Pullbox Reviews: Idle Thuggery- Nothing “Idle” about it…

Idle Thuggery: The First Cut
Written by Morgan Quaid
Art by Rain Art Studios
Textures, Lettering, & Soundtrack by Luke Gartner-Brereton
Available now!

After a an oddly fortuitous encounter with an old school friend in a dark alleyway, Frank Grey finds himself suddenly working as a low-level henchman for one of Kenton City’s rising Arch Villains. After a brief induction, Frank is thrust into a world of intrigue and excessive violence, where promotion is a matter of survival rather than skill. On his second mission the newly-made henchman receives a fatal wound, but does not die as he should; a fact which raises some intriguing possibilities. Idle Thuggery is an attempt to pull back the curtain and take a look at what goes on behind the scenes of a typical arch-villain enterprise; to see the bags under the superhero’s eyes and walk a day in the life of those unsung (and frequently death-prone) members of villainy; the henchmen.

A while back, a global event went completely unnoticed and changed everything.

Called “The Forgetting”, the event covered a span of three minutes, three minutes that no one on Earth remembers. Three minutes of lost time, only accounted for through modern technology. Everyone knows something happened, but no one can say what. What is known is that soon after The Forgetting, a small number of people started displaying what can only be described as superpowers.

As with all things, these powers came at a price. Sure, a person might be able to fly, run faster than a Ducati motorcycle, or flip a garbage truck with one hand. But human life is finite, and as the saying goes, “the light that burns brightest burns half as long.” The more an individual used his or her power, the faster their light burned out.

Did you think that stopped everyone from living the life of a comicbook superhero? Not a chance. Think about it. If you had the power, would anything be able to stop you from flying? There will always be those courageous enough, foolhardy enough, crazy enough to risk everything in order to be all they can be.

This story is not about one of those people.

This story is about a guy named Frank. Frank’s not a bad guy, just not a terribly ambitious one. Out of work, he spends each day in a mind numbingly dull routine. His mundane existence is thrown on its ass when through chance encounter, a simple mugging, Frankie is reunited with an old acquaintance from school.

Joseph “Stinky” Tenenbaum has done pretty well for himself. He’s got some really sharp clothes, a steady job, and minions assigned to do his bidding. Okay, wait… so the minions aren’t officially his. I mean sure they work for Joseph, but he works for a proverbial Big Cheese. That’s right; Stinky Tenenbaum is Operative 29, employed as middle management for the criminal organization known as the Silver Hand!

Through their chance encounter, Joseph offers Frank a helping hand… a job, a once in a lifetime offer that will change Frank’s life forever- 401K and health benefits included. Sure, Frank would be required to take on certain assignments, missions that some judgmental and narrow minded people could look down as “crimes”. But as Stinky…

Sorry… Joseph.

As Joseph, Operative 29, puts it, it isn’t really a life of “crime”. It’s just a matter of “alternate ethics”.

Thus begins Frank’s new life. He goes through rigorous testing and training. He learns all about things like guns, explosives, and hand to hand combat. Then finally comes that fateful day when Frankie gets his working clothes… a (mostly) bullet-proof suit and silver mask. Even better, he gets minions of his very own and assumes the mantle of Operative 13! But as we all know- and I’m paraphrasing here- with great power (and minions) comes great danger to life and limb.

What, you thought Frankie was the first “Operative 13”? Hell no, he’s wearing some dead guy’s suit. Probably the mask too. Come on, recycling’s important and Kevlar-lined Armani don’t come cheap.

When Morgan Quaid sent me the opening chapter for Idle Thuggery, with information about a Kickstarter campaign, I was really interested. Basically, Quaid has taken a staple of the superhero genre, and flipped the script something fierce. We’re not following the career or life of the “hero”. We’re not even following the “villain”. This story is all about the guy who works for the villain, in the trenches, out there on the front line, doing the dirty jobs and making it all happen. And Morgan Quaid accomplishes all of this with style, gusto, and an entertaining “day in the life of…” style of narrative as Frankie tells his story. He’s built a world that looks a lot like our own, reflecting many current issues and situations, and spins it all out by getting us to root for the guy we’re usually booing and jeering at.

The art by Rain Art Studios is done in a gritty, frenetic style that puts heavy emphasis on facial features and expressions. At any given time, there’s no doubt whatsoever what state of mind poor Frank is in (mostly gut churning panic), as it’s penciled and inked right there on his face for all to see. It’s a dark style, with a heavy use of shadows, and at certain points it was a little tough to follow the action. At first, it kinda bugged me, but then I thought about it in terms of a live action movie. There are always those moments when things move too fast to follow, the action is happening in dim lighting, and it’s kinda cool because for a few seconds you’re right there with the characters, trying to make out what the hell is going on. With that epiphany, I went back to one of those scenes and found that from panel to panel, Rain Art had accomplished the same thing on the page, and suddenly it all worked for me.

Overall, I can’t really think of anything in Idle Thuggery that didn’t work for me. It’s sometimes harsh, but always moving along with a sense of purpose, and definitely toward a larger goal yet to be revealed. I liked Quaid’s work enough to check out another project he’s got going: The Rust Chronicles (check it out if you’re interested in steampunk with a twist).

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