January 21, 2009

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Losers Volume 2

Written by Andy Diggle
Illustrated by Jock and Shawn Martinbrough
Vertigo

On first blush, I really shouldn't like the Losers. It's a foul violence-fest with a conspiracy story that I could find just about anywhere.

But like a good writer handling a typical zombie story (see Kirkman, Robert), writer Andy Diggle finds a way to make a fairly typical trope interesting to me, in this case by putting together a cast of characters that's just quirky enough to make me want to follow them and tying it into a story that's deeper than it looks on the surface. It's a tricky balance, as the players almost fall a bit too far out there (the girl is a radical anti-American, the tech geek hacks computers in his boxers, several old military men express distress because "things ain't what they used to be), but Diggle reins in the excesses just in time, at least so far.

Having figured out they want to go after a mysterious spook named Max (who may or may not exist), the Losers take a brief break to regroup and prepare their next move. Aisha makes good on an obligation, Jensen looks like a geek on a Saturday night, Pooch says his final (?) goodbyes, Clay tries to make sense of everything with an old contact, and Couger shows quiet depth. Each of these scenes could have fallen into cliche, but since Diggle worked hard to make them likable in the first trade, it plays out fairly well. He also takes pains to make sure that each scene helps move the plot in subtle ways as we learn that our Losers may not all share the same agenda...

The hunt for Max takes them to the sea--an active volcano, in fact--and the hunt is on for an island's lost treasure. Meantime, some folks inside the CIA want to know just what the Losers are up to...but how to do that if the whole operation is compromised from within?

Now that's a very simple paragraph, but the story within has lots of explosions, killings, backstabbings, a little skullduggery, and even--of course--a little lava. Diggle gives us the typical action movie fare while also hiding a deep mystery on the inside, almost subtly. I had to re-read the ending a few times till I figured out (I think) what's going on. Now normally I say that because the writing was bad. In this case, however, the re-reads are due to a carefully crafted double-speak that makes you want to keep reading.

The Losers may be one of those series you passed up because the base plot is pretty typical. If you did, that's a mistake. This is a great comic that I think I'll enjoy all the way through. I'm pretty sure you will, too.