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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nixon's Pals. Joe Casey (Writer), Chris Burnham (Art). Rus Wooton (Letters). Inage Comics Inc. (2008)

This straightforward, competent comic is worth reading. This is not intended as a meagre compliment to the level of craft and talent demonstrated in the comic, rather it reflects the fact that the book squarely meets my expectations without exceeding or overturning them. The premise is smart, Nixon Cooper is a parole officer for supervillians. It has a bucket of potential and to a large extent that potential is realised with the book. There are no let downs nor false moves in the book, the idea is skillfully executed. The art is dynamic and detailed, equally effective with supervillians and human characters. The domestic and office scenes are nicely done, the emotional content is clear and vibrant. The supervillians are varied and thoughtfully realised. There is enough variety to give a sense of a genuine population of enhanced creatures threaded through society to make the idea of a supervillian parole officer credible.
The loss in the book is the story structure, it conforms too closely to existing crime story conventions. This has its advantages, it normalises the activities of the fabulous characters and gives weight and credibility to the narrative, it allows for a persuasive interaction between the parole officer and his parolees. The problem is that is does not take a leap off into the fantastic, exploiting the possibilities of the premise. Joe Casey is talented enough to take a almost stereotyped situation, a law enforcement agent with a disintegrating personal relationship, feeling frustration with the system, supervisor and colleagues and to breathe real life into it. The choice to follow this pattern acts to restrict him later when he needs fireworks. The narrative is constructed cleverly, the reveals are effective and the climax satisfactory. This is solid storytelling that just misses being exhilarating.

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