The Losers #6 Review

Reviewer: William Cooling
Story title: Goliath – Conclusion

Written by: Andy Diggle
Art by: Jock
Coloured by: Lee Loughridge
Letterered by: Clem Robins
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC/Vertigo

Over the past ten years Vertigo has published some of the most though provoking and intellectual comics ever published.

This isn’t one of them.

It has also published some of the most exciting, daring and vital comics of the last ten years, comics that dress the outlandish violent soap opera that comics do better than any other medium in something other than spandex.

This is so one of them.

When you read this comic you are probably looking at the nearest American comics have to a future that doesn’t place them in the same niche as either Star Trek or foreign language films. Unlike most American comics, this doesn’t reject American pop culture in preference for a writer’s adolescent spandex power fantasies or to be pretentious and elitist but actively embraces the subject matter that in every other medium is the cornerstone of young male entertainment.

Namely guns, wisecracks and hot women.

This is an almost unbearably cool comic that combines the suspense and (cough) “realism” of 24, with the wise cracks of James Bond, the edge of Dirty Harry all depicted with the cool self contradictory idealised/realistic panache of Tarantino. This title distils American action movies into comic book form.

Which makes it all the stranger that it’s written and drawn by two Brits.

Andy Diggle is the latest British writer to give American comics the good slap they need. In his debut on-going he has proceeded to inject some of the energy, humour and above all the testosterone that has been lacking in many American comics. He has expertly developed a cast of lead characters where none of them are duplicates of an other, each serves not only a narrative purpose but also as a clearly defined writing device as well for example Aisha lends the title mystery whilst Jensen offers humour.

His writing has over the course of these six issues (which will form the first TPB, out in February) has managed to marry the cinematic style popularised by the Authority with the more compressed style of 2000AD. By doing this he has wrote a comic that whilst compressed by American standards does allow for some great page and double page spreads. He does this by utilising his talent for writing concise dialogue and pages that manage to pack in as much punch as possible.

In this issue he concludes his first multi-part story arc as the Losers manage to escape the blowing up of the boat they were in and then confront Wade and their ex-member Roque at George Bush Intercontinental. Diggle shows himself to be extremely comfortable and confident in writing action movie set pieces, for example when explaining how the Losers escape he manages to come up with an explanation that is both believable and jaw-dropping at the same time.

If there is one minor flaw in the writing in this issue it’s the relative lack of Jensen, the Losers computer expert who has with a line in wise cracks and fourth wall shaking parodies of action movie clichés become the star of the series. The lack of him is caused by the fact that after the opening four pages the whole story is one big shoot out as the Losers try to stop Wade and Roque escaping with the loot. This is a wonderful scene that revels in its complete OTT nature as Diggle obviously has a riot in pushing the action movie conventions to their breaking point.

However, he does manage to further develop some of the characters, especially Clay and Roque. With Clay you can never be quite sure whether Diggle takes him seriously or not, as Clay’s straight-jawed machismo is often the cause of him getting his ass whipped. For example, in his confrontation with Wade he does the “I knew it would come down to us two” speech only to get shot. Then again sometimes he gets the killer lines; I especially love his line when he reveals himself to Wade (puntastic).

Diggle develops Roque into the Losers’ biggest (revealed) enemy as he shows Roque being more than just a recent convert but someone who is an integral part of the anti-Losers forces. Where as previously he had been taking the orders from Wade, this issue he assumes command from the get go as he orders Wade around.

However, the star of the piece is Cougar the Losers’ near mute expert gunslinger. Diggle has brilliantly built up the mystique around him as by keeping him silent it makes him seem more like a force of nature than a person. Cougar is the character that has provided most of the OTT, holy sh*t moments that confirm Diggle knows that the way to many a man’s heart is showing super cool ways of exploding things with cooler guns. In this Cougar is heavily reminiscent of ABC Warriors’ Joe Pineapples as featured in their first series who was also a sniper, didn’t say a lot and was super cool. Let’s just hope that Diggle doesn’t turn Cougar into a transvestite like Mills did with Pineapples.

Of course when you have an all out shoot ‘em up then such a character comes into their own with Cougar and Pooch entering in a desperate attempt to help Aisha against Roque and stop the plane leaving. I won’t tell you what happens but let’s say you wouldn’t have expected it and its brilliant in a sick joke kinda way.

One thing that must be made clear is that this isn’t an unintelligent title, it may be unintellectual, but that’s different. In the midst of the violence, inspired by the American pop culture that Diggle is so evidently a fan of we do see wider political points being made. The story of this series, namely the betrayal of a special ops team and then of this arc, which concerns their attempt to blackmail the Government with proof of CIA sponsored money-laundering show a scepticism of current American society (and a love for the A-Team). I wouldn’t go as far as to say it asks questions about whether Bush’s America has become a cartel dominated oligarchy as it doesn’t push its political points to the fore (certainly not in this issue). Still they’re there if you want them and they in NO WAY ruin the story if you don’t (I mean let’s face it, scepticism of authority is just as, if not more right wing than left wing).

What these political points do act is as a foundation for the overall arc (Diggle has said that his run on the Losers’ is all working to an predetermined end) as Diggle builds a suspense thriller around the Losers’ attempts to gain revenge on those who attempted to kill them. Last issue he threw a spanner into the works by suggesting that the guy the Losers’ blamed for the attack didn’t really exist. This issue he does resolve it at the very end in a way that acts a great end to the arc (I also think it will work great in TPB form).

Of course Diggle is not the sole cause of the Losers brilliance as his long time collaborator (who draw his first comic strip, Lenny Zero), joins him. Just as Diggle can write action comics better than anyone else Jock can draw them better than any one else. His gritty, jagged linework is matched with inventive page layouts that rarely take the conventional route matched with a superlative use of shadow allow him to stylishly depict the numerous action scenes in an energetic style that brings out of both the fantastical and the realistic side of Diggle’s script. He’s faces are brilliant too, as he is able to convey so much emotion and characterisation with them. For example when Wade hears that the Losers have escaped, you just see the shock and panic in his face.

This is another great issue as Diggle continues to develop into one of the greatest talents around as what has been a great year comes to a close. In this part he manages to deliver all out action with side orders of humour and suspense. The art is excellent as well as we get yet another example of the amazing synergy these two share. A great, great title that you should all be reading. If you not, start with the new arc starting next month, then catch up with this one when the TPB comes out in February.