Pullbox Reviews: Project Icarus #1 – Action with a throwback, direct to video attitude…

Two years after losing his daughter to cancer, Max Green has yet to find his footing. Divorced, kicked off of the NYPD, Max is working as a correctional officer at the Hargrave Maximum Security Prison where he supervises the absolute worst of the worst. Currently, that demographic includes Doctor Harold Barnett, convicted of multiple cold blooded murders and sentenced to death row. When Max is assigned to escort Barnett to the medical unit for a late night appointment, he has no idea how wild a turn his life is going to take.

I wasn’t too sure what I was expecting when I got a hold of this one because correctional officers aren’t traditionally portrayed kindly in entertainment. They’re usually either brutish thugs working for the inmates in exchange for drugs or money, or they’re brutish thugs looking for any excuse to beat on someone with a riot baton (which they don’t typically carry) or shock them with a cattle prod (not even gonna dignify that one with a derisive remark). It was with pleasant surprise that I found very little of that in Project Icarus… Although one guy does use a cattle prod on another guy, but in all fairness the inmate really was being kind of a jerk.

Project Icarus reads like an action movie of the 80’s and early 90’s, probably grabbed off of the direct to video shelf at Blockbuster where it might have been found among such gems as Martial Outlaw and China O’Brien, and that’s a very good thing. It doesn’t set out to take itself too seriously or to justify some of its more questionable choices. Even better, we’re graced with the John McClain of prison guards in protagonist Max Green. I mean, you just know that he’s down on his luck but still has a heart of gold… his name’s “Max” and he has about four days’ worth of facial scruff! It couldn’t have been clearer unless his last name had been “Sterling”, or “Gunn”. He’s got the grit, the sass, the haunted past and chiseled jaw of the most stalwart action heroes ever to grace a screen.

Credit where it’s due, writer Andy Owens is walking a storytelling tightrope. He’s avoiding the majority of the unnecessary and only occasionally deserved prison guard stereotypes, dipping into the well just enough to remind us all that we’re reading a comicbook and not watching Locked Up on A&E. Some of the dialogue may read as a little over the top, but I’m more than happy to attribute that to the overall throwback feel of the comic. Bad guys have to talk like bad guys, especially if they’re the diabolical mastermind types who would be behind a conspiracy of illicit medical experimentation on incarcerated felons. Owens’s dialogue rings pretty true to life, maybe dipping into overly revealing exposition as he tries to establish some backstory in a short amount of time. I still haven’t decided if it was a case where a little more “show, don’t tell” could have been used, or if it fit in perfectly with the kind of story he’s telling. I had enough fun with this comic to lean toward the latter.

Hey, let’s talk about artwork for a minute… penciled by Patrick Blaine and inked by Andy Owens, with colors by Teo Gonzalez & Claudia Guiliani, Project Icarus is impressive. Where some smaller press comics will give away a bit in the polish department, this one easily holds up against any of the bigguns. Blaine does a great job of choreographing his action scenes, and he dips into the horror genre with glee. The figurative rug that “brings the whole thing together, man” is found in the colors by Gonzalez and Guiliani. As the story moves along, it becomes a bit of a gorefest with the color red being in high demand. Some of the visuals reminded me of some of the more splattery moments of manga comics like The Guyver and Fist of the North Star.

Suspend your disbelief before you pick up this book. For that matter, suspend any real need for social or philosophical musings. This ain’t that comic. If you’re looking for an entertaining read that leaves off with a promise of bigger, badder, and gorier things to come, by all means give this one a shot.

Final Score: 8

He’s totally evil… look at him!
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