Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Comics Wednesday: Half Past Danger

Last week I put up a short post about some independent comics I'm currently reading. One of the ones I didn't mention is Half Past Danger, a relatively new comic by publisher IDW.

This comic is right in my wheelhouse, as it involves World War II, a mysterious island in the Pacific, a semi pulp-noir setting, evil Nazis, some crazy 1940s-era super science, and of course, dinosaurs.

So, after reading that, if I have to tell you what I love about this comic, chances are that you may have stumbled across the wrong blog.

Read below, and remember that I will avoid any major spoilers. Knowing that there are dinosaurs in this book isn't a spoiler because I believe they were on the cover of the first issue. 

What's It About?
Um... it's about World War II, and a mysterious island...

The first issue involves an Allied Forces strike team in the Pacific during the middle years of World War II who are investigating what they believe is a secret Japanese base on the island. It turns out that things aren't quite what they seem when the team observes the German military machine creating an air strip on the island and also laying down train tracks. Realizing that they are completely out-numbered,Staff Sergeant Thomas Michael Flynn opts to retreat and call for reinforcements. On their way back to base camp, his squad is attacked by what can only be described as dinosaurs. Flynn is the only survivor.

Months later, Flynn is back in the U.S. and clearly has a severe drinking problem as he tries to deal with what happened to his squad. He's approached by a big, somewhat lumbering good-looking cat who bears a strong resemblance to a certain World War II-era U.S. hero that carries a shield. This new guy, along with a British femme fatale spy type character and a Japanese defector ninja guy try to recruit Flynn to go back to the island and figure out what exactly the Nazis are up to and what kind of strange events could have brought about the discovery of dinosaurs living in the modern age.

A lot of this may sound familiar - we've certainly seen lost islands of dinosaurs before, and my summary above shows the extremely broad stereotypes on which the characters are based - I've read a few issues now and aside from Flynn, the "drunken Irish soldier," I can't remember remember their names. Mysterious Japanese guy. Big hulking corn-fed American. Sneaky and sexy English spy.

Character development is not the point here. As one review I read noted, "Sometimes you just want to tune out and punch some dinosaurs." I don't agree with the rest of his review that the book is only mediocre at best - this is a fun ride and a world that I'm interested in learning more about.

Who's On the Creative Team?
The "Team" in this case is one man - Stephen Mooney, who writes, pencils, and inks the comic himself.

Mooney hails from Ireland, and started out providing art for some small Irish press publications in the very early 2000s before jumping over to publisher IDW in 2006 to draw a variety of licensed comics like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Angel, Spike, The A-Team, and The Mummy.

On the writing side, Mooney's story so far is really a fun, adventure, action comic and the writing style supports this wholeheartedly. He incorporates all the tropes of the genre, like the Nazis and fantastical "super science" but does it in a way that almost seems possible, ala the "Indiana Jones" trilogy (yes, it's a trilogy. There was no fourth movie). Flynn is definitely in the Indiana Jones role, and the other characters in Half Past Danger, so far, do what all of Jones' sidekicks do - portray a somewhat broad stereotype of a particular type of character. That's not meant to be a negative - in this particular genre of comic, it works quite well. I don't need a detailed story telling me the history and backstory of the ninja guy. He's a ninja. Just let him do that and move on, and so far, that's what Mooney is doing.

Mooney's art also works well in this setting. Detailed when it needs to be, it's fluid and his character work is top notch. So many artists can get into a rut where all of their faces look the same. Not so with Mooney - even among the few pages in the first issue that deal with Flynn's squad of soldiers, it's very easy to tell them apart even though they're all essentially men with short cropped hair wearing the same uniform. The action sequences, particularly the fights (whether between humans or involving dinosaurs) are also very well done - character movements are realistic, and their reactions are spot-on.

Who Will Like It?
I guess this is a particular kind of book for a particular audience, but if you heard "Nazis," "Mysterious Island," "Ninjas," "Dinosaurs," "Femme Fatale," and "Super Science" and you don't think that this is one of the most awesome ideas ever, then I don't know how to help you.

If you like pulp era action adventures, World War II stories, or dinosaurs, then pick this up. You won't be disappointed.

Any Good Fodder for my Role-Playing Games?
You bet there is. This probably isn't the place to look for deep character development ideas, but as a GM you'll get plenty of ideas for world-building and genre-mixing. Personally I'm a huge fan of alternate World War II type settings that involve weird stuff like horror or science fiction or even a touch of magic, and I'm also a big fan of the well-worn trope of a hidden island of dinosaurs that have somehow survived into the modern world ("modern" in this case meaning the 1930s for me), but I've honestly never thought of mixing those two ideas together.

Half Past Danger is a six-issue limited series, so as a GM you could wait until the series is over to get some more ideas and then run this as a limited campaign and surprise your players by telling them that you're playing a "World War II" era game, then totally surprise them with the addition of dinosaurs and the other fantastical stuff from this comic. I think it could be a lot of fun.

You could even use Peter Schweighofer's excellent Heroes of Rura-Tonga to help flesh out the mysterious Pacific island on which the action takes place - check out my review of the product on my blog.

You could easily run a game in this setting using a variety of different system, but "Savage Worlds" jumps to mind for me. They even have a World War II era sourcebook called Weird War II which would be helpful in running some of the encounters in a campaign based on this comic, I would think.

Is It Good for Kids?
This book isn't actually rated by the comic book code, but on the back cover is says it's suggested for "Mature Readers." It does involve scientific experiments on people, dinosaurs eating people, soldiers shooting each other, and other violence. However, listing that all out, it sounds worse than it is. Of course as a parent, you have to make your own decision and should look through this (and hopefully actually read it) before you decide whether your kids should read it, but I'd think that a 10 year-old could probably handle this just fine.

HALF PAST DANGER

  • Format: Monthly 28-page full-color limited series (planned for 6 issues)
  • Where to Buy: Try to buy it at your local comics shop. That link leads you to the Comic Book Store locator where you type in your ZIP Code and it'll find your closest shop. If you don't have one, try a bookstore or convenience store. You can also buy the digital version on Comixology. That link leads to the page on the series; issue #3 came out yesterday. 
  • Price: $3.99 per issue
  • Rated: "Mature Readers"
  • More Information: The official Half Past Danger website

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: A 2013 Yulesmith Summer Ale (last night while I wrote most of this post)
Listening: "Rock (Unplugged)" by
DJ Spinna

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like this would be right up my alley!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had the exact same thought when I started reading it, Trey! It's already about halfway through, and while I'm a big fan of monthly comics, you may just want to wait until the trade version comes out. It's sure to have some extra goodies in it.

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