could amuse myself for hours just looking at the expressions on various characters' faces in this book.

The plot... well, quite honestly I had a difficult time following the story. First we're in the middle of Aman's battle with a character that merits a summary at the beginning of the book - and yet seems to have no actual bearing on the story so far at all. There's a floating eye that's supposedly spiffy and powerful but all it does is bench the main character in the middle of some seemingly important battle. Then there's no more battling, but instead we go nation hopping to try to save the world from a cosmic storm. Or something... I'm still a bit confused. I mean, I understand streamlining a story, but this was too fast paced and on top of it you're literally in the middle of a story with little to no starting background. I have to say that one of the advantages of picking up the first issue of a book is usually some sort of knowledge of what the heck is going on. I feel that this story tried to start up too fast.
I'm also confused by Aman's pointy ears. It's like he's some sort of half-elf. Still, they make him sexier I suppose. Then again, anything is more attractive than the naked General and his random harem of hookers. *sigh* Honestly I have to say that there's not much here to endear a female reader so far. Except the art, the art rocks.

Oh yeah, and this picture here? The look on Aman's face says, "Oh my God, that man must have every STD know to humanity!"

Lee: I have to disagree with you Gwen about Breyfogle’s art being cartoony. I think that particular word doesn’t do his art justice. When I think cartoony, I think Bruce Timm Justice League, Animated Batman, or even Skottie Young’s work on New Warriors from a couple of years ago. Cartoony to me has a more exaggerated style with disproportionate figures and a simpler overall design. That isn’t Breyfogle at all. I would describe his work as angular or even linear but not cartoony. The figures are correct and there’s really a high level of detail. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not George Perez crazy detail, but there’s a lot there. And, as you pointed out, the expressive nature of the characters is amazing.

Back to the story, after multiple reads I understand where the story is going now. It’s Lee Marvin’s Dirty Dozen with superheroes. But, boy oh boy was that an effort to figure out. If that’s the premise then there might be something here as long as the execution can pull it off. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. The writers try to leave enough mysterious hints like “the mysterious events at Lake Moder” and the nation of Magnolia but they fall flat because of general confusion within the story itself. There are too many questions that I have no answer for. For example: (1) Why is there a burning eye floating around? (2) What are his powers? (3) What are the crazy eye’s powers? (4) Why does he have pointy ears? And the list goes on.

The problem becomes there are too many questions and not enough answers to make me interested in finding out. And the backup story was pointless because I wasn’t sure what was going on or why it was relevant. There wasn’t a date listed so I really had no clue when that aspect of the story was supposed to take place which made it even more pointless. It was well executed but pointless.

Gwen: I agree with Lee about the backup story. It wasn't as confusing as the rest of the book, but there didn't seem much of a point in having it at all.

As for the art, I still do think it's somewhat cartoony, but the more I look at it the more I enjoy it. It is still somewhat exaggerated, and I think the little bit that turns me off is how he draws women. That may not be the artists fault though, so I'll withhold judgment there.

After reading our comments on this book so far I wondered if we were being fair about this book. I know that it's easy to get hyped up about something and it was certainty easy to tear this story apart. So I went back and read it again, just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I wasn't. I feel justified in my criticism at this juncture. I feel that there's always hope for a story to improve, and maybe this one will. However, it may not make much of a difference. In the world of comic books if you don't have an already popular character you really have to make the first issue count. Without that good first impression it will be very difficult to build a readership. If I hadn't been asked to review this book I wouldn't have read past the 'cosmic storm' riff.

Also, being 25 I have no idea what Lee Marvin's Dirty Dozen is (or at least I didn't until Lee mentioned it). So really, if that's what the average comic reader is supposed to know going into it, I'm not sure how many will care.

Jim: I give Lee and Gwen credit as they tried to work out the plot. I flat out gave up. It was almost an incoherent babble to me. I follow a lot of comic books (well over 100 different titles) and can pick up on almost any storyline even if I come in on the middle of the entire storyline, but this was unreadable.

The Conclusion:

Jim: Overall a D. I enjoy Norm’s work, but no matter how you cut it there has to be a coherent story in anything I read and here there wasn’t one. I want to like small press books and it seems like there are some good ideas here but it was like an excited child trying to tell you what happened and they blurt out bits and pieces and you have to slow them down to understand what they are saying.

Well we may have made Thad regret asking us to review this, but we feel that honesty is the best way to go with a review. Still I think if the ideas are re-worked and maybe a co-writer and editor a brought in, it could be built into a fun series.

Lee: Overall, a C-. If you are a Norm Breyfogle nut then go out and get this because the art is really nice but I can’t recommend the book because of the story. I think there are some good ideas here but the writers need to slow down and flesh them out a little better.

Gwen: D. The plot seems to be somewhere in there, but it took to much time and effort to get a glimmer of it. Maybe they need to take a step back and look at a better method of pacing and decide how to improve the execution of this project. If you're going to go for the weird, trippy drug induced style of writing you may want to use Seaguy as a point of reference. At least in Seaguy the floating companion made more sense - well, kinda. It's okay to be strange and random but there has to be a coherent time line of events.

2 comments:

  1. Captain Amazing1/03/2008 10:43 AM

    I saw this book on the shelf and was gonna pass but decided to give it a try. And I don't know if I agree with the review. Granted the story was a bit fast paced and we are sorta thrown into the mix. But I didn't find the fact that the invisible eye was distracting or any kinda strange stretch. If anyone has read the Manga/Anime Death Note the main character has a invisible demon mannequin looking thing that follows him around.
    And the way I took the General Ex is that he is a bit over the top and odd, but, I think this was exactly how he is supposed to come across, I mean why else place him in a captured french castle, (not his own, I could be wrong though) with a bunch of women (I never got the impression they were hookers either). And yeah it may be a bit sexist of me but DANG! How many women was he sleeping with in that intro like 6! That's awesome! LOL! If that doesn't give some insight into Ex's character...
    I did get a bit confused at the meeting with the "witch" and yes I agree some of the names were hard to get around but perhaps with time that will change too, I mean, Dormammu I'm sure sounded just a bit ridiculous at first.
    To me these characters feel old. Like there is allot of backstory there that we are yet to get, and I agree I do feel a bit like I've been thrown into the deep end of the pool. but so far the story seems simple, really. Supersoldier finds out a powerful force is comming and is going around getting help to fight it.
    You know what this book reminds me off? The old Commando and War tales comics. You are thrown into the mix in those old books, No explanations on who they are, just that they have a mission and they do it.
    Perhaps the writers and artists should have gone for a more gritty black and white feel to the book instead so that people would recognize that more easily instead of the more traditional comic style. Not that I'm saying that I didn't like the art, as you said in the review Norm is definitely at the top of his game, But then again perhaps they went traditional cause people pass on black and white comics these days?
    Just my 2 cents...

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  2. http://firstsalvo.com/images/dd05.jpg
    Action, adventure, severe battles against incredible foes.

    ;)

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