February 1, 2009

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Losers Volume 3

Written by Andy Diggle
Illustrated by Jock, Nick Dragotta, and Alé Garza

Vertigo

It's a bit strange reading the Losers in a post-Bush Administration world, because the comic relies so heavily on the knowledge of the way in which those associated with the president and his staff profited on the dubious war and its aftermath. It makes me a bit sad to think that this series, which I am enjoying a lot, will probably join "Get Your War On" in the dustbin of comics history, readable only by those with a strong desire to see how the medium dealt with the second Iraq war.

At any rate, the plot really thickens this time, as our ragtag team flies into the Middle East to try and track down Max. Instead of straight answers, they're used by a power broker of a different stripe to try to clean up extremists on both sides. It's here that the series really shows its time frame, as the references to specific politics in Saudi Arabia are quite obvious--to someone living in 2008, at any rate--and the idea that there are those who would incite terrorists for their own ends is something anyone associated with the political Left will know that was traded about a lot in the early part of the first term.

Will a person reading in 10 years understand any of that? I'm not sure.

Diggle does a great job with his players here, from the extremists to our grizzled old agent to the Losers themselves, in terms of their places within the plot. However, I have to admit, it felt a bit forced in viz z viz the overall story. Diggle clearly wanted to make a statement about how fucked up the Middle East is--hell, the whole series is slanted that way--but this time, it felt less like part of the flow and more like an op ed.

To make up for that, the second half of the book--after a one off adventure showing Aisha has a distinct plan of her own--gives us the sorely needed origin of the Losers. After all, we know they were on a detail that went south, but just what caused Uncle Sam to cut them loose?

It seems that after doing the jobs no one else wanted to do, the shadowy Max asks for them to clean up a few loose ends. What he didn't count on is that just because they're losers doesn't mean they're pushovers. The team gets an in-and-out job that ends up complicated by the revelation of a horrible slave trade and one man's horrible secret.

If you learn too much in the world of Black Ops, it's time to die, and that's just what the Losers do--except, of course, they didn't, and we're back to the present.

Normally, this would feel like a straightforward narrative, but Diggle works hard to keep the mystery going, and the big reveal at the end of the trade makes me eagerly await what comes next, as the series moves closer to its climax.

I have a bit of a concern about the book losing steam just a bit, and the addition of other artists took a bit of the fun away from this, as I really like Jock's stylings for the characters and setting.
Still, the Losers are what happens when you write a good spy story, something you don't see very often today. Three trades in, this continues to be a fun ride.