CHOKER #1/CHASE VARIANT
Written by Ben McCool and Drawn by Ben Templesmith
Written by Rich Johnston and Drawn by Saverio Tenuta and Bagwell
Published by Image Comics
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Couple of new Image books on the radar…
CHOKER #1 has received an unusually high amount of pre-release press and hype over the last couple of months, which is something that tends to make me suspicious. However, upon reading, it turns out to be completely fair and earned. Set just ahead in time a bit, we meet Johnny Jackson, disgraced cop turned private eye, as he’s dealing with an obnoxious client (“Member of the general public turns out to be a douche. What are the chances?”). Stuck in a sad, pathetic existence, he’s a man going nowhere, and slowly, when he receives a phone call from his old employer. They’d like to see him, and they’d like to give him his job back. Of course, there’s a catch… and it’s a doozy. But Jackson is just stupid enough and desperate enough to take the job. CHOKER’s plot isn’t exactly a fresh one, but that isn’t the point; the book is here for two reasons. One, to show off Templesmith’s incredible art- he turns in absolutely stunning pages, with backgrounds full of wonderful throwaway gags (the Vacu-corpse 3000 being my favorite) and the trappings of the noir genre dripping down each page. The other is to allow McCool, a genuinely funny guy, to do what he does best. The book is full of tasty dialogue and narration, (“No thank you, Mrs. Gaynor. I’d rather fuck a faulty toaster.”) and has snark built into its DNA. I was down with CHOKER immediately and suspect that’ll hold up for all six issues.
Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston makes another appearance on the comics shelves with CHASE VARIANT, a one-shot bit of a wank that satirizes Image’s early output (especially Liefeld’s work) and gaming culture as well. Chase Variant is a four-armed assassin who happens to be quite difficult to kill as she takes on a variety of different super-powered bad guys and monsters. However, along the bottom of the pages, we get the background on what’s really happening- Chase’s story is simply a sequentially played out version of a collectible card game (Johnston saves his snark for the culture around such games, not taking it out on Wizards of the Coast). Thousands of gamers have imagined what it would be like to do comics or movies featuring their characters, and CHASE is a literal take on that desire. There are three separate Chase adventures in this one-shot, and the second two get a boost by having much better art- Bagwell’s work is more interesting and attractive visually. Johnston’s concept is really fairly simple, and taking shots at Image’s early stuff feels a little dated… right until you realize that those books influenced a large chunk of today’s top artists and that some of those excesses are still finding their way into modern comics. The card game element is executed with some wit and joy, which basically means that even though the book is a bit of a wank, it isn’t the kind that’s also a burn. I was entertained by it.