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Trading Up: Dancer

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Bullets and ballet. Dancing and danger. That’s what Dancer by writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Nic Klein is all about. Actually, there’s not that much dancing in this collection of the recent 5-issue mini-series from Image Comics, but there is a lot of danger.

Edmondson (The Activity, and next year’s Splinter Cell: Echoes video game tie-in comic) has launched an impressive career weaving original stories with Dancer as his most streamlined book to date. Not simple, but streamlined. Within these 132 pages is a compact and approachable tale that will make fans of ‘70s crime cinema feel at ease.

It focuses on soon to be retired Irish ballerina Quinn and her older boyfriend, American Alan Fisher. The pair are enjoying a night out in Italy after Quinn’s rehearsal, when mysterious men begin chasing them. Quinn is terrified, but Alan is calm and in charge. Soon, he reveals the truth of his past to her, and it’s that past that sets the thrilling sequence of events in to murderous motion, including the appearance of an old friend, and a very familiar enemy.

The reason for Alan’s hunter coming in to his life could be an unwelcome detour to sci-fi shenanigans, but the explanation is almost a throwaway line, and Edmondson does well to focus on the action of the older man versus younger man without venturing into awkward genre skipping territory. Alan must combat the skills and speed of a man half his age, while suffering from a heart condition, but he also possesses greater wisdom and experience. This cat and mouse play is a joy to read and makes Alan an underdog that anyone will cheer for, especially when Quinn is kidnapped and taken to Germany in a sequence that sees Alan examine his loyalty to love and also the loyalty of those around him.

Klein’s (Viking) art is somewhat reminiscent of John Paul Leon, in that it is a realistic approach, but with loose linework. Benday dots, silent panels and detailed architecture make it seem like a hard boiled cinematic caper from the 70s, and is structurally similar to how Tonci Zonjic crafted a world with a limited colour palette in Edmondson’s excellent Who Is Jake Ellis? series. There’s enough breathing room in Edmondson’s script for Klein to unveil a beautiful page of silent action every now and then, which adds a layer of drama to the taut tale. The pages here really are diverse and restrained like an indie film, but impressively bombastic like a Hollywood actioner when they need to be.

Dancer collects the mini-series, as well as a cover gallery and character designs. It’s a full colour Trade Paperback from Image Comics, and is available now for $15.99.

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