“Dane! Leave him! Where’s he gonna go?”
Does he leave him, even under orders? Hell no. I already love the guy. Too bad the brains of Dane’s captive get splattered all over the wall only seconds later, but both the reader and Roland instantly grasp there is something rotten in Denmark. This “raid” is not what it seems.
Nothing in this book is. Dane is savvy enough to play along with the chessmasters in his organization rather than naively confronting the liars he works with (and for), so naturally the reader starts looking for clues right along with him.
Chuck Dixon has done a magnificent job here, maybe his best work for Arkhaven, and it’s all accomplished through dialogue and interior monologue. There are no shortcuts; no editorial voice-overs to take us out of the story, and no phony and implausible banter that exists only to advance the narrative at the expense of authenticity. Nope, every word in this book sounds like real people in believable conversations.
Then again, there is Helix Haze, possibly the most experienced and accomplished artist yet to work for Arkhaven. His subtle professionalism is all over this book. We know, for instance, that Dane’s boss Gilders is a standard-issue paper-pushing careerist weenie not because anybody clumsily voices it, or even because he absolutely looks like one, but because Haze lets us see him watching YouTube cat videos as he reassigns Roland. I snorted.
“This is a promotion,” says Gilders, simultaneously lying through his teeth and returning to his cats before Dane can even leave the room. Beautiful.
It’s Arkhaven, so naturally Dane uses the word “queer” without apology or PC caveat, just as people in the real world do every single day. When called on it (“I could report your ass for saying ‘queer’ ”), Roland simply replies, “And I could report yours for using the Xerox to make copies of your daughter’s college resume.”
Dane is a wolf among puppies and a total alpha in a world of gammas and deltas. He buys his girlfriend Kitty a burger on their “date”, which consists of a trip through the drive-thru, scarfs down extra onions with his own, blows off her assumption that he’ll be spending the evening at her place, and unapologetically assumes she will drive his car the three hours back from Quantico without being formally asked. When she asks, “Why do I put up with you?”, the reader already knows why: Dane is the only real man in this book.
If I didn’t know for sure that Chuck Dixon wrote this book, I’d swear it was Vox Day.
I won’t spoil it further for you. The pyrotechnics are wonderful, the girls are breasty and the blood is bloody. It’s a great ride. Five more of these and I might never buy a comic book from any other company again.