ADVANCED REVIEW: Stringers #1

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Posted July 27, 2015 by Jack Johnston in Comic Books

Written by: Marc Guggenheim

Art by: Justin Greenwood and Ryan Hill

Publisher: Oni Press

Did you watch Nightcrawler? I did and I loved it, it brought forward this whole new world and showed characters that were willing to do anything to get over their competitors in a way that often blurred what side of the law they were on. The reason I bring this up is because if it weren’t for the X-Men character or the film I’m certain that this would have been called Nightcrawlers#1. Not that I’m implying that the comic copies the film in anyway, the story appears to be going in a completely different direction, but the themes present in the first issue definitely bears similarity due to both centering around the same profession. Most notable to me before I read the issue was that Marc Guggenheim was writing it, which I was cautiously optimistic about. Although Guggenheim has been enjoying the success of his writing for the brilliant Arrow TV show I can’t quite forget the Green Lantern movie.

The story revolves around two guys, Paul and Nick, who are free-lance journalists who work hard to obtain footage of any crimes or exciting events that may occur in the city of L.A. in order to sell it to local (or that ‘big dream’, national) news stations. The first issue sets up the story well, shows you the characters that are important to Paul and Nick and shows their relationships well. Paul and Nick show that ‘love/hate’ relationship pretty well, having digs at each other that are sometimes serious but mostly for laughs although sometimes you’re almost convinced that the two really do dislike each other and are only working together out of necessity. There are some interesting dynamics explored between the two as well; Paul is somewhat ashamed of their job (although he won’t admit it) and wants to be a ‘real’ journalist (and hints that he may be moving on soon) while Nick is happy with the role he has. Overall the two have that perfect The Odd Couple vibe, where Paul is cool and relatively sensible while Nick is more rash and prone to quick decisions that can put Nick or him in danger (such as getting a liiiitttle too close to a gunfight), that makes the book feel entertaining. Other side characters don’t really get as much showing, there’s Paul’s girlfriend, their rival (Speeze the Sleeze) and their boss (Michele).

The main part of the issue is all centered around this big car chase that the guys are filming and so most of it takes place from inside the car. The dialogue and story progression is a little draggy here but not horribly so and I’m sure you all know how hard it is to show a fast paced car chase well in a comic (the only great one that come to mind is in Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run). Justin Greenwood does an admirable job here and for most of the issue I really bought the high octane speed of the chase and he does his best to make the actions inside of Paul and Nick’s rig at the very least not dull. Unfortunately this is one of those areas were I think physical copies will have a one up on digital as towards the end of the chase the focus is much more on what’s going on in the car, losing momentum in the story, but everyone still acts as though everything’s very fast paced, creating a sort of weird disconnection between the actions the reader’s seeing and the characters are doing.  If this were a physical copy you’d be able to see about six panels in one go at the fast speed removing this feeling of disconnect but with a digital one, where you have to scroll through to see them individually a bit of the excitement is lost.

As you can probably guess the book is not afraid to take risks ad one of my favourite things in it is that all instances of onomatopoeia are replaced with just a description of the action such as ‘SPEEZ THE SLEEZE FINALLY CATCHES UP’ or ‘MICHELE ACTUALLY HUNG UP ON PAUL AGAIN.’ As you can guess it’s a bit hit and miss; some are cool, some are funny, sometimes it’s annoying and some are so hard to make out that I have to pause to figure out what it’s trying to say (the spaces between the words aren’t exactly clear and the letters don’t stay on the same level) but by-and-large I like the idea. Usually I’m a big fan of Justin Greenwood’s art, his ability to adapt it to different styles is quite astounding, but I found myself quite underwhelmed by it in this issue overall. I have two main issues, one is that everyone has this super-defined jaw bone which you rarely see in real life, this leads to some characters looking similar to others and most women looking very masculine in their facial features, it’s a minor issue really but once you notice it, it doesn’t go away. My other problem is mostly just a consequence that the book takes place mostly at night which results in aggressive use of plain black for shading, this is fine but sometimes it can lead to messy looking panels and without the cover I wouldn’t really be sure how Nick or Paul really look like which is also due to the huge variances of detail they are shown in.

I would recommend Stringers to people but honestly it wouldn’t be on my list of mini series that you HAVE to read. Nick and Paul look like a pair that’s worth watching and I’m interested to see where the climax at the end of the book leads but honestly I think the issue spent just a little too much time on the car chase (the exchange with Speez the Sleeze really did seem to go on longer than necessary for example) and could have progressed a bit further with the plot but then we might not have the great cliff hanger that was shown to us. The series does seem promising however and I’m looking forward to seeing what places it’ll go.

If you’re interested in enjoying the exploits of Nick and Paul yourself, Issue #1 debuts 8/26 and you can pre-order now at your local comic shop with the code JUN151440.


About the Author

Jack Johnston

A lover of sci-fi, lovecraftian horror and long walks on the beach. Jack writes for WTN from a fortified bunker awaiting the insect uprising. Guide to my rating system: 1-2: Should this have been released? 3-4: I regret reading this. 5: Passable but will forget about it quickly. 6-7: Good but needs refined, will play by ear. 8-9: I'd gladly add this to my pull list. 10: Go out and get this now!