Written by: Stephen Mooney
Art by: Stephen Mooney
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Published by IDW Publishing
After hitting a series high with the phenomenal previous issue I must admit I approached issue #4 of Stephen Mooney’s Half Past Danger with some trepidation. The series has built up a steady surge of momentum that seemed to peak with the dinosaur and Nazi battle of the bombastic issue #3. I didn’t think that there was anywhere else to go but down…how wrong I was!
The issue opens with our heroes in pursuit of “ze germans” who are on the way to transporting their unusual but deadly cargo back to the fatherland to finish work on their game changing and potentially war ending weapon. The prefix to the action scene is a gorgeous panel with Moss tenderly touching Nobles shoulder as Flynn looks on with a subtle tinge of both sadness and jealousy. It’s a beautifully drawn “blink and you will miss it” moment that perfectly sums up the detail and affection all involved have poured into this series. What follows is page after page of exciting action tinged with humour and tragedy that leaves the reader breathless. The attack on the train is wonderfully paced, the danger and excitement seems to escalate with every panel and crammed with a number of “did you see that?” moments. Ishi the ninja gets let off the leash in this issue and has a number of wonderful gruesome and inventive attacks, from decapitation to a beautiful Van Damme kick. While Ishi is the fluid graceful fighter, Capt Noble is a pure wrecking machine. His assault through the various carriages of the train are drawn more akin to something from a horror film as he rips and kicks steel doors cutting a scythe through the Germans who are terrified of this seemingly unstoppable force. Noble who has been the team’s resident Steve Rogers gets to go full Captain America as he uses the train door as a shield and a weapon. His face is illustrated with a twisted mix of rage and violence.
Meanwhile, the all too human Flynn is clambering along the side of the train channelling Indiana Jones with a mix of great one liners and a put upon “why me” approach to the unbelievable circumstances he finds himself in. In one panel, as he hilariously tries to reassure a triceratops, his fun is cut short when he is attacked by the villainous Toht – who also seems to have a bit of the super human about him. Ishi rescues him in a wonderfully illustrated scene where both men find themselves back to back engulfed by smoke as unseen enemies swarm around them. The excitement of the scene is then offset by a wonderfully humorous moment as both men think the assault has stopped only to find themselves peppered with bullets again. The subtle changes in the facial expressions of Flynn in this scene are gracefully handled. Mooney shows great confidence, in both his writing and his artwork, to dedicate a full page of panels for what is essentially a sight gag. But it is these little flourishes that make Half Past Danger such a fun and exciting read.
It is not all good news for our heroes though, it seems that Mooney has picked up a few tricks from Joss Whedon during his time on the Angel spin off comic, he is not afraid to kill off main characters. Noble is brutally murdered by Toht, with a Nazi flag no less. The panels of Noble stumbling around fighting for his life are heartbreaking and a large part as to why this scene is so effective, is Jordie Bellaire’s beautifully nuanced colouring. Each panel seems to go ever so slightly darker as Noble takes his last few precious breaths. Flynn has barely time to draw breath himself as he takes off in pursuit of Thot however, his quest for revenge is cut short as he finds himself face to face – or should that be face to face to face – with not one, but two T-Rex’s. Flynn is forced to confront not only the physical but emotional demons when he flashes back to the horrific images of his squad being torn apart by the monsters. The panels of his face depicting his fear and self doubt, before ultimately channelling the force of will required to defend himself, are fantastic. Mooney knows exactly how to convey each of his protagonist’s emotions without ever needing to signpost it – possibly because he bears more than a passing resemblance to the writer himself. The issue ends with a neat cliff hanger as Mooney, sorry Flynn, is rescued by Greta who was last seen tied up in the jeep with Moss before it was shot off the road. With the two placed in even more peril before the issue ends, the reader is left in the dark about Moss’s fate as the “to be continued” label brings another gem of a read to an all too soon conclusion.
This issue was every bit as good as we have come to expect from what is now this year’s must read comic. The series is clearly influenced by a number of other titles across a vast array of mediums. There are hints of everything from Indiana Jones to Nextwave to Preacher however, much like Tarantino who can borrow from a multitude of sources, Mooney can take elements of others work and make it his own, giving it his own unique voice. I had previously touched upon the lack of advertisements within the pages but this issue really shows its benefits. The pacing of the issue is flawless. The sense of excitement and adventure is ramped up with every frantic turn of the page and the momentum of the story is allowed to gather pace uninterrupted so that the reader can fully immerse themselves within the world Mooney has crafted – patent still pending on “Mooneyverse.” Subscribers to the comic will be treated to Nick Runge’s beautiful variant cover that looks like it was torn from the mind of Drew Struzan. It will be interesting to see how Flynn reacts to the loss of yet another colleague. Moss’s whereabouts, along with Ishi’s true intentions, have yet to be revealed. With two issues left to go on this run, I am giddy with anticipation as to what comes next. I had doubted Mooney’s ability to build upon previous issues but I will not be making that mistake again.
5 out of 5 nerds