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Point Blank #1-5 By Matt Martin
DC Comics/Wildstorm Ė Ed Brubaker (w); Colin Wilson (a)
Last week, I read Sleeper, a book that I was looking forward to because I enjoy both the genre (noir) and the writer (Brubaker) that were attached to it. However, I was a little leery of it, knowing that it spun itself out of this miniseries, which I never read. I never read this mini because, frankly, Iíve never been a big follower of the Wildstorm universe (aside from my brief Image kick when the company was in its early days), and hence, I wasnít sure that Iíd get the continuity in a book centering around Cole Cash (the unfortunately named character who moonlighted as Grifter in Wildcats).
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The problem is that Brubaker claimed in an interview that one could bypass Point Blank and move straight into Sleeper without any problems, something that I found to be technically accurate, but moderately misleading. After reading Sleeper, I found that while it was enjoyable, I wasnít entirely clear on what was going on. And while this was not surprising, as noir tales typically (and, almost, by necessity) begin with a certain amount of ambiguity, I felt that I would be well-served by tracking down this mini and catching up. And I can say that Iím glad I did, for two reasons. One, this series does explain a decent amount of whatís going on in Sleeper, albeit in an indirect fashion. And two, itís simply a good story.
Dashiell Hammett is one of the all-time greats of crime fiction. His most famous protagonist, an eponymous detective known only as the Continental Op (so named because he was a field agent for the Continental Detective Agency, a riff on Hammettís real life former employers, the Pinkerton Detective Agency), was memorable for his distinct lack of subtlety. Despite a quick wit and a sharp eye for detail, nearly every story involving the Op ends with him, .45 automatic clenched in each meaty fist, killing a gratuitous amount of bad guys (incidentally, Bruce Willisí character in the movie Last Man Standing is the Op, as that movie was adapted from one of Hammettís most famous works, Red Harvest) and sorting out the pieces of the mystery from amidst the carnage thatís left in his wake. Why am I telling you this, you ask? Because in this story, for all intents and purposes, Cole Cash is the Continental Op.
The story opens with Cole Cash, hard-drinking and down on his luck, accepting a job from his former teammate and former director of the shadowy Internal Operations, John Lynch. Lynch, true to form (both for himself and for the archetypical role that he plays in this story), doesnít give Cash much information about the actual job itself. Rather, he uses Cole as a pit bull, pointing him in the right direction and unleashing him. However, during the weeks that follow, in the course of interrogating the survivors of their bloody encounters, one thing is repeated: Lynchís desire to learn the whereabouts of a man known only as Carver. When Lynch is found shot through the head (surviving only via a newly empowered gen-active ability to regenerate tissue), Cash picks up the slack and begins trying to piece together the sequence of events between the last time that he saw his friend and his near-fatal shooting.
In classic crime fiction style, this is accomplished through a series of casual interrogations, moving from lead to lead as each conversations inevitably ends in one suspect fingering another. Sure, gun battles are sprinkled here and there, but itís mostly to break up the monotony of monologues and dialogues. This, naturally, leads to the Op-style big firefight. The twist, however, lies in the nature of Carverís connection to Lynch, as well as the ending confrontation between Cole and the mastermind behind the whole she-bang.
Carver, for those not in the know, is the lead character of Sleeper. Knowing that beforehand sort of ruined a bit of the suspense for me, as I was already aware of the fact that Carver is playing on the side of the angels (though that term, in this setting, is a relative one). So really all I needed to learn was the backstory that this mini provided, which, to be honest, wasnít that much. However, it does clarify enough that I feel like I have a better understanding for the direction that Sleeper is likely to take and it was interesting, given the fact that Iíve already read Carverís version of his origin, to see the opposing (and more popular, amongst the supporting cast) viewpoint.
In any case, even if Point Blank had provided no insight into Sleeper, Iíd still be happy with the purchase, because itís a archetypical, enjoyable read. If you read Sleeper, but not this book, you should definitely look into picking it up. If you didnít read Sleeper at all, you should. And then you should look into picking this up. At this point, it might be a wiser decision to just hold off and wait for the trade, but knowing DCís erratic publication scheme for them, I wouldnít chance it. Great story all around, with gritty art from Colin Wilson that is very reminiscent of 100 Bulletsí Eduardo Risso (and thatís no bad thing, my friend).