Story by Robert Kirkman
Written by James Asmus
Art by Shawn Martinborough
Colours by Felix Serrano
Letters by Rus Wooton
Published by Image
The good news is Redmond got away with it. The bad news is everyone knows Redmond got away with it, they just can’t prove it. The even worse news is that Augustus, Redmond’s catastrophically bad small time criminal of a son is in trouble. Again. Even worse, his girlfriend has been kidnapped by a group of very unpleasant drug dealers who want the money he owes them back. Now, Redmond must work out how to help a son who doesn’t want helping, Augustus must work out how to save his girlfriend and all the while, Special Agent Cohen is just waiting…
This is one of my two favourite Image series right now, tying with The Manhattan Projects. The structure is incredibly simple; each arc is an ‘episode’ in a TV season written by someone different, all working from Kirkman’s story but it means the book feels fresh every single time a new arc begins. The first run (Collected in I Quit which I’d also recommend highly) is a mostly light hearted, Ocean’s Eleven sort of affair but this one goes into much darker territory. There’s a hint of Elmore Leonard to the constantly surprising characters and turns, and Asmus is unafraid to show us Redmond the epic screw up as well as Redmond the suave Clooney-a-like. His relationship with Augustus in particular is poisonous from an early age, if for very good reasons, and Asmus and Kirkman are both too clever to let that dilute as the story continues. Instead, you have a brilliant professional criminal locked into an impossible situation with a hopefully professional criminal who idolises him so much he can barely think, and hates him so much he can barely see straight.
On the plus side, Redmond’s protégé Celia seems to be having fun.
This high pressure situation is used not only to drive the action but also to set up the action for future arcs. Redmond has a disastrous meeting with Arno, the sponsor of a job he’s refusing to do and Agent Cohen is always just around the corner. He may be a master thief but he’s dancing in a very small circle and the odds are good that he’ll get tired long before Cohen or Arno do. As this volume finishes that’s not even the worst of his problems, Asmus rolling out a genuinely chilling finish that sets up volume three. Redmond may not use guns and likes minimal violence but the people around him have no such compunctions and volume 3 looks set to get very messy indeed.
Redmond may be in trouble but its fantastically entertaining to read, Asmus showing a real snap and bounce to his dialogue and doing a lot to show us different sides to Augustus especially. Redmond’s son is a disaster, a man whose ego and family name keep writing cheques he can’t see, let alone cash, but he’s scrappy with it. There’s a decent man buried under the attitude and rage and whilst we see it, Redmond doesn’t. Asmus revels in having his characters make bad choices based on the information they have and their final scenes in this volume are intense psychologically as well as physically. Whilst the rest of the regular cast, Celia and Cohen aside, take a bit of a back seat, Asmus also gives us a surprisingly nuanced set of Cartel troops. He clearly delights in upending the stereotype surrounding them and their scenes are surprisingly civilised and calm right up until the point where they’re not. It’s here too that Martinborough excels, the sun drenched hotel room Emma is held hostage in both luxurious and sparse and, as she finds out, previously occupied. His character work, effectively dealing with two versions of the Redmond boys as well as the assorted supporting cast, is exemplary and always driven by expression and physical presence and this is a book that feels weighty and real thanks largely to Martinborough’s skill with character.
Rounded out by Serrano’s rich, deep colours (There’s a panel towards the end in a hotel corridor I almost want to blow up and frame the light is so perfect) and Wooton’s precision lettering this is a second strong entry in one of the best series on the market. Buy it, and be ready to buy the single issues that follow it. Trust me you won’t want to wait.