Monday, July 27, 2009

Zuda review Interrogation Control Element / A kinder, gentler, badass!

Interrogation Control Element is another Zuda comic this month done by Zuda vet Tyler James, Damian Couceiro, PauljohnLittle, and StevedForbes. I enjoy Tyler James work and this comic was no exception, it got a fav out of me for fascinating treatment of a serious subject. here is the synopsis: Thomas “Trip” Higgins was once America’s most unassuming weapon in the “War on Terror.” A soft-spoken, but incredibly effective interrogator, Trip consistently broke prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. But as interrogations increasingly relied on humiliation, degradation and even torture, Trip became disillusioned with his work. Several years later, after writing a memoir of his experience and a manifesto for reform of US interrogation policy, Trip is asked to be become “Senior Echo” (Chief Interrogator) of a new Interrogation Control Element (ICE) on US soil. Trip’s job is to train a team of young ‘gators how to break the most valuable terrorists in US custody without violating the Geneva Conventions. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a brazen Taliban attack on a prison in Afghanistan frees Fazul Shallah, a high-ranking soldier in a well-funded terrorist network. After finding out that his imprisonment was no accident, Shallah eliminates the leadership of his network and assumes control of this group of deadly extremists. Just as Trip begins to win the respect of his team of ‘gators, Shallah declares war on the West in a series of terrifying attacks around the world. Uncovering information that could lead to the capture of Shallah and his network is Trip’s team’s primary task. But when his family and team become targets, Trip’s “by-the-book” interrogation tactics and respect for the rule of law will be put to the ultimate test.

Finally someone who isn't a Jack Bauer clone!

The creators have talked about this, and it's a strong point for the story we get a non-traditional lead here. You have plenty of action hero part Client Eastwood/part Rambo types it's nice to get a break from all that. Trip is a brain, a smart guy who uses his skills as interrogator to aid in the war on terror. Those skills don't include ripping off fingernails, or water boarding. The story starts at a highly dramatic moment the water boarding of a suspect. The art is perfect for a story like this, the opening sequence of this mans torture will draw readers in. Realistic information on the types of people who do this is mixed in well throughout the narrative, no information dump in this comic. Letters are easy to read, and the colors very much fit this story. It's not a surprise a Zuda vet would get the pacing right for the 8 screens, but it shows a great deal of talent, and professionalism. By screen 3 (possibly a Zuda record) you clearly understand the lead character Trip and what the conflicts are he faces. He didn't show up till screen 2, so its all the more impressive. Screen 3 has realistic dialogue which establishes the characterization of Trip and his rival/nemesis Morlin. You see Trip's two main antagonists the suspects, and the destructive forces in his own government he goes up against. In panel 6 on screen 3 you can see how sad Trip is that something like this happened. Screen 4 is the best screen in the comic, because of the amount of information it delivers, and the excellent screen layout it used. The subject who was water boarded gave a false address and tragedy happened from that. You see a panel where a boy with a kitchen knife tried to defend his family, and the next panel shows the soldiers opening fire. You don't see the boy shot you read about it in the text. The use of a door kicked down by coalition forces to cover the top half of the water boarded suspects dead body (I'm guessing he hung himself) as Trip walked away -I don't know any 'big names' who could do it better.

Handles the subject matter better than some (allegedly) non-fiction books I have read

I've read any number of books, blogs, and saw any number of news reports about the real life policies/actions this story is based on. My view is I.C.E. does an excellent job at idealistic-realism. A fiction story, but what it's based on is all too real. I.C.E. follows in the foot steps of comics like Two-Fisted Tales, Front line Combat, and Blazing Combat. Comics are just as suited to this type of story as any other medium. Shallah (the other force of opposition) , is introduced on screen 5. The two guards we see could have just gotten the Star Trek red shirt treatment, but they didn't. A few lines of dialogue about how one character wanted to marry a girl (if the father agrees), showed readers this man had a life planned for himself. When he is killed in the last panel those words come back to you and give his death meaning in the story. It was also damn impressive to me. One problem with this page Ba-Boom! as a see through sound effect doesn't work. Either give it real impact by making it non-transparent, or go another direction and leave it out completely. Screen 6 shows use the villain Shallah getting out of jail and setting up the future conflict. [Could be a battle of wills forthcoming: can Trip 'break' Shallah?] These screens really added to making this a well rounded Zuda submission. Screen 7 had some more well written dialogue, but I'll believe Gitmo is closed when it happens -maybe a little too hopeful. It does provide a interesting contrast with how things are now in the real world. The dialogue on the last two screens is amazingly done, and so is the art to help avoid 'talking heads', and add to the drama. The resolution provided for 'what do we do with them?' shows politicians in this comic have more guts than real life -as of now. Its a bonus to this story looking at the comic, then looking back to the real world, and seeing just how much they diverge. Realism was the initial draw for me, but by the end it became something different. The real hook here for grabbing readers with this story isn't showing us the way the world is, but the way it could be. I hope the story lives on and thank you/congrats to all the I.C.E. team for a great read.

[As a side note just why can't you trademark/copy write the word I.C.E. for a comic title?]

1 comment:

  1. RKB- Thanks again for the review. I may have to keep writing ICE, if just for you. :) Regarding the title, I'm not sure what the big hang up was. I was playing a game of email telephone with Zuda legal through poor Nika for a few days prior to the contest starting. I think going forward I'll refer to it as ICE: Interrogation Control Element in full, and then ICE for short. Remember, in the first season of CSI it was commonly referered to in long form. But I digress...

    Thanks again for your support and enthusiasm about comics!