- Words: Ben McCool
- Art: Ben Templesmith
- Story Title: Pain
- Publisher: Image Comics
- Price: $3.99
- Release Date: Feb 24, 2010
Posted by Steven Surman on Feb 18, 2010
The first issue of Image Comics’ Choker relies completely on its monotone atmospherics without introducing any original substance or characters to give the book a strong charge of excitement or meaning. The imagery is heavy; the mood is bleak without any glimmer of hope; and the characters are boilerplate in their weathered and miserable crime noir roles. There’s nothing and no one to root for, no light at the end of the tunnel, not even the flicker of a candle. It’s just depressing.
Within the first few pages of Choker #1, we’re introduced to private investigator Johnny Jackson and his sniveling assistant Seaton Price. They’re holed up in their office located in Shotgun City, the lovechild of Frank Miller’s Gotham City and Basin City. Jackson doesn’t like his job much and drinks far more than he should in order to dull the monotony of exploring the bleak bowels of his urban home’s underbelly, all to cash a paycheck.
But despite Jackson’s glum persona, his skills are required by Milton Ellis, Shotgun City’s police chief, who is willing to reinstate Jackson back into his original career as an officer if he first hunts down an infamous criminal that he’s put behind bars in the past. It’s a deal Jackson can’t resist, but he feels like he’s selling himself to a devil. Perhaps he is—the last few pages employ a cheap and unnecessary use of the supernatural that caused me to chuckle instead of feeling excitement.
I’m not familiar with writer Ben McCool, but I do know of artist Ben Templesmith from 30 Days of Night and Fell fame, though it’s by reputation only. I’ve not read either book, or anything else he’s worked on. It’s unfortunate, because Choker is a book that I want to like more than I actually do. It’s a story I’ve read time and again in all of the other hardboiled comics on the market.
The predictability of the morose story and the crestfallen characters wandering around within it is only enflamed by Templesmith’s life-consuming art. His characters are squat and purposefully unappealing in their appearance, I’m guessing to bolster the story’s harsh tone. This is combined with a color scheme that is so oppressive it looks physically ill.
Perhaps this is the mood the creators wanted. And I won’t be surprised if their current base of fans appreciates this book for its signature look and atmosphere. But I doubt it will lure in new readers. Comic books should be fun and engaging, an experience worth taking. But Choker can be skipped over instead for the book it wants to be: Sin City.
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