Identity Stunt #4

 

Writer: Joe R. Khachadourian

Artist: J, Briscoe Allison (artwork), Juancho Velez (colors) A. J. Scherkenbach (Lettering)

Publisher: Markosia Enterprises (December 2018)

 

Here comes the final act of the film.

Flip your collars up, push up your sleeves and tighten the straps on your cut-off gloves.

If you’ve got a toothpick or a match-stick in your mouth, bite down hard on it.

Adjust your aviators or your ray bans and check your clips.

It’s GO time!

If you’ve just hit the play button on your VCR after a long pause, the shit has hit the fan.

Sami Nasser is knee deep in crazed acolytes. His lady love, Tracy, has joined the dearly departed, and his daughter Alyssa is in the menacing clutches of Dominus Smith as he stands at the cusp of seeing his plans come to fruition. Sami has back up though, Beatdown and Knuckleball are right in the mix. Making this issue an all-in brawl as well as a race against the clock.

Will Sami save his daughter in time? Will Beatdown stop Dominus for good? Isn’t Sami Beatdown? Did dominus lie to us all? Will Knuckleball get his own spin-off?!?!

If you want answers to the big questions in this review, look elsewhere. Spoilers are evil, and Sami Nasser said to always punch evil in the face.

If you want nitpicking and criticism exit stage left as well. No series is flawless. But if you’re not down with the action-packed fun and insanity by now you need to wake up, go back to the start, and read it again. Hell, grab it in trade form while you’re there. This series is a rare thing. An easy read with depth and punches in equal measure. It wears its tropes and influences on its sleeve and charms you into strapping in for the ride.

Joe Khachadourian shows, from the first page, that he’s a writer who can consistently deliver character and dialogue with honesty and authenticity. He can also deliver on some sharp twists and turns and has maintained mastery of pace throughout this series.

Beatdowns hard-boiled dialogue really would make Frank Miller’s god damned All-Star Batman smile.

Briscoe Allison needs to do a team book next. He needs to be on all the books from now on. Making all the money to boot. I was impressed early by his Maduereira-like style and his detailed eye (honestly there are so many Easter-eggs to watch out for in this book), but this issue also makes a strong case for his gift for panel layouts and sequential story-telling powers.

The movie literacy of this series has been one of my favorite things. There are A-team references and Butch and Sundance lines to spare in this issue. But their use in a story set in Hollywood’s stuntman scene, in a series that is an impressive entry into the buddy/action genre, are deployed with brains and precision.

Yes, there are clichés running rampant in Identity Stunt. But clichés become endearing and stand the test of time for a reason. The creative teams employ of the clichés in this issue show that they understand that.

But there’s also originality born from exploring these clichés. Knuckleball both encapsulates and benefits from this particularly. When they make a movie of Knuckleball, my favorite asshole in a uniform, the tagline must be “oh you’ve got to be fucking kidding me…”

The ending is tight enough while still leaving a few loose threads for the sequel.

Everyone knows these types of films are made to have sequels.

Lethal Weapon. 48 hours. Rush Hour. Even Bad Boys. All the best ones should have sequels.

Catch your breath boys.

Cauterize your wounds and hit us with Identity Stunt 2: Stunt Harder, soon!

 

Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories

Authors: Scott Snyder, Sam Weller, Jennifer Weiner, and others

Publisher:  Free Press, 2008

ISBN Number: 1416566449

At a time when superheroes are at the forefront of popular culture, dominating the box office and littering every channel on television. A time when the daily news is a constant stream of growing social awareness, political freak shows, looming terrorist threats, and rising global injustice. Comes Who Can Save Us Now? a book that toys with the pure and idealistic concepts of how heroes are perceived in modern society. Testing each virtue (and vice) to see if they can exist in our complex world.

This enticing premise is where the book succeeds and fails. Each of the 22 short stories are written in a post-war (or post golden age era for comic readers) world, but the broad time setting is a deterrence, creating an uneven reading experience. The other major flaw the book suffers from is the disparate length from story to story. There are some strong ideas that have their potential for greatness dashed by the main villain of the work: space to develop. Of course, there are some stories overcooked by heat vision that would benefit from a shorter page count

Across the board, the uniting strength in these stories are the vivid use of setting and the excellent display of the writer’s super-powered dialogue, most of these writers come from working in comic books or have a deep affinity for the scripted medium and it really shows with realistic exchanges that ring true for any lover of the four-colored literature.

The most endearing stories are the ones that play cleverly with simple comic book lore and archetypes, making for a great story with a cynical, modern take. Stephanie Harrells Lois Lane/Superman deconstruction of ‘Girl Reporter’. The ever-present nods to comic book fan knowledge in Noria Jablonskis ‘The Snipper’. The magazine expose-style take on a Batman-like figure in ‘My Interview with the Avenger’ by Tom Bissell.

Other standouts of the work play closer to real-world scenarios and tone down the fantasy and wonder. Such as ‘The Lives of Ordinary Superheroes’by David Haynes, an almost chamber piece story that reminisces over the erosion of modern values and serves as a fitting final story to the book. Or the Sean Dolittle penned, action-packed, gritty blue-collar ‘Mr. Big Deal’.

The book is written with a lot of love for a genre that has existed long before it became a marketable, blockbuster machine for moviegoers. It speaks to the diversity in theme and subject of comic books. Most of these tales echo the emotional experience the writer has derived from their reading experience. Under the cape and cowl of the stories are somber, deep emotional tales of living with dissatisfaction, without purpose, identity, or hope. Make no mistake, there are plenty of laughs as well. A mix of comedy and tragedy that slightly favors the latter. When it’s at its best, the book will serve to remind the reader of the values of imagination and inherent good. That behind the trials and tribulations life throws, there is potentially a hero in all of us, waiting to save the day.