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The Couriers By Matt Martin
AiT/PlanetLar – Brian Wood (w); Rob G (a)
I once read a review of Brian Wood's Channel Zero that described the story as “going from point A to point A” over the course of the series. And while it was a snide comment, it’s both amusingly clever and exceedingly accurate, as the book promised a lot in terms of story movement and delivered very little. Wood’s spin-off graphic novel, Jennie Zero, didn’t really do a whole lot better. However, I thought Couscous Express, his first work for Larry Young’s AiT/PlanetLar that didn’t involve the near-future Channel Zero world, was quite a lot of fun, though Brett Weldele’s abstract artwork was a poor match for such a fast-paced story. So, given that The Couriers is essentially the sequel to Couscous Express, I had high hopes.
Before I go further, let it be said that many attempt to translate the action flick from the silver screen to the printed page, but few do so successfully.
Brian Wood and Rob G, after producing The Couriers, can safely be said to have joined the ranks of the few.
The book has a pair of rapid-fire prologue scenes, one establishing the unhappy relationship between the story’s villain and victim, The General and The Girl. The other is a chase scene/gunfight between the protagonists, Moustafa and Special, and their competition in the Russian mob.
Wood’s scripting never allows the heroes or the reader to catch their breath, moving as fast as he can from one sequence to the next, each filled with high adrenaline car chases and firefights, always over the edge of what is strictly legal. To be blunt, it reads like Pulp Fiction on speed.
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The plot itself revolves around a job gone wrong, the pick-up by Moustafa and Special of a certain girl (The Girl, to be exact) at a certain airport. The heroes can’t seem to catch a break, hounded at every turn by rogue agents from the Chinese military, but sheer skill and more than a little bit of luck manages to pull them through every scenario. Wood follows Couscous Express’ theme of sticking by your friends and defending what’s yours once again, as the over-the-top reprisal by The General is met with equal vigor by the residents of Moustafa’s borough. Rob G, of Teenagers from Mars fame, turns in a stellar performance, carrying Wood’s adrenaline rush of a story along on the back of his fluid, kinetic pencils.
In the end, it’s hard to summarize a book like The Couriers, because there’s not exactly a real depth of plot. I hesitate to say that it’s the comic book equivalent of a good action flick, because I’m not sure that there’s enough material here to fill an hour and a half of screen time. However, what you see is definitely what you get from it, and that is a friggin’ blast.
Interestingly enough, while reading the book, I laughed that I had clearly been playing too much GTA: Vice City lately, as I found myself frequently drawing parallels between the game and the book’s plot (I mean, the final panel with the Russian mobster feels like it was taken directly from the part in Vice City where you take over the local crime scene). So I was amused to read the creator’s credits and see that Wood actually does work with Rockstar Games on the Grand Theft Auto series.
And that’s as good of a recommendation as it needs, for me. Fans of GTA, Brian Wood or simply action stories that don’t insult your intelligence need look no further than The Couriers.