Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blast From the Past: Danger Girl The Ultimate Collection

Writer: J. Scott Campbell & Andy Hartnell
Artist: J. Scott Campbell
Company: Wildstorm Productions

With some time to spare over the last few nights, I began to prowl my bookshelves in search of something that caught my interests.  I wanted something fun and action oriented, something that had style and panache.  Danger Girl called my name.  I remember this collection was actually one of the first really expensive graphic novels that I bought as a teen.  It was thirty bucks, a rather considerable amount of cash, but when I flipped through the pages at the bookstore, saw the art inside, and that there was a bookmark built into the book (yeah, that was somehow a selling point), I just had to have it and happily handed over my money.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but the hardcover format really spoke to me and pretty
much sealed my love for that particular format for life.  When I did finally get home and was able to read it, Danger Girl blew me away.  The good news is that, despite a few dated moments and cringe worthy puns, the story still holds up after all of these years.

The story itself is not a highfalutin or overly complex affair.  Danger Girl is very pop in its presentation.  J. Scott (Gen 13) Campbell and Andy (Army of Darkness: Ashes to Ashes) Hartnell's series is almost a parody of things like G.I. Joe, Charlie's Angels, and the Bond Girls from James Bond.  It's a smart parody though, one that tells a fun tale of cheesy one-liners and blaring, turned up to eleven action sequences.  It focuses on one Abbey Chase, essentially a female Indiana Jones that uses a silenced pistol rather than a whip, who after a series of events gets drawn into a mega conspiracy that deals with ancient Atlantean relics and of course, the mother of all villains, the Nazis.  In the first issue, our introduction to the character is a sequence that has her already captured by Donavin Conrad, a one eyed villain and buffoon, who talks with a golden skull like it's his best and only friend.  The odd mixture of humor and character bits is a great way to lull the reader in and while most of the cast are a bit one dimensional or at the least one note, there are things here that elude to a rivalry and a past history between these two characters.  The back and forth though is spot-on, there are some really funny and quotable lines, and of course it leads into a mega-chase that is the perfect vehicle for Campbell's artwork.

After Chase makes short work of Conrad, she is introduced to the cast and characters of Danger Girl, specifically Deuce, Silicon Valerie (Tech Specialist and teenager), Natalia Kassle (Russian Knife Specialist), and Sydney Savage (Australian Whip Specialist) . I always found the Charlie of the team, Deuce, had a rather unfortunate name.  The rest of the characters are fairly slick and seeing how they operate together proves to be fun.  Still, this book is a focus on Abbey and tells a very simple fish out of water tale.  Abbey feels she is the odd one out of the group, and even though we've seen her jump over alligators and shoot it out with bad guys, things that the other members of the Danger Girl team don't even do to the extent she does, she doesn't think she fits in with this merry band of misfits.  That doesn't stop her from going on several missions to root out the backstory on why a group called The Hammer Empire is rooting around looking for lost treasures of an ancient culture.  It's in these missions that we also get to know the Hammer Empire too.  Though it's also where it's fairly noticeable that Hammer is just a stand in for Cobra from G.I. Joe.  Major Maxim is the more original of the group as a one man killing machine.  After that however, we've got the Hammer troops which look like Vipers, there's a stand in for the brothers Tomax and Xamot, Dr. Kripplor is Dr. Mindbender, and there's even Assassin X, the Storm Shadow of Hammer.  It's strange and slightly distracting, but that aside, they prove to be a good opponent for our Danger Girls.

Forgetting about the parody for a moment, J. Scott Campbell's artwork may be the biggest draw of all for Danger Girl.  He certainly knows how to draw the sexy, as he continually proves through various machinations throughout the book, mostly involving Abbey having to seduce or dress up in a certain way to get information.  Campbell just doesn't draw sexy pin ups that feel static though, his characters are full of life and feel very organic.  They move on the page, which is extremely nice.  He also knows a thing or two about staging and executing action.  His panel layouts add to that, be they skewed to provide a more edgy shot or simply a traditional grid.  The numerous chase scenes are huge standouts for me.  Campbell proves that he not only can draw characters, but he doesn't disregard the backgrounds nor the props.  He knows how to draw believable swords, guns, explosives, and more importantly, vehicles.  Sure, there's a stylization to all of it, but each item is grounded and is instantly recognizable, which is something that some artists have a real problem with.  It's a pet peeve of mine, especially with military or action based comics, but it adds so much to the proceedings and Campbell get's it right in Danger Girl.

All in all, if you haven't read this series, you're missing out.  The story moves at a hundred miles an hour and has more twists and turns than a hedge maze.  It speaks to the action junkie and the art junkie alike, providing solid entertainment and a good versus evil fight.  If I could change one thing, I might drop the James Bond character of Johnny Barracuda, only because his incessant one-liners are a bit too cheesy.  Still, I heartily recommend Danger Girl.  It's a hell of a lot of fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment