So the movie, which didn't make boatloads of money, wasn't considered a success. People started claiming that the sky was falling on comic book movies. Run to safety children! Your superheroes are done. But what people always fail to mention, is that The Losers is not the typical comic book flick. Hell, it wasn't even a typical comic book.
Written by Brit Andy Diggle, a former editor for 2000AD, and drawn by Jock, The Losers was something new for Vertigo Comics back in 2003. Diggle and Jock reinterpretted an old Jack Kirby World War II comic for the modern world. G.I. soldiers are replaced by disgraced, and presumed dead, spooks. There are no spandex clad flag waving heroes in this book. Even the good guys have a little bit, okay a lot, of darkness to them.
The company thought that it had taken care of the Losers. After they saw a little too much at the wrong place and time, their chopper went down in flames with no survivors and plently of deniability- and the Losers went down in the records as just another team of black ops foot soldiers tragically lost to one of the C.I.A.'s shadow wars.
But the Losers were just playing dead- and now that they've seen what the Company is really up to, they're through with games. Now it's time to take the fight back to its source.
That source, by the way, is a man named Max. Or he might not be a man at all. One unfortunate soul who gets in their crosshairs explains that Max isn't real. He's the C.I.A.'s version of the boogyman. Are they chasing a phantom in their quest for revenge?
The Losers does a fantastic job of not spelling out everything for the reader. In this first volume, more questions are raised than answered, and even after 150 pages, you'll still be wondering what it is they saw that made them switch. Does that mean the book is an unsatisfying read?
Not if you like action.
No other book comes to mind when I think of all the action that is packed into what was originally six issues. You want an armored car heist? How about we throw in a helicopter? Not enough for you yet? Okay. Add in a little corporate espionage with computer hacking, snipers, heroin, tons of money and for good measure how about a rocket launcher? And don't get too comfortable with the team because at least one of them is a traitor.
And while the action is a definate high point of the book, the characters are no slouch. Diggle does a great job of giving them personalities without exposition. Couger, the cowboy hat wearing sniper, barely says more than ten words the entire book. Aisha, the mystery woman who plans to help them, also doesn't speak that much, but when she does, it's stuff like this.
"I was born in a desert place. War was my only mother. As a child, I moved through the battlefields and slit the throat of screaming Russian boys. I firebombed my first tank when I was twelve years old and machine gunned the crew as they fled, burning. And yet perhaps you expect me to be afraid of you."
Yeah. She's that scary. Rounding out the team are the motor-mouthed Jensen, the laid back Pooch, the icey Roque, and Clay, the leader.
I can't ignore the art either. Usually, when an artist goes by one name, I raise my eyebrow. Sure, there could be the genius of Prince, but more likely it's another McG. Jock didn't let me down though. His art is all angles and grit, reminding me of another favorite of mine, Sean Phillips. He doesn't waste a line with unnecessary detail, using his art to tell the story. It's not always flashy, but much like the people he portrays, it's confident and exact. He is equally adept at facial expressions as he is two page splashes. When The Losers finished, Jock was a well sought after commodity, and now he can sell a book on his own.
Ante Up was, as the title suggests, just the opening bet in their quest to get revenge. It's a fantastic read which will hopefully hook you into the rest of the series. I was sold on the first issue alone, and bought the original five trades without having read them. (I prefer to read Vertigo series, for the most part, in large chunks.) I guess now is as good as any time to finish off the series. Should you want to read them, many of the original trades are out of print. DC remedied that problem in time for the movie, by publishing to larger volumes, creatively tittled Volume 1 and Volume 2. I believe you can find all 32 issues in those pages.