Monday, August 23, 2010

Murderland #1: Guest Review by Simon Breeze

Guest contributor Simon Breeze returns with another contribution to Escape from Tomorrow, this time with a review of the first issue of a new series from Image Comics.

Murderland #1
If I was asked to summarise the first issue of Murderland, I would simply say that ‘It is most certainly not what you think it is going to be.’ And why would you say that, Simon?

Good question, I’m glad you asked!

The comic starts off quite well (not to say that it declines, read on and it will make sense) and you are sure you have a grasp on the characters that are being introduced, one of which is a female assassin called Method. Method is so called because of her chosen killing style, this being that she assumes a character needed to lure her target and then kills them, the name Method coming in for the reason that she really embraces the role she takes on, much like a method actor would, physically and mentally.

We are introduced to this via a narrated story where we see Method assume a character, lure in and kill a guy we are lead to presume is a target she is being paid to eliminate - this is never explained however it is implied later in the comic when her boyfriend questions her lifestyle and how she pays for it with ‘ill gotten gains’.

You with me? All good so far? Ace, I will continue.

Next we are introduced to the boyfriend, like I said who up to this point has been narrating the story, he is called Arabber (which means street merchant or entrepreneur - I had to look it up too!) and reluctantly he seems to be tangled up in his girlfriends work as his attempt to be an Arabber like his father ‘Didn’t work out’ for him. Next we are taken to the pairs next target who it is revealed later in the comic is a retired Mossad (the Israelis Intelligence Agency). The Mossad lives in a big house guarded by a group of your stereotypical goons who are quickly dispatched by Method, much to the horror of Arabber.

Now this is where things start to get more than a little confusing.

Method encounters another ‘assassin’ in the house and the most bizarre fight breaks out between them both which by the end leaves you scratching your head for a number of reasons. The first of which is you never get a clear impression of which of the assassins was actually there to kill the Mossad, was it both or in fact was one there to kill him and the other protect him? Who at this point knows?

The second reason, after unleashing a mix of fighting styles and weapons upon the other assassin, Method suddenly sprouts pointy bones from her knees and fingers, very much like the character Marrow from the X-Men and pins the other guy to the wall with them, yet leaves him alive for no clear reason (I’ll come back to this in a moment).

The next reason you’re scratching your head is Arabber, not only is he peppered with more knives than a porcupine has quills by the other assassin, he is also gutted like a fish at one point, literally his entrails spilling all over the place, yet Method carries him off at the end, still falling to bits, but still alive?

Finally, just as you thought the confusion was over, you suddenly find out via two new characters (FBI, CIA or Police agents maybe, again something left unanswered) that they are trying to find Method, the perfect assassin who never leaves anyone alive, until now that is, which is the other assassin, who strangely isn’t talking other than telling them to go find an ‘Arabber’.

Okay, it sounds like I’m bashing it doesn’t it?

Well, I’m not. Murderland takes one of two routes open to a first issue comic, tell a complete story and make it a good one so people will come back for more. Or tell the start of a story, make it compelling and leave a lot of loose ends so that the reader is so intrigued that they come back for more. Murderland clearly takes the second approach.

The story by Stephen Scott is a good one, with plenty to think about and maybe even read into, I feel if it suffers from one thing it is that he is playing the long game, writing for the trade. However in today’s comic market, that’s not a bad thing at all, it is how I read a lot of my comics now, so how can I complain?
David Hahn and Guillem’s art works well with the story, it’s fun and stylised, which keeps it light where a more ‘realistic’ art would make some of the fighting pretty horrific, it is also well panelled and paced and pops of the page when it needs to. Now having praised David Hahn and Guillem’s art, I have to say I’m a huge fan of Boo Cook’s artwork and have been for many years now, so I’m going to have to give his flip cover the award for my favourite of the two.

So I guess to finish on, would I buy anymore of this title? Yes I would, it is a fascinating and fast paced story, and with a quick read of Boo Cook’s
blog I’ve managed to find out a bit more to the background of the story and where it is heading (which if I’m being honest at this point, I have had to do a lot of poking about on the internet with this comic, which I believe you shouldn’t have to do, it should be in the story. Any-who a minor point - moving on).

I would give this issue a 4 out of 5, the reason I wouldn’t give it top marks is that the story feels a little ‘messy’ in places, for lack of a better word, almost like there are too many loose threads being thrown out at the reader without enough explanation.

Murderland #1
Set the Method Down, Part One
Published by Image Comics
Story by Stephen Scott, art by David Hahn, colours by Guillem Mari, cover by David Hahn & Guillem Mari with a flip cover by Boo Cook

As always, my sincere thanks to Simon for another fine contribution to Escape from Tomorrow - remember, you can find Simon's work on his
deviantArt site as well as his work and personal blog.

If, like Simon, you'd be interested in submitting a occasional piece for publication - a review, preview article, or news feature - then drop me an email, I'd be very happy to hear from you.