Images & Words – Choker #3

Choker 3

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

Spoilers Ahead. Forreal.

Images & Words is once again taking a stroll through the streets of Shotgun City. It’s a futuristic slum, a place where even impressive technological advances cannot push against the tide of mediocrity known as the human condition. A diseased corpse wrapped in LED lights. It is a sociological ecotone, a convergence of possibility and failure that is bound to bewilder any visitor.

And it couldn’t be any more beautiful.

This is might be why I love Choker so much. It seems to be that the stories I become most invested incorporate the setting as an integral component of the narrative structure, as opposed to arbitrarily settling for any location. Sometimes the setting is so important that it becomes the crux of the story, such as with the island in LOST or the eponymous ship of Battlestar Galactica. Other times, settings make subtle suggestions that readers pick up on without even knowing it; the barren dunes of Tattooine reflect Luke Skywalker’s inexperience, whereas Death Star 2 represents the chipping away at Darth Vader’s once impenetrable heart of darkness.

So as I walk through Shotgun City, my visitor’s map is pissed on from a fourth-story fire escape, I just laugh. “Wow, that old lady’s got great aim!” And then I notice that her impeccable shot can be chalked up to night vision goggles and a laser-guided rocket-catheter. What a fucking world this is!

To be fair, maybe it’s inappropriate of me to pass off my hallucinations, my romps through fictional elseworlds, as a comic book review. But once you’ve consumed enough caffeine to reach Omega Level, reality and fiction become interchangeable terms, travel guides and reviews become synonymous, and definitive concepts are forfeited in favor of the indefinite but undeniable. And so, I pour more Rockstar Recovery into my system, gaze up at toppling skyscrapers of Shotgun City, and continue my trek.

Making my way through the dense concrete jungle, I learn all sorts of tidbits about its inhabitants. For instance, it turns out that some employees of the Shotgun City Police Department are eligible for Man Plus, a procedure that endows participants with superhuman strength. That is, of course, when it goes according to plan.

Unfortunately, Detective Johnny Jackson’s operation did not go quite so smoothly. As he was informed after awaking from surgery,

Those impervious to the enhancement properties have instead cultivated some very undesirable results. Manifestations of pre-existing conditions I’ve seen before, though not to this extent…But then I’ve never before encountered a genuine case of alien hand syndrome, let alone a transmutation of it.

Ah, so I see…that’s why Jackson’s left hand occasionally tries to shoot him in his sleep or choke him to death. It’s all making sense!

My daytrip also finds me overhearing explanations for the misandry of Flynn Walker, Jackson’s surly partner. Jackson’s associate Royce Davies provides some gory details;

I mean, you heard about her husband, right? Catching him in bed with her sister and best pal…? There’s even rumors that her mother was in on it. Pretty fucked up, huh?

With that being said, Walker’s rage comes in handy from time to time. Combined with her Man Plus, this unadulterated aggression helps her fend off a bunch of Marilyn Manson-looking teenage attackers…who can fly. I see her take out these gothic avengers, these outsiders who declare that “It’s all different now: the bullied have become the bullies. And we’re really, really in the mood to hurt people.”

Right before I board my bus outta Shotgun City, I see a fucking freakazoid tearing people limb from limb at the police department. Hell, even Walker and her aforementioned abilities can’t lay the fucker out. I suppose Johnny Jackson might have to step up to plate, so hopefully I can see him do something wonderful during my next visit.

Choker #3 is entitled Down These Mean Streets a Bastard Must Go. I agree. If you like comic books and have yet to visit Shotgun City, consider yourself at a disadvantage. Go buy this goddamn comic.

Images & Words – Choker #1


[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

Sometimes impulse purchases work out for the best. Other times, they don’t. This week, I’d like to share a story in which tossing down four bucks for an unfamiliar product ended up being a good idea.

A damn good idea.

Just like every Wednesday, I walked into the comic book store looking forward to snagging all sorts of goofy shit. Again, I know how ludicrous these books can be, but anticipating their release helps get me through the week. Reading them, on the other hand, helps me forget about the week altogether. Clearly, it’s a marriage made in Escapist Heaven. So it goes without saying, I picked up all of my favorite books that feature body builders with super powers, mind-numbing exposition and overly-sexualized women.

In addition to this mindrot, I also snagged Choker #1. Originally slated for release two weeks ago, the first issue of this six-part series comes out swinging. What we find out in this first issue is that over-the-hill private investigator Johnny Jackson is finally being offered a chance to regain his position on the city’s police force. Of course, this means he must appease the insidious chief of police by tracking down Hunt Cassidy, the man he locked up years ago.

Does this seem like another Crime Story Paint by Numbers? Sure. But Choker pulls it off, setting the story in the quasi-dystopian Shotgun City. Perhaps taking a page out of Spider Jerusalem’s playbook, Jackson has these kind words to say about his city:

Jesus. This place stinks worse than my office.

Devo-fucking-lution, how we’ve embrace you.

We’re living in one big melting pot of futility and folly, and somehow it continues to flourish.

There’s not a thing I can do about it.

Not anymore.

Mutiny has ravaged the ship and we’re slowly sinking. Not even the sharks will want to eat us.

Maybe I’m a sucker for a pessimistic, pissed-at-the-world detective. Maybe I think it’s an archetype I’ll always fall for. Maybe I just wish I could be one myself (a detective that is).


And while writer Ben McCool’s script certainly places Choker within the world of interesting narrative, it’s artist Ben Templesmith that cannon-launches it onto Mount Bad Ass Comic Book. This guy has done a ton of sick shit, such as 30 Days of Night and Warren Ellis’ (unfortunately delayed) Fell. However, I really think that Templesmith is upping the ante with his new series, and the readers are going to reap all the benefits.

Thus far, the artwork of Choker is nothing short of inspiring. Templesmith’s neat & tidy approach to panel layout keeps the story moving without the necessity of pausing to ask What the fuck is going on? With that being said, the contents of these panels are quite atmospheric in nature, creating a dark world that always seems to be clouded over. Templesmith then creates a balance, as he paints Shotgun City with vibrant neon colors. As a result, he generates a sharp urban contrast between progression and regression that harkens back to Bladerunner.

Choker #1 has proven to be the best four-dollar investment I have blindly made this week (and yes, I’ve made a few). Even without any text, this book would be worth your cash money. In a way, the fact that the story McCool has begun to unveil is actually rad, well that’s just icing on the cake.