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The Losers volume one: Ante Up
Andy Diggle, and Jock
Vertigo / DC graphic novel $9.95

The Losers volume two: Double Down
Andy Diggle, Jock, and Shawn Martinbrough
Vertigo / DC graphic novel $9.95

reviews by J.C. Hartley

Way back in the 1960s, the original of The Losers was a DC comic featuring a team involved in some of the messier theatres of WWII. Arising out of solo appearances in DC's 1950s' title Our Fighting Forces, the team interacted with other heroes of the time like Sergeant Rock, and had a healthy fan following.

There is a 1970 movie Nam's Angels (aka: The Losers) which, in its depiction of a covert operations team sent into the Cambodian jungle, echoes some of the themes of the comic book and anticipates Andy Diggle's take on the genre. And then of course there was television's The A-Team.

A CIA 'black ops' team stumble across something in Afghanistan which is too much even for their Company-hardened souls; as a result of their discovery, and subsequent actions, their handler 'Max' has their Black Hawk helicopter shot down by a Mirage jet operating out of Pakistan. Assumed dead, the team now calling themselves 'The Losers' decide to hit back at Max to discover and confound his plans, and consequently find themselves at war with their erstwhile masters at the CIA.

That kind of exposition normally requires an 'info dump' guaranteed to slow the pace of any narrative but Diggle launches right into the vengeance mission, and the events that have turned The Losers into outlaws are alluded to over the course of the action.

The pacing and Jock's art sell these books like a movie, and Hollywood hasn't been slow to see the potential; although there has been something of production hell surrounding the project, the picture seems set to debut sometime this year or the next, and they must have saved a fortune on storyboarding, the set-ups are right there on the page.

In the first book Clay, Roque, Cougar, Jensen, Pooch and female CIA insider Aisha, plan to steal Company funds but a traitor complicates their plans. In the second book the visual impact is muted somewhat by co-artist Shawn Martinbrough's input, if only by comparison with Jock's spare frames, but the narrative picks up pace; Cougar has a flashback to the discovery in Afghanistan that soured their original mission, Clay meets up with their original mission commander General Coleman, and career CIA operative Stegler, reminiscent of Robert Redford's character in Spy Game (2001), is brought in to investigate The Losers for his bosses. The action is fast and bloody and the story begins to sink its hooks into you.

The book is highly critical of American gung-ho foreign policy, and CIA involvement in drug-trafficking to fund black ops, and it is easy to assume that this political stance is helped by the British creative team behind the story, but applaud DC for publishing it and, the odd panic attack over censorship issues notwithstanding, other controversial adult comic books confronting political and moral issues.

If you want to read a fast involving revenge espionage thriller, laid out like the coolest movie, and with the witty dialogue and improbable action of the best comics, then pick up the five volumes (including, volume three: Trifecta, volume four: Close Quarters, and volume five: Endgame) of The Losers.
The Losers: Ante Up

The Losers: Double Down

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