Review by Dan Murray
The new 6 part series coming out under Sam Worthington’s FULL CLIP Productions and published by Radical Publishing is written by David Lapham (writer and artist on Stray Bullets and natural successor to Garth Ennis when he took over writing duties on Avatar’s Crossed series) and features artwork by Leonardo Manco (best known for his run on Hellblazer).
After a violent incident in their shared past forces the lives of brothers (and cops) Frank and Henry Lincolnz to diverge, each carries on with his own brand of justice. Frank, who is very close to retirement, has spent his life becoming a distinguished member of the San Francisco police force. Meanwhile, Henry has devoted his life to being a vigilante whose own brand of justice is far more violent than the law allows. After 35 years, these brothers are brought together again by the murder of a Russian mafia boss in the city by the bay. Frank, caught between political turmoil and training his replacement as he leaves the force, comes face to face with Henry, who may have more than just answers about the murder.
Now, this series takes a lot of its inspiration from other cop dramas and could easily have fallen through the cracks as yet another tale of brothers on the opposite sides of the law. Frank’s story sees him finishing his run in the police force by being politely shown the door as he is replaced by a new guy, Jack Cassidy, [who] the higher ups believe will be easier to manipulate and control. This even brings in the cop clichés of the cop who is “too old for this shit” and the young upstart he is forced to work with. Henry’s story sees him as a crusader for good in a world he sees as evil. So far, so very Punisher.
The surprising thing here is that they bring these tried, tested and (let’s face it) overused police story-lines and bring us something fresh and exciting. The fact that these brothers are on opposite sides of the law is due to a shared secret of a terrible thing they once did and how each reacted to it. In the wake of his child’s disappearance, Henry came across a ring of highly influential men who are also child abusers and with no help forthcoming from the police, decided to take his revenge by gathering them together and burning them all. When the two find that there was collateral damage, in the form of a wife and butler, Frank is horrified whilst Henry sees only their complicit guilt by being part of their victims’ worlds. This helps us to understand how the two men got to where they are today and also shows that but for a small twist of fate, both of them could have gone either way.
Frank’s tale involves training up the “rookie” (who’s actually 8 years on the force but only 8 minutes on Frank’s team Gawddammit!) who will be taking over his position and the usual butting of heads that accompanies these situations. The characters aren’t short changed though. Though you get the impression Cassidy is out to make a name for himself, he isn’t trying to do it off the back of Frank’s disgrace and the dialogue between the two is both well written and leaves us with two very well rounded characters. As the story goes on, you can see how the two have bonded over the experience when a drunk Frank, now off the police force and on a hunt for Henry alone, finally reveals his dark secret to Cassidy in a confession that you can see he has desperately needed to get off his chest. It’s a great character moment and thanks to Manco’s artwork, you can really see how this secret has taken its toll on the man.
Henry’s story is another matter. He opens the first issue by meticulously taking out a group of rapists in a way even the Punisher would be proud of. Yes, [similarity] between the two is there and it’d be stupid to pretend it’s not. He is very similar to the Marvel MAX Punisher version of the Punisher and this is no bad thing as that series was one of the best incarnations of the character. Badly burned in the fire he set years before (and with the outline of his Police badge forever burned into his skin, which he now sees as his own personal badge of honour) he has no qualms about what he is doing. Having travelled from war to war and city to city, always finding the same evil in each, he has now returned to his home to finish what he started.
In a nice twist on the mentor/rookie scenario, he is also looking for a successor as he knows his time is nearly up. This comes in the form of rescuing and recruiting Isaac Lordsman. A cop on trial for letting 2 gangsters burn in a car accident without lifting a finger to help. Lordsman is a strange character. He seems to have gotten into the police despite having shown extreme rage issues in the past and this leads to some good interactions between himself and Henry as you see that, whilst Henry has his own agenda and rules he rigidly follows, Lordsman is restrained by nothing and feels exempt from recrimination.
The storyline so far has followed the 4 men as a whole but each issue features narration by one of the key players. The first is Frank, the second is Henry, the third follows Lordsman and the fourth is Lincoln. This is an odd choice for a comic as it means that there is no explanation of how other characters are feeling during someone else’s issue. However, I found this refreshing as comics can be bogged down with too much dialogue from too many characters explaining everything. In Damaged, you get to hear a side of the tale from a different characters perspective each issue but nothing on how the other people involved feel if their story-lines progress during that issue.
It’s an interesting choice but helps flesh out the world and the individual characters as each of them have their own internal monologue which shows how they personally feel about what is happening. My favourite so far is Cassidy . Whilst the rest are pretty set in stone on their opinions and feelings, which are still [an] enjoyable read, he is actually unsure about what to do with the information he now knows and questioning where he now stands in the world. Though he wasn’t my favourite character to begin with (that was Remington shotgun waving Henry), I now find that he’s the one I care about most. He has matured through the experience to become his own man, and with a pregnant wife at home, has the most to lose.
The writing style is excellent in this comic. Not only does Lapham give us some great hard-boiled cop interactions between the characters but, by giving each character their own issue, he also gives each one his own unique voice that separates him form the others (a rare feat when trying to fit so many characters into a relatively short 6 issue run without short changing anyone). Add this to the fact that Manco’s artwork is good and doesn’t skimp on the gory details, a necessity when telling a tale like this, and you have yourself a sure-fire hit.
A great read with some brilliant characters. Sure, it could be accused of taking characters’ traits, story-lines and its overall style from other comics and movies of its ilk but, like any great homage, it uses them to breathe life into it’s own unique and compelling story. With only 2 issues left and events spiralling towards the inevitable (and, I’d wager, final) confrontation between the brothers, I can’t wait to see how the whole thing plays out. Rest assured, I’ll keep you updated when I finally get my hands on the next issues.
Click here to go to this article at Bad Haven. Click the cover image to learn more about Damaged.