Half Past Danger II: Dead to Reichs #5
Writer & Artist: Stephen Mooney
Review by Sean Frankling
You’ll never find a bigger fan of pulpy, two-fisted adventure comics than me. And on the surface of it, that’s exactly what Half Past Danger II: Dead to Reichs is trying to be. It’s World War 2 and the Nazis and Allies are fighting over a Lost World-style cache of living dinosaurs. There are diesel-punk mech suits, ninjas and a supersoldier. Sounds awesome, right?
Unfortunately, that’s exactly why it’s so disappointing that Half Past Danger II ends up being… well, boring. Issues one to four of the Dead to Reichs arc overflowed with clunky, unnecessarily longwinded exposition. That’s confusing, too, given that the plot is exceedingly simple. The Nazis are synthesizing a biological weapon using cell mass from the dinosaurs discovered in Volume One. Our heroes need to get the antidote. They tried to get it. They failed to get it. Now they’re trying to stop the Germans from dispersing the pathogen and winning the war. There. I just saved you four issues worth of not-fighting-dinosaurs.
I think it’s worth taking a moment here to talk about the colossal missed opportunity here. This would be a really cool set-up for a story if it was about the dinosaurs and the war. And yet we inexplicably don’t get to spend five issues exploring the front lines of the world war that time forgot. Instead we’re worrying about the … sneaking around and infiltrating bases with nary a triceratops tank in sight.
If you were hoping for that red-blooded human-versus-dino throw down, there’s some good news. Half Past Danger II: Dead to Reichs #5 finally gives us a taste. The bad news is, it really wasn’t worth the wait. For all the potential of the premise, the fight between super strong Captain Americ- uh, sorry. The fight between super strong Captain John Noble and the Nazi T-Rex boils down to an Aliens reference. No, seriously. Noble hops in a Nazi mech suit which he somehow finds necessary despite his brick-wall-shattering enhanced strength (Every little bit helps, I guess). He then fights the machine-gun-decked dinosaur for a few pages until the suit breaks down. And the whole thing ends when the team’s ninja finally gets mad enough to jump up and stab its eyes out – which he apparently could have done at any time. Bit of an anticlimax, that. And it all serves as a distraction. The real hero is Tommy “Irish” Flynn. He gives his life to stop the two planes from dropping the pathogen on England and the US. You know, the exact ending of Captain America.
The art is serviceable: it does a great job of evoking that washed-out 1940s aesthetic. The dinosaurs look authentic enough (albeit inaccurately featherless), and the characters’ expressions are clear when it’s called for. But the action scenes tend to skew more towards unconnected snap-shots of the chaos rather than a consistent flow of action. As a result, it just doesn’t accomplish that critical job of sweeping the audience up in the adventure.
In fact, for all the time they spent on set-up for this climax, the exposition-heavy preceding issues failed set up any kind of ideological or emotional stakes. There is a subplot about Noble having fathered a child with the one-dimensional femme fatale character. In this part, the comic seems to be shooting for some irony in seeing a Captain-America-type hero struggle with the idea of sharing parenthood with a morally dubious bad girl. But like all the rest of its characterizations, the comic never engages this enough to wring any meaning from it.
Skip It. If you’re waiting for the definitive “World War 2 but with dinosaurs” comic, you’re better off petitioning marvel for a Jurassic Park / Howling Commandos crossover. Half Past Danger II: Dead to Reichs isn’t it.