Let's Boogie; Catch You On the Flip Side: Quarry's War #1 (Titan) Review
Quarry’s War #1
Written by: Max Allan Collins
Artwork by: Szymon Kudranski
Colors by: Guy Major
I don’t know Quarry, this comic’s titular character, from Adam, but apparently he’s been around for awhile. Written in a style that feels very akin to pulp novels that I was exposed to in the late 70s, and continued to encounter via used book buys from Goodwill and the Salvation Army into my teens, the book has a very familiar feel for me. Younger readers may feel similarities to Max Payne, Payback, and other tales of similar ilk. That familiarity is what pulls this title up for me; without it I am not certain that issue #1 hooks new readers enough to stay along for the ride.
This style of comic is wonderful to see, but it suffers a bit in today’s landscape because the only people likely to check it out are genre-fans that are already predisposed to enjoy this kind of material in comic book form. And so maybe it’s a bit unfair to expect higher pace and impact; it’s risky to make a book like this a slow burn. In issue #1, we get a split flashback style of storytelling that informs both on Quarry’s present yarn, as well as parts of his history from Vietnam. We get exposed to Quarry’s challenges as a USMC sniper, an existence where he his a horror for the enemy forces, and equally disdained by his own USMC peers. In war, no one likes snipers, enemy or friendly. These flashback scenes are inter-cut with the present, where Quarry works for an anonymous entity known as the Broker. He receives a contract to take out a Mob boss, has a one-night stand en route, and has his hit disrupted by unscheduled events.
In this first issue, we are immediately instructed in a course on the dissociation man makes for himself from the evil he does. Quarry is one of those classic underworld characters who seems like an upstanding, squared-up kind of guy who just occasionally kills people for a living. You know, the kind of guy where you may not approve of what he does for work, but don’t mind having over for a backyard barbecue on a Saturday. The flashback scenes are done excellently; they are paced to be just quick enough so that you do not get bored with the present-day timeline, but they are not so quick that the pace feels herky-jerky. What is best overall about the writing, is that this book feels perfectly anachronistic and true to the times. Colloquialisms that were in use in the 70’s are applied here perfectly, and there are quite a few that some readers will struggle with because they are not in even sarcastic throwback use today. If you’ve ever read Peter Benchley or other writers of the era, this book, written in 2017, will feel like it came straight through a time portal from the early 70’s with no layover.
Art is well done, while it may not stand out. What is a bit above the norm are Guy Major’s colors. With a sepia tone applied to the flashback scenes in Vietnam, it feels like watching an episode of Magnum PI, with the way that they would sometimes do the ‘Nam flashbacks; not with the color, but just in terms of the different tone the show would take on. Without real-world actors to convey that type of contrast, Major does it with color here and it works oh so well. The stark difference between the concrete background of 1970s America with the jungle terrain of 1960s Vietnam communicates the notion of soldiers deployed far and away from what would have been normal life for them. There are a couple of weird panels, one where Quarry is flashing back to his school days when he was a swimmer, and he and another swimmer are about to jump into the water; it just looks off and not the depiction you would conceive in your minds eye. But that may have just been a one-off that Kudranski struggled with. Other typical artist challenges are handled fine, like the cars and the dog. And as I mentioned, the detailed foliage work in the Vietnam scenes, and even in the present-day suburb scenes, are excellent.
Score: 6.5 / 10
Quarry’s War #1 is definitely an acquired taste. But if any reader has the slightest inkling of interest in this kind of genre-book, they won’t be disappointed. If you are looking to flash back to times in your own childhood, or feel like taking a dip back into 80s-style content, which also heavily messaged Vietnam and post-Vietnam societal dynamics, this is for you. And let me say that while I am a bit lukewarm on the opening chapter because not a lot happens, I would be very excited for the follow-up. It’s a solid setup in a classic genre, and I feel confident that this one is going places. I am not certain that I am staying on it personally; we’ll see how the rest of my stack goes. I’m just getting back into weekly ongoings and I have yet to feel out what I’m in the mood for over the next three months or so. But if I were into my classic crime-book phase, as I have often been, this one would definitely be on my radar.