If there is one thing to be said about Ben Templesmith (’30 Days of Night’) it’s that he knows how to pick projects. He is one of the most sought after names in the business right now so it is interesting that he is so picky about what he puts his name on, and doesn’t do like many have and just take on 15 separate projects at once so he can cash in on his own success. So this is why it never goes unnoticed when Ben decides to fully illustrate an entire series like he has chosen to do with Ben McCool’s ‘CHOKER’. However, if the first issue is any sort of indicator of what we are to expect from the series, then it might just be the writing that makes this one stand out. Read on for the review.
The story of ‘CHOKER’ centers around a private investigator named Johnny Jackson who is at his wits end. He works in the polluted, run down, crime infested (infested is a word you could use in many ways to describe the city) metropolis that is Shotgun City taking on small private disputes and over charging for his services. Oddly enough his choice of life style is not fulfilling him, and nothing really has since losing his job on the police force three years, four months, and thirteen days ago. But that all could change as on this particular night Johnny is given an offer he can’t refuse. Receiving a phone call while he is at his local dive, Johnny is asked to return to the station and meet with the man who took away his job, and as a result, his life. The Chief of Police will give Johnny back his precious job-for life. The only condition is that he hunts down and returns the man the police lost a month ago: a drug dealer named Hunt Cassidy. Johnny accepts, but there is more to the case than catching an escaped con. Shotgun City is full of more than just drug dealers, rapists, and murderers. In fact those might prove to be the least of Johnny’s problems.
The thing that stands out most about ‘CHOKER’ is the excellent pacing of Ben McCool. The story starts with an fantastic scene that reveals an unnamed woman chained inside of a basement and being taunted by her captor. From there we are thrown headfirst into the world of Johnny Jackson and the oddities that inhabit Shotgun City. While the main focus of the issue is Johnny and his life we are also treated to just the right amount of foreshadowing of other plotpoints that should prove more important down the road. Just what is up with all the deformed humans sporting multiple heads? Why are all the police on the force hulking brutes hopped up on some super drug? And what about those crazy, drug dealing vampires partying it up at the local dance club? None of these things are explained, yet they play themselves out in the background of the panels like they are normal occurrences adding an extra depth to each page. This only lends to the story making the read much smoother and polished. The finished product being something that plays out more like a well directed episode of ‘CSI’ than a comic book.
As far as the art Templesmith is on top of his game as always. In fact I might even go as far as to say that some of his best art to date are in the pages of ‘CHOKER’ issue #1. The panels are all dark and gritty, but don’t suffer the same fate as some of his past work by being swallowed up under all the darkness to the point where it is hard to understand what you’re looking at. Everything is well detailed and presented in a very avant-gard fashion that matches itself perfectly to the other Ben’s story. The inks are just as well planned as the rest, and the pages that introduce readers to the streets of Shotgun City are certainly a high point for this aspect of the book giving readers a fantastic look at the world that these characters are living in.
When all is done and read ‘CHOKER’ is a fantastic story that only does itself a further service by leaving much to the readers’ imagination and pushing forward without stopping to explain everything it is showing you. And as long as those details are explained eventually then I say bravo for the effort. But I gotta ask: what’s up with the dog wearing the Cyclops visor?
4 Out of 5 Skulls
WRITTEN BY: BEN MCCOOL
ILLUSTRATED BY: BEN TEMPLESMITH
‘CHOKER’ Issue #2 Hits Store Shelves March 24th! (MSRP-$3.99)