Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm (OGN) by Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue Deconnick, and Lan Medina
by RJ Schwabe on October 14, 2011

I’m really stuck as to my initial opinion of this graphic novel. I’m not talking about quality of the work inside the novel, as I am writing this introduction prior to reading the graphic novel. I figured it might be more interesting to write my introduction without any sense of the content inside the pages.

I mean I get WHY this original graphic novel (OGN) was created:

  • Disney owns both ABC Television and Marvel comics, so a cross-promotional stunt makes sense from an economic and creative standpoint.
  • The television show Castle is watched by roughly 10-11 million people and episode and probably additional worldwide and in syndication, so getting 1/1000 of that audience wouldn’t be awful.
  • Nathan Fillion is a demi-god to geeks, so anything with his tacit presence and approval is a win.
  • Brian Michael Bendis is generally liked among comic book readers, so having his name attached to this property is a definite win, even though he has his detractors.

But I’m not exactly sure of my real opinion of how this graphic novel fits. What is this OGN trying to accomplish (other than make money). Where does this fit in from a creative standpoint. What is this offering that cannot be satiated through other means using the Castle brand.

Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm – A Derrick Storm Mystery (OGN)
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & Kelly Sue Deconnick |Breakdowns: Lan Medina

So, you may be asking what is this graphic novel about.

Well, the television show Castle is about a famous mystery novelist named Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion) who teams up with a police detective named Kate Beckett (played by the lovely Stana Katic). Through an implausible set of circumstances, they solve police cases together.

So this is graphic novel about these two characters, right?

Not really. You see, Richard Castle decided to write a new series of novels inspired by Detective Kate Beckett, named Nikki Heat.

Oh, so this is a graphic novel about Nikki Heat, right?

Sorry to disappoint. If you want to read about Nikki Heat, you can read the Hyperion Press series of Nikki Heat novels ‘written’ by Richard Castle. In the television show, Richard Castle was initially interviewed by Kate Beckett because of a series of murders that were inspired by his series of Derrick Storm novels. Richard Castle became famous (I’d say Patricia Cornwell famous, if I had to guess), by writing the novels of Derrick Storm.

So, this is an original graphic novel of Derrick Storm?

Yes, you’re getting there. This is an original graphic novel pretending to be a graphic novel adaptation of a non-existent fictional novel that was written by the fictional character of Richard Castle. Seem confusing? Well don’t worry, you don’t need to know any of that to read this story.

So is this supposed to be appealing to comic book readers or Castle fans? Why? What’s the draw? I like Castle. My wife loves Castle. And not once did the news that this was being released pique my interest enough to purchase it. Seems like more of an impulse buy than anything else.

Now that doesn’t mean that this is not good. It could be the best thing ever. Let’s find out shall we

Synopsis

  • Derrick Storm is a private detective investigating a cheating husband, Jefferson Grout (aka former CIA Agent Daniel Sanchez) in a trailer park.
  • When discovered Grout shoots at Storm, but also another shooter fires a gun at Grout.
  • Current CIA Agent, Clara Strike, hires Storm to find Daniel Sanchez as her hands are tied with red tape.
  • Storm enters the house of the woman who supposedly hired him, and finds her missing and the house ransacked.
  • The police arrest Derrick Storm for the murder of Penelope Grout, who apparently isn’t the woman who hired him. Storm is later freed due to lack of evidence.
  • He travels to Nicaragua to follow the lead. In Nicaragua he is immediate captured by Sanchez who interrogates him and releases him.
  • Strike catches up with Storm, and they tail the blonde woman who had Storm investigate Sanchez in the first place.
  • Storm and Strike enter the house of one of the rouge agents where they find that a large stack of gold bars.
  • Strike and Storm attempt to capture Grout and the other rouge agents but a firefight ensues, and many are killed.
  • One year later, Storm is offered a job with the CIA on a more permanent basis.

Analysis

First off, let’s state the basics. You do not need to know anything about the television show Castle to read and enjoy this book. This is a graphic novel that is completely independent of all other fictional properties.

The story is enjoyable. I would be lying to suggest that this was a ‘chore’ to read. It is a very enjoyable tale of a light private detective getting in over his head. However, there were some serious problems that caused me to not enjoy this fully.

Some things are very sloppy things in this graphic novel. There is no mention of what location for this story. It seems to have aspects of both New York and Los Angeles, and yet both seem to have trailer parks that aren’t too far away. I’m not a geography major, nor have I ever even been to Los Angeles, but I think you have to drive more than 15 minutes to get to a trailer park.

The best thing about this graphic novel is that you can totally picture the character of Richard Castle writing this story. His trademark humor is all over the novel.

For my taste, there were too many cheesy/punny names in this story: Derrick Storm, Jefferson Grout, Clara Strike, Sassy Monroe, Marian Kynde, Pumpkin Merunka, and Helen Pierce.

I’ve read the story three times, and I’m not still ENTIRELY sure what the antagonists motivations are. Don’t get me wrong I get the basic gist, CIA Agents launder money, wait until the time is right, one of the agents daughters gets involved without her dad’s knowledge. But there was some basic gaps here. If the story was better, I’d blame my own reading habits, and maybe I’d try to diagram the plot a little better, but it isn’t.

The scene where Grout is supposedly shooting at Storm is really confusing. Or more specifically, what supposedly happened. I didn’t get the sense that there was another shooter, but the narrative later tells me that there was.

