Quarry’s War #1
Story: Max Allan Collins
Art: Szymon Kudranski
Colours: Guy Major
Publisher: Titan Comics
Review by Malcolm Derikx
If you’re not familiar with Max Allan Collins’ Quarry series, about the disillusioned Marine sniper turned professional assassin, you’re in for a crime-fiction treat. Like The Punisher, Quarry is a character that brings the chaos and trauma of the Vietnam War home with him, and puts his newfound skills to use- killing bad guys in the seedy 70s. But unlike The Punisher, there’s no quest for revenge; for Quarry, it’s all business.
There’s a lot to like in Quarry’s War #1. The issue provides a good entry-point for those new to the character, so while there is a plethora of novels and short stories in the universe, you can go in blind and still get the story. For most of the first issue, Quarry and his get-away driver/spotter, Boyd, are contemplating just how they’re going to go about performing their latest contract hit on a mid-level mobster. They’re careful, tailing him all over town, looking for an opening in his everyday routine. It’s pretty compelling as they plot out how to ice the guy when the kids aren’t home to see- although I can’t help but think that certain elements of the story are a little TOO much. Quarry’s world is very dark and cynical, but a sequence wherein we learn that the teenage son of the mobster spends most of his time ogling his older sister for example, is not really significant to the plot and only succeeds in making me feel grossed out.
There’s also issues with pacing- as we follow Quarry in the present we also flashback to Quarry during the Vietnam War. Often it’s exactly one page in the present, then one page in Vietnam, which doesn’t give you much of a chance to sit and get fully invested in either location before you’re bounced to the other. The result is the feeling that it’s two halves of two completely different comic books. While I’m interested in the Vietnam War, Quarry’s War doesn’t stray from tropes established in such works as Full Metal Jacket. Honestly, it’s a little messy and unmemorable.
Art-wise, I enjoyed Kudranski’s Vietnam-pages a fair bit. Guy Major, who served as colorist, should get props as well. His usage of lighting gives Vietnam a nice, vintage, hazy-dream feel. Kudranski’s environments and flow between panels is pretty solid- but on the flip-side, his characters come off as very stiff and emotionless. Of specific note, Quarry seems to have one consistent facial expression- he’s sort of robotic and blank-eyed, whether he’s seducing a girl at the hotel pool, or killing his targets. Also, Quarry wears this strange, tight-fitting black long-sleeve shirt with a peace sign on it. It’s a bizarre choice of attire, doesn’t really make any sense for the character, and makes Quarry look pretty goofy. I wish Kudranski had stepped out of the box a little more.
Wait and see. Overall, Quarry’s War is a decent enough comic, mired with some major pacing hiccups and some awkward art. If you enjoy crime-fiction, or already are familiar with Collins’ work, it’s worth checking out. Otherwise, I’d say it may be best to wait for this in trade.