Damaged: A Review
By Robert Leichsenring
I'm back with another review for you, folks. This time I have a new book for you called DAMAGED. It is written by David Lapham and produced by — dun dun duuunnn — Sam Worthington, the actor we know from Avatar or the recent Wrath of the Titans. It is published by Radical Publishing. Let's jump right in, okay?
The book opens like a typical Punisher book: one lone man killing a group of rapists in a shady bar, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Our man is a hard-looking, scarred hardass, who, just like the Punisher, kills the scum that never sees prosecution. We meet him in the middle of his work, no origin, no name, only a star shaped scar on his chest.
But he is not the protagonist of the book, far from it, actually. He is the driving force of nature. The protagonists are two cops: the young hotshot Lt. Jack Cassidy and the old dog Capt. Frank Lincoln. Lincoln runs the task force on organized crime, and Cassidy has been trying for years to get into the TF. But Cassidy has to learn that the mayor and the commissioner of the police want to replace Lincoln, who has become soft and unfocused, with Cassidy, who is a rising star in the department and a man with fresh ideas.
There is a scandal brewing inside the police force as one of Lincoln's men, Officer Lordsman, has been arrested after he watched two mobsters burn to death following a car chase. All this happened in front of dozens of bystanders. Now Lincoln is in the focus of the critics as he is weeks away from his pension.
This is the set up for a, I hate to call it this, Punisheresque game of cat and mouse, forcing Cassidy and Lincoln to deal not only with an unknown vigilante, killing criminals all over the States and moving into their city, but also with a open trial of a man who believes that burning mobsters just get what they deserved.
I tell you right now that this is not just a Punisher clone. Not by a long shot. The connection to the vigilante might not be comic's biggest mystery, but how it is played out shows again that Lapham knows his characters and their motivations.
Lincoln is an old and beaten man when we meet him. The years in the force have left their wounds and scars all over him. He is tired and you can feel it, his eyes and his face tell you everything. But he is still one of the best when it comes to policework. He knows his field and he knows how to work his men. He's a passionate man who is lost in a world full of hate and violence, a man who just wants to leave it behind but can't.
Cassidy is a typical up-and-comer: young, good-looking, full of energy and ideas; a real copper, a man of deeds, not of words, trying to move up in the force and eager to learn, worshipping Lincoln and his work, up to the point when they finally meet. And Cassidy has to confront the ugly truth about organized crime, their victims and how easy it is for them to escape prosecution.
The book moves at a fast pace over the first four issues, giving us a lot to take in. The characters are definitely the focus of Lapham's writing, bringing the story alive with detailed and believable characterizations of every player on the field. He not only tells us how they are, but lets us experience what makes them tick, what drives them. If you've read some of Lapham's work, you might already know that he is not one to talk around something but to draw clear images of what he wants us to see. It's refreshing and sometimes disturbing.
For me, he is on top of his game, giving us — again, it's the only comparison that fits — a Punisheresque book that moves away from the cliché of the Marvel character and brings different viewpoints to our attention, mixing elements from PUNISHER MAX and the new Greg Rucka PUNISHER to create a new breed of avenging "angel."
The art, man, yeah, the art is perfect for the book. Leonardo Manco, I've never heard of him, but he's forming a realistic world with his art, detailed and rich in little nuances. Emotions and faces are great and let you feel the characters up to a point that you feel like you participate in the story as an invisible watcher. He manages to balance his character work and the action scenes so that you never feel bored. He and Lapham are a natural fit. Manco really wins with the deep characterizations Lapham is throwing at him and the action, that is very contained and has a real feeling of direction. You don't get lost in the scenes and everything moves forward in a way I can only compare to a good action movie.
Lapham on the other hand gains a lot of momentum with the pencils and they bring out his strong writing. The coloring is something I would like to emphasize as well. We can easily forget about the colors sometimes and what important part they bring to the story. In this case the colors are amazingly perfect. Muted, yes, but it fits. And how it fits. Every issue has this real look, helping you believe what you are being shown. Kudos to Kinsun Loh, Jerry Choo, and Sansan Saw. They are the secret stars of the book.
I know I'm not giving you much on the story, but believe me, if you like the Punisher, or the new one by Rucka, you are going to love this book. It has all of the qualities I like from the Punisher, without an overloaded continuity, superheroes, or restrictions from a major company. It's a fresh take on an idea that has been beaten to death, but in this case it's more like a resurrection — not into a mindless zombie but more like Lazarus.
It really helps that Lapham is focusing on the cops and their struggle to contain an nearly uncontainable situation, finding a man who can't be found and who is out for blood.
I can really just recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime comics, so Brubaker fans, make a mental note to get this one.
I'm looking forward to issue 5 and 6 that are going to end the story and hope some of you give the book a chance.
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Robert "Nemo" Leichsenring