From MAJK’s Coffee Corner:
Crackdown #2 dropped, and I grabbed a copy right away. As I said before, this story is cyberpunk on steroids, and I am all in for that. Unfortunately, this issue felt like it was as much a set-up issue as Crackdown #1. Unless there is a plan for this series to continue beyond the four issues that are currently advertised I am a tad worried that we won’t get as much depth in the story as we could. That’s probably my biggest complaint with most miniseries that tackled big stories, too little time to develop the level of story they imply.
I’m not writing Crackdown off, because the final pages of Crackdown #2 give us a hint at what is happening. Despite the lackluster reception of Crackdown 3 (the game), I’m still here for the comic. There’s definite promise in the premise, and the near future techno-reliant world Crackdown is set in hasn’t had a solid comic series in recent years. I’m crossing my fingers and pulling the next issue.
Spoiler Warning: If you have not read Crackdown #1 or #2 There May Be Spoilers Below
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Writer & Letterer: Jonathan Goff
Cover and Interior Art: Ricardo Jaime Colors: Natalia Marques
The Story So Far:
Crackdown #1 tossed us in the passenger seat of an Agency Attack Transport where we met an elite international crime-fighting task force belonging to the mysterious Agency. If you’ve played the games, then you know that the Agency is an organization that has used advanced surgical, and chemical biotechnology to create super soldiers. These super soldiers are known as ‘Agents.’ Agents pack top-of-the-line tech both internally and externally that gives them everything from pinpoint accuracy to the kind of brute strength usually seen only in giant angry green dudes. They are also empowered beyond local law enforcement. Based on what we see in Crackdown #2, it’s safe to assume their authority is greater than the FBI, CIA, & KGB combined.
Mid-way through what should have been a routine takedown of a gang holding civilian hostages, the power went out — not just the power to the building but all power, to everything. The Agents’ biotech and weapons are offline, they have no communications, and we closed that issue with a highly skilled team of men and women, trapped on the roof of a building looking out over a megalopolis that has just had its plug pulled.
Crackdown #2 Cover
The cover art of Crackdown #2 is better than the cover art for Crackdown #1 in my opinion. Keep in mind that the cover for Crackdown #1 was the sole reason I snagged that issue in the first place. Jaime gives us a city on fire, and our Agents facing down a world in chaos. The rioters and thugs are positioned well, with the Agents standing tall, and heroic amid a vicious crowd, backed by flames and smoke that threaten to engulf the city skyline towering in the background. Jaime’s use of contrast here works to great effect. Again, we see the clean lines, and slick style that speaks to the type of story Crackdown is looking to tell. I’m pleased to see the women in human poses. Neither is pulling any of the notorious female superhero poses that have them twisting themselves into bizarre positions that we rarely if ever see from male superheroes. Both Roll and Boomer are in strong action poses, so I want to give Jaime props for that as well.
City at War
Crackdown #2 picks up right where Crackdown #1 left us, looking out over a city in darkness. The darkness has now exploded, and the city is no longer dark. It’s blazing with fire, anger, and hate. The Agents witness the chaos and violence and realize they are alone, weaponless, and without reinforcements.
The Agents pop the crates they liberated from the gang members in the previous issue and discover outdated weaponry designed to operate in a power-deprived environment. Someone’s been planning this. Roll and her team assess the situation, and brief the civilians they’ve rescued on what is happening. After which they head out into the city. Their goal – save as many civilians as possible, drop thugs and gang members inflaming the chaos, and restore order bit by bit to San Reno.
Narration, Narration, Narration.
Part of why Crackdown #2 feels like another issue of story set up is the heavy narration throughout the book. Rollins’ narration goes from an atmosphere setting device to an annoying info dump that detracts from the overall story. My first guess is that with so few issues and such a big story to tell, Goff opted to try to build the story via Roll’s internal dialogue rather than using the standard “show don’t tell” writer’s rule. The other option that would explain such heavy use of narration is the more obvious – video game adaptation.
While I have never played Crackdown, I’ve played plenty of video games and narrative exposition is a fact of gaming. Even heavy-hitter franchises like Final Fantasy rely heavily on narration to tell the story as you progress through the game. If you consider that Crackdown’s target audience is its gamer fan base, then this level of narration becomes more of a style choice than a storytelling flaw. So, while for me this is a detractor, it might not be for Crackdown’s core audience.
Crackdown #2 Art & Writing
Goff doesn’t do a bad job in terms of storytelling, but Crackdown #2 makes it clear that this series targets a more action-oriented audience than your average comic fan. That’s saying something when you consider that action, conflict, and personal drama are the comic industry’s stock-in-trade. From what I can discern, Crackdown 3 (the game for which this comic is pitched as a companion) is an FPS that relies more on action than story. Polygon describes it as “a playpen of combat and destruction that sets itself up as a liberating journey into a barbarous fantasy of wanton mayhem.” Keeping that in mind, many of what I would consider storytelling flaws are forgivable.
One of those flaws is the inherent lack of humanity in our heroes. I’ve had multiple people mention that the Agents seem to lack the depth of character, or human emotions like worry, fear, or compassion. I am not sure I can fault Goff for that. When you consider that the Agents are battle-hardened elite level super soldiers who’ve endured multiple surgical and chemical trials, given that premise for your main characters, I’d say Goff’s characterizations fit the premise.
Goff gives us a chance to see the Agents interacting with local law enforcement. We get to see how the team functions under duress both as a complete unit and split into two groups. While Roll and Snipes head out to look for Bruiser and the Xero-Lux, Boomer and Rook work their way to the local police station and arrive just in time to prevent mass tragedy. Goff lets us see the way the rage, and despair over classism and inequality lit the flames of rebellion and revolution. U.S. politicians, take note.
Jaime’s art and Marques colors make this comic. The visuals are striking. The first two-page splash showing a darkened San Reno ablaze drive home the level of chaos the Agents are facing. Jaime’s line art detail is so good you can read emotions like fear and resolve on the faces of background characters. Marques’ choice of cool blues and blacks for inside the makeshift safe house contrasts well with the red and orange tones she uses to define the chaos in the streets.
The art overall is splendid in Crackdown #2. I have only a couple of complaints. The odd stance of the women on pages three and four irritates me. They look like they are sticking their butts out and have their legs bowed in an odd stance for people standing on a roof looking down at hell on earth. This is odd when you consider that a few pages later there’s an excellent full-page splash of the team inside the “safe house” where the women take on solid strength poses that speak power and confidence. This second team picture (page eleven) is easily my favorite of both books.
Another minor art complaint I have is Boomer’s firing position in the lower half of page fourteen. Boomer looks like the butt of her rifle is resting either in the crook of her elbow or against her bicep rather than resting properly against her shoulder. Maybe she’s unfamiliar with these old school weapons, but all I can think is “yikes, that’s going to hurt like hell.”
Crackdown #2 Is a Fan Comic
Crackdown #2 is, in my opinion, a comic that targets the fans of the video game more so than a comic for your average comic fan. That is not to say that comic fans won’t enjoy it. They might. I, personally, am still going to grab Crackdown #3 to see what the heck that cliffhanger ending (that I am totally not spoiling for readers) is all about. However, this is not a comic that you will understand very well without some understanding of the Crackdown 3 game or at least some exposure to the Crackdown franchise.