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Radical’s Damaged/Hollow Point Flipbook Offers Rewarding Spins on Tried-and-True Storylines

Review by Sarah Boslaugh

28 pgs., color; $1.00
(W: David Lapham; A: Dennis Calero) (for Damaged)
(W: David Hine; A: Elia Bonetti) (for Hollow Point)

Continuing with their tradition of $1 issues, Radical Comics is offering a flipbook for that price which introduces two new series, Damaged (created by Michael Schwarz and John Schwarz; the first issue is scheduled for release in June 2011) and Hollow Point (created by Ron L. Brinkerhoff; no release date given). The price is certainly right and, judging by the previews offered in this flipbook, both series offer rewarding spins on tried-and-true storylines paired with appropriate art in Radical’s trademark fully-painted style. There’s an additional item of interest regarding Damaged: the series is being developed by Full Clip Productions, headed by Sam Worthington (of Avatar fame) and Michael and John Schwarz, and will be published as an imprint with Radical.

Damaged tells the familiar story of two brothers who chose different paths toward a common goal: fighting crime. Frank followed the conventional route and became a police detective while Henry forsook his career as a policeman to become a vigilante operating outside the law. As the story opens, Frank is called in to investigate the slaughter of a Russian crime boss and 21 of his henchmen, with the sole survivor insisting there was only one gunman. While the other cops scoff at this account, including the detail that the killer had a scar shaped like a policeman’s badge, Frank feels confirmed in his suspicion that the massacre was his brother’s doing. This reawakens a familiar feeling of conflict, not only between family ties and his oath to uphold the law, but also between his relief that a band of criminals can do no further harm and guilt that this result was produced by criminal action.

More than anything, this comic recalls a film noir set in the present. Many panels include voice-over style narration by Frank which frequently achieves the hard-boiled yet philosophic tone familiar from many films (“Sorry doesn’t cut it. Sorry is a thing for disobedient boys. A man can’t be sorry. He can only try and clean up the mess he’s made.”). The art also recalls film noir, with an overall dark tone which often fades nearly to black at the edges and with many frame sequences recalling classical Hollywood storytelling conventions (establishing shots, newspapers used to set up back-story, shifts in the color palette for remembered sequences). The setting is “Sausalido” which looks a lot like a similarly-named town across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, a classic noir setting if ever there was one.

Hollow Point is also a vigilante crime series, but with a supernatural twist: thanks to a bullet to the head which nearly killed him, the central character (who is not given a name) can communicate with the spirit world. This near-death experience also changed his outlook on life: once a notorious assassin, he now uses his skills to perform vigilante actions which avenge the wrongs of the innocent (or, as the preface puts it, “Tortured by his own blood-soaked legacy, he is given a rare chance at redemption by avenging the ghosts of victims past, with the dead as his new employer…”). I feel I should mention that you have to read the preface to get this information because it’s not evident from the 12 pages of story included in this preview.

Supernatural elements aside, Hollow Point is also from the neo-noir school: lots of voice-over narration, lots of smoking, a hero detached from normal society (and who lives in a cheap motel with a classic neon sign), and a general feeling of dark men doing dark deeds with the occasional ray of light coming not from conventional authority but from those who follow their own code. As the story opens, our hero is watching a television broadcast announcing his latest handiwork, the death of a crooked judge, before he’s dispatched to Mexico to settle matters with a pedophile priest.

The background/scene setting art is great in Hollow Point: it has a grimy/gritty feel and overall dark cast which matches the tone of the story. There’s some really inspired work in the Mexico section, both in the church and in the bar where the assassin confronts the priest. The depiction of people is less skilled, and the faces of the assassin and priest in particular are so similar that were the priest not wearing his clerical collar the two men could easily be confused. The frames also feel static, more like a series of still photos than as drawings which imply that action takes place between the frames. These quibbles aside, this is still an appealing genre comic and I’ll be interested to see how the story develops.

Click here for a preview, courtesy of Radical Comics.

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