Decisively proving that you can’t keep a good bad guy down, writer Gerry Duggan and artist John McCrea’s socially-conscious crime series (yes, that’s a thing) from Image Comics, Dead Rabbit, returned from a cease-and-desist order filed by a bar of the same name (no, I swear I’m not kidding) under the shiny new moniker of Dead Eyes — and not only did the creators not miss a beat, their book has only gotten better.
It also re-introduced itself in a manner entirely accessible to new readers, laying out the premise quick and easy, just as I will here : infamous Boston-area masked stick-up man from the 1990s is now retired and living the quiet life, but he needs to come out of retirement when his disabled wife gets hit with a mountain of medical bills that her insurance won’t cover. Our guy is still pretty good at what he does — his wheelman maybe not so much, but that’s another story — and manages to steal enough to get his better half’s debts to our monstrous medical system settled, but he’s got some problems in the form of the local Irish mob, who are of the collective opinion that he ripped them off before his disappearance about 20 years ago, and his own conscience, which compels him to begin playing “Robin Hood” for other broke hospital patients.
Duggan’s a fun writer whose more comedic take on Marvel’s popular Deadpool character served as a blueprint for the irreverent tone the Ryan Reynolds films took, and McCrea’s a veteran British artist probably best known for his 1990s team-ups with Garth Ennis (they co-created DC’s Hitman character), so we’re in solid, veteran storytelling hands here and both creators do their jobs well — the scripts are funny, fast-paced and topical with strong characterization and a Tarantino-esque vibe, and the art is just gritty and grimy enough to make it feel like a legit crime book, but with a touch of light-hearted personality and old-school professionalism that emphasizes clear storytelling over flash or style, although that doesn’t preclude McCrea from doing some interesting, cinematic stuff in terms of POV angles and overall page layouts, and rounding out the team is colorist Mike Spicer, who follows the lead of his cohorts by selecting hues that that emphasize mood and tone rather than taking over the panels by being deliberately idiosyncratic or attention-seeking. The finished product, then, looks as good as it reads.
Which I’m thinking kinda makes this comic sound more boring than it is, but really nothing could be further from the truth. This is actually a damn exciting series so far (we’re four issues in, six if you count the truncated original run), and there’s a lot of humor and heart to go with the tension, so if you like a serious crime yarn that doesn’t take itself too seriously, you’ve come to the right place. And while “woke” comics get a bad rap in certain quarters — none of whom are worth paying attention to, but still — this book is predicated upon a situation that even the most delusional right-wing asshat would have to admit is totally true, namely : American families are losing it all because our health care sucks and is too goddamn expensive.
And speaking of health care crises, COVID-19 knocked this title way off schedule just like it did everything else, but I sure hope it’ll be back before too long. Duggan and McCrea left off the first arc at a pretty interesting spot, with the cops getting in on the hunt for our hero, so I hope the second arc won’t take too terribly long to hit LCS shelves. I’ve got my fingers crossed here.
Then again, I probably needn’t worry — this is a comic that was dead and buried once already, but seems to be as unwilling to “get out of the game” as its protagonist. Thank goodness for that.
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