23 Apr 2008

Graphic Perception: NIXON'S PALS

Review by Matt C

Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Chris Burnham
Image $12.99

Although Joe Casey has written many entertaining stories for some of the Big Two’s more recognisable properties, I think most people would agree that his best, most compelling work comes either in the form of his own creations (Godland, The Intimates) or when he's allowed free reign on an established title (Wildcats). It's through these books that he truly comes into his own and it's where he's been responsible for some of the most original, sharp and downright fun comics released since the turn of the decade.

Which is a long-winded of way of saying I'm a big fan.

Nixon's Pals, his latest release from Image, is an original graphic novel focusing on Nixon Cooper, a parole officer in LA who specializes in keeping tabs on super-powered criminals freshly released from stir. It’s great premise, ripe with potential, and you can see it working as an offbeat ongoing series. Casey has decided against the long-term approach though, presenting us instead with a single, self-contained story, and I’m kind of glad he’s chosen this option because it means there’s no chance of the concept outstaying its welcome. What you get is a concise, punchy read that says what it needs to say and moves on. And I like that.

Nixon himself is a fairly familiar archetype: a guy working in law enforcement (in this case, trying to keep crooks out of jail rather than put them in there) who throws himself into his rather dangerous profession at the expense of his home life, and has a tendency to get a little too involved with the people he’s dealing with. He’s a thoroughly believable character, and this is important, because it gives the reader a relatable anchor inside a world populated by men with radioactive superpowers and women with talking breasts (!). Casey provides his protagonist with a fascinating supporting cast of messed up citizens, and it gives him the opportunity to remind us what a witty and intelligent writer he is, especially when it comes to creating characters that live and breath on the page.

Joining Casey is an artist I wasn’t familiar with before, but who has now firmly placed himself on my radar. Chris Burnham’s style is brutal, exciting and full of electrifying detail, expertly gelling together Nixon’s hardboiled resilience with the fantastical individuals he surrounds himself with.

Nixon’s Pals takes you on a thrilling ride through the colourful, meta-human infested criminal underworld of an alternate LA, a restless, inventive book that browbeats you with its brilliance from the opening page and doesn’t let up until it reaches its conclusion. 8/10

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