Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Read it: Choker

I was onboard with Choker, the new title from Ben McCool and Ben Templesmith, for about 95 percent of the book.

This being McCool’s first creator owned project, I went in knowing only one thing about the guy-- His name is McCool, so whatever he has to offer has to be quality, right?

As for Templesmith, I get all dreamy-eyed every time I see the guy’s work, so I knew I was in good hands when it came to the art. He is, in truth, the reason I picked the book up.

Choker number one begins with a wonderfully unsettling scene of a young woman being held captive in some creepo’s dungeon of a basement. We get the distinct feeling this girl is in some serious trouble and then, bang, we’re introduced to our story’s hero, Johnny Jackson.

Jackson is a down-on-his-luck ex-cop-turned-private-investigator with a crummy life, working in a crummy office in the crummy part of town.

The first few pages work as a nice cliff-hanger beginning, showing only a glimpse of the trouble brewing before introducing us to the guy who is, most likely, going to have to deal with it.

The rest of issue one serves as an introduction. We meet Jackson’s assistant, we get taken on a quick tour of the dark and brutal Shotgun City, and we find out that Jackson is being given a chance to redeem himself and return to a life he once loved and would do just about anything to get back; including hunt down a recently escaped psychopath he put behind bars years ago.

McCool seems comfortable in this noir setting and writes it well. A few clever turns of phrase, a rough-and-tumble protagonist who you feel certain will have no problem busting a few skulls, a police chief that seems every bit as sinister as the bad guys Jackson will be facing and a kidnapping mystery just waiting to be solved.

Like I said, up until the last few pages, I was eating this book up. For me, the defecation hit the oscillation when the vampires showed up. Yep. Vampires.

Everything was going fine until I was blindsided by the monster d’jour in what looks to be a plot ripped straight out of True Blood.

I’ll give the book the benefit of the doubt since the vast majority of issue one was quality stuff and my current distaste for bloodsuckers might be unfair when trying to give an unbiased opinion, but their inclusion felt well out of place when pages one through twenty-one are top-notch, gritty detective drama and pages twenty-two through twenty-four are a mix between the opening scene of Blade and the Southern Vampire Mysteries.

Despite the upsetting surprise, I’d definitely recommend Choker to fans of the genre. It’s dark and oozes atmosphere and its loads of fun to read. If McCool manages to make his vampires interesting, all will be forgiven.

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