I just finished Officer Downe, and I may need to go take a shower. It is nothing short of visceral, in-your-face, gonzo violence, and I loved every panel. It’s as if Robocop, Maniac Cop, Johnny Mnemonic, Riki-oh, and Judge Dredd were thrown into a blender and poured into a glass made out of regular old L.A., but there are hints of Mad Max and Blade Runner in there. The villains are crazy, over-the-top caricatures capable of cartoon “takes”. The hero is an indestructable juggernaut that dispenses street justice on a level that is not unlike putting out a match with a firehose. Like Blain wielding Ol’ Painless in Predator. It’s just ridiculous overkill, although some baddies demand it. Time to put on your plastic poncho like you’re sitting front row at a Gallagher special, we gotta get going here.
Officer Downe is the city’s top cop. He’s a fully organic Robocop/T-800. He can get shot, eviscerated, blown up and burned. But who cares? The precinct can rebuild him. The police department views every criminal as a nail and Officer Downe is their hammer. He scours the highways on his motorcycle (replete with sound system, which blasts Enter Sandman or Master of Puppets, I assume) seeking out criminals and using his “favorite piece of correctional equipment… NO SPOILERS!” I think that’s about it. Not much plot in the comic really. The new trade paperback I just read (2017) has some great excerpts from the writer, Joe Casey, in the back and he is quite up front about the fact that it has very little plot and that the whole thing is really just a fun grindhouse style goof. It’s a one-shot “indulging in a silly concept executed with over-the-top creative abandon.”
But what about the illustrations?!
The art by Chris Burnham is amazing here. I remember the first time I saw his style. It was his cover for Nameless #1. I just caught a glimpse of it in passing and thought, “Wait, is Frank Quietly doing a horror comic?”. I doubled back and picked it up and discovered it was Burnham. I opened Nameless up and was blown away Burnham’s ability to draw horrifying gore. I am a huge horror fan and grew up watching Hellraiser, Dead Alive, or just any horror/action movie I could get my teen hands on.
Anyways, I snagged Nameless and was immediately hooked by Chris’ style. His attention to detail is amazing and every panel feels gritty and imperfect, which is perfect. Things that are new are shiny and smooth, lab walls are flat except for shading. Things that are damaged or old have an excellent aged look, with little imperfections.
The same applies to people. From further away, people look like you would expect in a comic, a little flatter. But when the panel calls for a close-up, all the details are there. Craggy faces, crow’s feet, stray eyebrow hairs, freckles and pockmarks. The same applies to inanimate objects. Officer Downe is shown grabbing a car door handle and the car is immaculate and in amazing shape. The next panel shows the car door, torn off, flying through the air and the frame is all twisted metal, broken glass and bolts spraying everywhere. There are few other comic artists who can draw death and destruction as well as Burnham. I also really dig Chris’ anatomy and ability to draw perspective so well. Sure, he can draw a body being destroyed in amazing detail, but he can also draw hands, eyes, feet, and knees amazingly well. The way he can draw cloth bending around joints is phenomenal. It’s really a joy to drag your eyes over each page.
Words by Joe Casey are next up.
Aaaaand, not much going on here? I mean, the whole thing is really for fun, so it’s not necessary for a three act plot. If you go into this book expecting deep characters and exposition, you will be QUITE disappointed. But again, that’s not the point here. I personally like the book. It’s comfort food for the brain, like eating that carton of ice cream. Sure there is plenty of commentary and irony. It’s taking society and turning it up to 11 to make the worst things easy to see. Police brutality, society’s apathy, economic class disparity and more are all depicted, but in a very Tex Avery way. A SUPER violent, insane Tex Avery way. I feel that in terms of impact, it’s mission achieved.
The overall book is a great package too. There are LOADS of extras in the back! Everything from a couple essays from Casey to film production pics. They even threw in the original script for the movie, which was great. Casey explains it’s not the version they shot, cause it’s a script he wrote when he assumed the movie would never get made. That means he wrote it with a complete disregard to budget and time constraints. If you want to see what ludicrous movie ideas a guy can come up with when he has no concerns for actual production constraints, this may be your unicorn. I was actually quite saddened to see that Burnham was missing entirely from the extras. It would have been REALLY cool to read his commentary on drawing the comic.
This was exactly what I expected and the overall execution was cool. It is NOT for everyone.
For people who like: Robocop, Terminator, those old violent Looney Toons, Bobby & Billy skits from Liquid Television(!!!), Happy Tree Friends, Evil Dead (for those one-liners)