Written & Illustrated by Stephen Mooney
Published by IDW
He who has put a good finish to his undertaking is said to have placed a golden crown to the whole.
-Eustathius, Commentary on the Iliad
Every journey is composed of a series of parts, each ingredient revealing its own piece of the story. Some are distinguished by origin, others remarkable for their duration. Ultimately though, all are defined by one thing; destination. For the past 5 issues, two men who have travelled distinct roads have been heading towards a critical point. In this issue, Flynn and Toht have dispensed with the “We meet again Mr. Bond” pleasantries and the Irishman finally gets his hands on his evasive nemesis.
Ending a story of any medium is a difficult thing to pull off; every fan of the series has their own ideas of how events should conclude. Play it too abstract and you could undo all your banked goodwill (Lost), leave it to your audience to draw their own conclusions and risk fans feeling robbed of an ending( The Sopranos). Similarly play it too broad in an attempt to please everyone and you are met with perhaps the worst of all, apathy (Dexter). The past 5 issues have been pure unfiltered joy however, with such a high concept premise and characters that are borderline clichés it was not outside the realm of possibility that the final issue could see Half Past Danger come crashing off the tracks.
The final issue begins with the vultures, both literally and metaphorically, circling what’s left of Mooney’s fractured band of heroes. In addition to dealing with the group’s betrayal by their leader, Toht also reveals that his end game goes deeper then Flynn first thought. Then, with the aid of an unlikely ally, the group begins their fight back. What follows is one of the most exciting and tense action issues I have read in years. The violence and intensity is offset with some wonderful moments of humour. With 30 pages to close his story, Mooney holds absolutely nothing back as the action unfolds at a frantic pace. There is hardly a moment to draw breath and each panel is almost overflowing with detail and nuance that demand repeat readings. Mooney’s resident Captain America John Noble breaking free from his shackles as Ishi channels Tarantino in the background by removing the limbs of any German foolish enough to challenge him.
Half Past Danger has been littered with memorable and deeply cinematic moments – the initial dinosaur attack on Flynn’s team and the groups assault on the Nazi base being particular stand outs. Here though, Mooney surpasses himself once more with a series best set piece as Flynn and Toht finally get to square off in a bruising yet believable encounter. The fight is ended with an absolutely stunning page. Mooney has previously shown an ability to both write and draw moments of nerve shredding horror – Noble’s assault on the train played more like a slasher movie then an action scene. And when Toht’s fate emerges from the darkness it is nothing short of jaw dropping. Mooney has evolved as both a writer and an artist over the course of this book and this scene is the peak of his work so far. Special mention must go to colourist Jordie Bellaire as the moment when both men’s tormentors retreat is wonderfully creepy and understated. She later proves herself to be just as capable on the other end of the scale as she provides a stunning sea of blood that would have tickled Kubrick. The addition of Bellaire has proved inspired as her colours give the book a wonderful vintage feel that complements the books 1940’s setting. 2013 has been a breakout year for Bellaire who, along with Half Past Danger, can also be found working on roughly 86926 (give or take one or two) major titles for DC and Marvel.
This is not to say that Mooney has closed his title with an depressing Empire Strikes Back finale – or non ending as Joss Whedon would say. The book retains the spiky put upon “why me” humour of the previous issues along with perhaps the greatest Schwarzenegger line not delivered by the Austrian oak himself. Mooney has managed not only to provide a definite ending to his tale but to leave enough loose ends to tease the reader with a promise for more to come, along with adding a post credits stinger that looks like it was pinched from the Marvel cinematic universe. Much like Flynn himself, the reader is rewarded with closure but not a conclusion.
For my money, Half Past Danger has been the book of the year. High concept books often find themselves running out of steam once the novelty of the initial premise has wore off. Mooney smartly has framed his story around interesting characters that in lesser hands could easily have come off as a greatest hits of other facets of serialized fiction. The story has ripped along with an excitement and humour that is sadly missing from an age where being darker and realistic are too often confused with being better. For all their good work in releasing a title with no distracting advertisements that allowed the story to flow, IDW have dropped the ball with the oft delayed release of the final issue which has cruelly robbed the book of its momentum.
The final word though must go to Stephen Mooney who has crafted a wonderful world (Mooneyverse going once, going twice…no?) of rich characters and a well of possible stories. It was a bold step to walk away from the security of working on already established licenses in order to try and craft one of his own. With the feverish excitement that has greeted the book, the move looks to of paid off. What happens next for Mooney, will he continue as both writer and artist with a sequel to Half Past Danger – something he would be unable to do at the big two where due to release dates he would undoubtedly have to focus on just one? While this book certainly feels like “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world” I would love to see Mooney have a crack at writing a high profile event run. Much like his wonderfully crafted characters “Stephen Mooney will return” in what capacity though remains to be seen, regardless of the direction he chooses I can’t wait to see what he does next.
5 out of 5 nerds