Saturday, November 24, 2012

Point Blank Trade Paperback Review

Point Blank
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
128 pages
$14.95 (2003)
$14.99 (2009)
ISBN 9781401201166

Contributors: Ed Brubaker, Colin Wilson, Simon Bisley, Janet Gale, and Comicraft

Reprints: Point Blank #1-5 (of 5)

Synopsis: Cole Cash is not a superhero.  He would rather drown his sorrows at the local pub than put on his mask and save innocent bystanders.  He was part of an elite covert ops squad called Team 7 which was subjected to an experimental process to create 'super-soldiers' for the United States government.  The experiment was partially successful as the members of Team 7 exhibit a myriad of enhanced psychic abilities.  The abilities are not consistent and often unreliable.  Cole himself shows no overt special abilities aside from a nasty drunk and the ability to offend people just by existing.  He shacked up with an alien assassin princess named Zealot who trained him to be a super-ninja, but she hates his guts too.  At some point he was part of a group of half-alien superheroes calling themselves the Wildcats waging a secret war against some other aliens.  It got old and he quit.
Lynch and Cole kick ass and take names

Now he's a professional barfly and the last few weeks have been a bit hazy.  His old buddies from Team 7 are either dead or government spooks.  His old commanding officer, Jack Lynch, was head of the dirtiest spookshow in town - International Operations.  I/O has been shut down, but Lynch is still tying up some loose ends.  He needs Cole's help to find someone, but Cole can't seem to remember their clandestine meetings.  His memory seems to be acting up and it could be the constant drinking.

Lynch is supposed to meet up with Cole one night, but never shows.  Cole leaves the bar they regularly meet at and discovers a crime scene.  Lynch has been shot in the head and is barely clinging to life.  The shooting sets Cole (aka the Grifter) on a rampaging mission to find the people responsible.  As Cole digs deeper into the case he starts to get conflicting information.  Did Lynch show up for their meeting after all?  Why can't he remember?  It seems like Cole is missing something and he goes to find Lynch's #1 adversary - Tao!  He's a genetically enhanced strategist and incredibly dangerous supervillain.  What hope does Cole and his whiskey-soaked brain have against the likes of Tao to solve the case?  
Cole kicks ass on his own

Pros: Excellent writing by Brubaker, perfectly redefined the superhero Wildstorm characters into a crime noir/spy fiction setting, gritty art by Wilson, the story is awesome - mature themes of sex, swearing, booze, and attempted murder, wicked ending, prequel to classic series Sleeper

Cons: Bisley covers feel a bit out of place, intentionally confusing, not a lot of backstory given for the characters (like how Lynch is the mentor to the Gen13 team, who is Savant, etc)

Mike Tells It Straight: In Point Blank Ed Brubaker overlays spy fiction and crime noir onto a corner of the Wildstorm universe populated by superheroes.  He writes a compelling mystery and really makes the most out of the history of Grifter (Cole Cash), Lynch, Tao, and Backlash (Marc Slayton).  These characters are better known for superhero brawls than character-driven stories.  It's an impressive feat and really revitalized the characters for me.

Cover to 2009 edition
The book is targeted at mature audiences due to the swearing, sexual themes, and violence.  These elements brought an appropriate atmosphere and contrast to the usual supervillain bashing.  None of the heroes or villains wear costumes and the story is supposed to read easily whether you know all of the characters or not.  I think it helps to know their backstory to fully appreciate the story.

Point Blank is the prequel to another series by Brubaker called Sleeper which goes on to explore what Lynch was investigating before getting shot in the head.  Sleeper builds from this story and is a true masterpiece of superhero spy fiction.  Brubaker really delivers a best-in-class genre mash-up story.  I give this title the highest recommendation along with Sleeper.  It's a much-needed change of pace.

TO BUY and Recommendations: