By Andy Frisk
May 9, 2010 - 16:26
Writer(s): Jeff Mariotte
Penciller(s): Francesco Francavilla
Inker(s): Francesco Francavilla
Colourist(s): Jeremy Shepherd
Letterer(s): Johnny Lowe
In the near future, The United States is “the most surveilled nation in the history of the world.” Cameras are everywhere and “major crime, terrorism, even vandalism” have been wiped out. The HIA (Homeland Intelligence Agency) and NBS (National Bureau of Surveillance) observe everything. So why can’t they find a man wearing jeans, a t-shirt and vest, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat, who sports a winding snake tattoo that runs up one arm and down the other, and has killed at least 150 people? He shows up on camera, murders dozens at a time (including a whole town) then disappears. When NBS Agent Jillian Bracewell and HIA Agent Bob Walker, who are cooperating on the mystery man’s case, run into him directly outside an NBS office, only one of them survives to learn the man’s name…Later on, when Garrison is about to kill again and decides not to, even though his intended victim “deserves to die,” Garrison can’t explain why because he’s just “not self-reflective enough to tell you…”
Writer Jeff Mariotte (the author of several Angel novels and comics as well as Graveslinger for Image) kick starts his new project, Garrison, with enough mystery, murder, and mayhem to stump even the most seasoned reader and leave them dying for more. Who is Garrison? What are his motivations? How does he rack up an astounding body count while avoiding being tracked and captured in “the most surveilled nation in the history of the world?” Do the people he kills really “deserve to die?” (The one intended victim that we witness him spare is guilty of being a totally self absorbed Wall Street type jerk-perhaps herein lies a clue to Garrison’s motivations?) How does he know the things he knows? Agent Bracewell points out that he knows more than he possibly could or should about her, her co-agency partner, and their agencies’ techniques, but wonders nevertheless if Garrison is right in his assumptions about her partner. Finally, what’s this “not self-reflective enough to tell you” business about that Garrison states in relation to himself twice in the course of issue #1?
The questions don’t end with the specifics of the plot. The story’s message and theme is elusive at this point as well. It’s set in the near future where apparent “Big Brother” (in the Orwellian sense) type surveillance is everywhere, but not (at least not yet) presented as evil oppression. Garrison is definitely a seemingly super or meta natural killer, but may or may not be justified in his motivations. So is Garrison going to be a political thriller full of commentary? Maybe. A lone wolf/righter or wrongs, type of tale? Again, maybe. Or is this mini-series simply going to be that rare type of series that’s going to call for a great deal of reader comprehension, investment, and input? Definitely. Either way the series’ theme and direction pans out, it’s going to be worth waiting for each month, and then advancing to the top of the reading stack.
Just about the only thing that we as readers are sure of at this point (beyond Mariotte’s ability to hook a reader quickly and easily) is Francesco Francavilla’s (Zorro) artistic ability. His slightly rough edged pencil and ink work creates a rugged, five o’clock shadow atmosphere that is fitting to the tale of a cowboy/lone wolf type brawler/killer. The same rough edged approach works extremely well in his shots of the NBS surveillance room where Agents Bracewell and Walker review footage of Garrison’s latest rampage. The sketchy roughness of his pencil work lends itself to the creation of dimly lit atmospheres as well with its slightly unfinished look that gives the impression of low lighting. Add Jeremy Shepherd’s superb coloring, and Garrison bounces back and forth between bright explosions and dim, computer and surveillance screen lit rooms effortlessly and strikingly.
Overall, Garrison is the perfect example of DC Comics’ penchant for cutting edge, offbeat, and interestingly literary comics. We usually see this type of offering from DC Comics’ Vertigo line, but books like Garrison and the recently collected Winter Men, are definitely turning heads towards and building upon DC Comics’ Wildstorm imprint’s reputation for high quality and engaging work.
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