Some things in this graphic novel, felt like a paint by numbers kit. Running through the basic cliché’s and tropes. Oh, let’s turn it into a game. Okay, everyone…get out your game cards, it’s time to play obvious fiction tropes BINGO!

  • Hero with a pun-friendly last name. (Derrick Storm)
  • Detective feels sleazy taking photos of cheating husbands.
  • Rogue CIA Agent
  • Plot is dumbed down version of great movie (Chinatown)
  • CIA Agent bringing outsiders who can operate outside the law.
  • Sexual tension during professional relationship
  • Non-government worker asking for James Bond like toys.
  • Former insider who still has insight and connections.
  • Private detective breaks into a house.
  • Wise-cracking somewhat asexual secretary/receptionist.
  • Private detective falsely accused of murder by the police.
  • Woman hires private detective, but isn’t who she says she is.
  • Unsure of motivation of parties of all sides.
  • Hero gets fired but decides to continue his search.
  • Hero gest tied up and threatened.
  • Foreign land and questionable government (Nicaragua 82-87)
  • Rogue former heroes who steal money.
  • Hero visits the gravesite.

Did anyone get bingo.

The artwork is well done. I mean if you are creating a graphic novel with potential crossover appeal, you certainly get someone to draw photo-realist artwork. It is nice, but there is a heavy-handedness to it too. Like broad brushstrokes, that seem a little more akin to the work you would see like 10-20 years ago in newspaper print. But that’s a preference. Certainly little to dislike art wise.

This really bothered me. The police come to investigate Derrick Storm without guns drawn. The female police detective punches Storm because she is surprised. They apologize for punching him, and then they casually arrest him for murder. If he was under arrest for murder, they’d go in guns a-blazin. And they wouldn’t apologize for punching him. If they were bringing him in for questioning, I could believe it, but not being arrested.

And in 2011, do we really think that a police officer can tell a person suspected of murder to not leave town, and then that person just flies off to Nicaragua. So we’re saying that the police just say “Don’t leave town” and they just rely on the honor code for you to follow it. They wouldn’t call the airport and say, “Hey don’t let Derrick Storm get on an airplane.”

At the end of the story, I still don’t know who survived. Obviously Storm and the blonde woman. But I don’t even know if Grout/Sanchez survived.

Can someone explain to me, how the character of Clara Strike is killed during the course of the OGN, but the descriptions of the other Derrick Storm novelizations have her listed as a character. Either there’s a plot twist for a series of fictional mystery books, or there was some real sloppy execution with this publication.

For me, the story is very pedestrian. I understand that maybe you shouldn’t redefine the modern private detective story when the inspiration is the show Castle. But for me, the plot was no deeper than something you’d see on the USA network. But, maybe the muckedy-mucks wanted to just give the people what they want. For all I know this will bring in a new comic book audience who wants a simplistic tale that they have seen and read 100 times before. But I know, for me, it just did little to nothing.

Audience

I just don’t get the audience for this graphic novel. It is basically a television-level private detective story. There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you. But, the medium of comic books should bring something unique to the table rather than regurgitate an existing style. That’s just my 2 cents.

My Wife’s Perspective

My wife said that she would be pretty tempted to purchase the book, knowing her buying habits. Probably more of an impulse buy for her, rather than a tactical purchase, but that the temptation would be there if she ran into it.

She expected the general style of the Castle television series and Nikki Heat novels (which she has read). She felt it represented Castle pretty well, and even if she had read the story without knowing that it was a tie-in that she would be able to make a connection to it, directly or style-wise. She said the story was good the pacing was well done. For her, the artwork was effective.

She liked the characters of Derrick Storm and liked how his character progressed through the story. She was interested in the potential for continuing stories with Derrick Storm, his two assistants, and their interaction with the CIA. But there was no immediate pull (such as a cliffhanger or a dangling plot line) that made her want to read it immediate, so though she was interested, she wouldn’t say there was a burning desire to read the next novel. She thought the character of Derrick Storm progressed pretty decently, and that it made sense for him to continue down his path.

Verdict

For me, the appeal of the television show, Castle, is that it is slightly better than mindless entertainment that appeals to all demographics. It’s a little more geeky and fun, mostly due to the acting talents of Nathan Fillion. But at the end of the day, the show doesn’t really do anything new. And, you can say the same thing about this graphic novel. There is literally nothing in this graphic novel that you haven’t seen before. Now, that doesn’t make it bad. But it is an original graphic novel with characters who I don’t know or care about. So, it has to rely on the plot to capture the reader’s interest, and the plot just isn’t strong enough. So I would give it a 4.5.

However, my wife was much more enthusiastic about this graphic novel. She thought it was a clever branching out of the Castle brand, and felt that it delivered on what it was trying to do. She understood my point about the graphic novel not really bringing something new to the table that couldn’t be addressed in the television show or the Nikki Heat books. But that at the end of the day, she liked it and would be interested in reading the next one. My wife said she would give it between a 6 or 7, so call it a 6.5.

Now, my wife is the demographic that Marvel is targeting with this title. She is someone who is open to graphic novels, and is a fan of the Castle television show. And she was pleased.

So, if I had purchased this for my household, and not just for myself, it would be a good purchase. So that increases my rating.

5.5 (Mixed Reviews)



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