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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Homeland Directive. Robert Venditti (Writer), Mike Huddleston(Art), Sean Konot (Letters) Top Shelf Productions (2011)

Very gripping and enjoyable paranoid thriller that solves a serious plot problem really well. Dr Laura Regan is a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and finds herself kidnapped after a speech in New York. She is the target of a lethal operation being organised by the Department of Homeland Security, thought neither she nor her kidnappers know why. Laura's has been snatched by three government employes of thee different agencies who suspect that there is a serious conspiracy afoot and that Laura is both a target and a key. They are proved to be correct and the conspiracy is cleverly constructed, the reveals are very well staged, the action is pointed and sharp with a well thought out context.
The Homeland Directive follows a fairly well trodden path of paranoid, political thrillers with a conspiracy being hatched in a dark corner of government to achieve a expedient objective. What matters is the way that the action is staged and how it is resolved and Robert Venditti delivers a smart story that sets up problems as cleverly as it resolves them. The most important problem is how do a number of fugitives hide from the coordinated efforts of the law enforcement and security services of the USA? How can a story make the David versus Goliath aspect work without making Goliath a bumbling idiot and thus drain the tension from the story? Robert Venditti has a very clever answer, three of the fugitives used to work for Goliath and know how to hide and how to assess the stages of the hunt, this gives credibility to the way they stay free long enough to penetrate the conspiracy. In addition the mechanics of the plan are unexpected and also allow for a equally unexpected route to fight it.
In addition to very well thought out plot mechanics the cast are varied, fallible, responding to stress and the knowledge that they are ultimately only delaying the inevitable confrontation rather than escaping it with believable and individual reactions. The only slightly off note is provided by a pursuer who is marginally more of a plot necessity than a character, this is not surprising as he has a vital if narrow function. Otherwise the cast overall are everything they should be.
Mike Huddleston's very distinctive art is a great asset in keeping the book off the beaten track of political thrillers. The art styles varies considerably throughout the story depending on the cast, location and plot requirements. The apparently random use of colours breaks up the story without ever interrupting it. The art is frequently spare and scratch for the cast with different page backgrounds helping change context and tone. Rober Venditti and Mike Huddleston take the classic and necessary ingredients of a political thriller and shake them up into a great story that follows the rules of the genre while making it fresh and unexpected.

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