Escape from New York #15
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Maxim Simic
Colorist: Marissa Louise
There have been two efforts (at least) over the last year to capitalize on some of that old Kurt Russel magic, both by Boom! Studios. I’ve read smattered issues of each, and have been on a roller coaster as to which one feels most true to the spirit of the original movies. Big Trouble in Little China sometimes feels like it is too on the nose, and does not differ its tones enough for me. Escape from New York is a bit different, although not by leaps and bounds. There is something that is a bit twistedly poetic about the character of Snake Plissken; a bit akin to another one of Russel’s characters, Colonel Jack O’Neill, at the outset of Stargate. Snake’s done a lot of bad stuff, but at the beginning it was for a cause. Now he realizes that he was just used. And while spending most of his life now on a revenge road-trip which leaves little room for compassion, Snake feels something for those who enter his charge and exit by death. It’s a hard life, and the Escape from New York comic by Boom! Studios does a good job of capturing this character and the world that Snake inhabits.
Escape from New York #15 finds Snake in Ohio with two compatriots. I have not checked in on this series in a while, so I am not certain how the three of them came to be entangled. What is clear is that the two others have become inspired to view life through some lens other than “Life in the US sucks and we’re just meant to suffer”. While primarily on a mission to just escape and evade and (I am guessing) live long enough to continue journeying towards Washington, DC., the “team” makes a detour into Cleveland. As government forces tighten their noose, Team Plissken arrives at the idea that the only way out is to incite the whole city of Cleveland to riot against the minority rich who make their lives a living hell.
The art here was the first thing that failed to engage me entirely. I will not go so far as to say it “turned me off”, but it definitely failed to grab me. It’s a quick and dirty style, structurally, although I cannot accuse it of being bereft of detail. There are plenty of fill lines in the interior, it is just that they are done in a quick, jot-like style. It’s palatable, but is simply outshone in an age of artists that do a lot of excruciating detail. Now we can have an argument about whether those other artists stay on schedule when they’re on a monthly ongoing, but that is a different topic.
The art kind of channels Sunday funny papers in its cartoonyishness. Admittedly, there is a LOT of combat choreography to get through in this issue. Vehicular, gunfights, anti-air combat, melee… it would be tough to get it all in otherwise without a similar, rapid production-style. Still, the color palette is bland, and the art just does not leave a lot to occupy the mind from an imagery perspective once you put the book down. In contrast, I am still thinking about the artwork in last week’s Avengers: Standoff #1, for example.
The story is wired a bit tighter. One of the factors I will mention with regards to my opening comments about the difference between the two Kurt Russel character books…Escape from New York does not have to try as hard. There is not a lot of color that defines the character of Snake Plissken. He basically needs to find unique and brutal means of blowing shit up and dispatching enemies while remaining stoically quiet and saying very little. Whereas Jack Burton has to be charismatic and the humour has to work. So the key to this comic is to not overdo it, and to weave some subtle hints at the melodramatic into the undertones. Sebelan does that, and so walks away with a win. One positive note I will say about where art and story converge for a poignant scene is on page 4, panel 3, where Snake, preparing to kill again, is drawn to look war weary, and showing just a twinge of despair at the life of never-ending warfare. Throughout this issue, Sebela does an excellent job of dropping small sound-bites that convey the bleakness of this world. The notion of an America where the middle-class has been eradicated, and people are either rich or live in abject poverty is a sorrowful tale. For those on the losing side of the line, there is just existing, without any real hope for a “better life”. It is a tragically poignant and twisted-knife kind of tone that you can almost taste. Nicely done.
Escape from New York #15 is not the best issue in the series. Story-wise, it is not a horrible place to jump on. I’m just not sure that the average reader would find a lot to endear them to the notion of adding this to their pull. If you have a yen for seeing the continuing adventures of Snake Plissken, this is certainly worth a read. If you are on the lookout for dystopian fare, you may want to peruse a few more options before making a final decision on what title to add to your recurring pull.