I find myself in one of those awkward situations: reading and reviewing a comic that I didn't realize was a sequel until after I finished it. All I needed to see on the cover was Garth Ennis and I was there anyway. Besides the weird, awkward, and very poorly illustrated 'A Train Called Love', Ennis has been one of the most consistently entertaining and strongly voiced writers in creator owned content in recent years. While I wasn't aching for another piece of police procedural media, Ennis's characterization, confident hand, and humor shines through, making this book perfectly readable even without the seemingly pretty necessary context of the first entry in the series. I can't write much of a synopsis to the book, since not a whole lot of events happen, mostly preamble and setup to the conflict. Two NYPD cops stumble onto a tricky case involving an entitled rich kid who got in over his head, while trying to balance the case out with their tenuous reputation in the department. I'm not a big fan of cop shows. I like private detective stories, but cop shows always have to have an angle to me to be interesting. The serial killer aspect of Dexter. The nihilistic pseudo-supernatural angle of the first season of True Detective. Red Team: Double Tap doesn't have a gimmick, but it works for me thanks to personality. The book's tone is conversational, the two main characters having a rapport and chemistry that works and feels natural. When they have to bend the rules to interrogate a witness in a not-quite-by-the-book fashion, Ennis doesn't just pick the closest cliches to him and cobble them together, instead letting the characters work out the scene themselves. I won't say that I'm head over heels for the book yet, the pacing is slow and I don't pick up on some of the dynamics thanks to not having read the first volume, but in many ways it won me over.
Points as well to Craig Cermak's artwork. His linework compliments Ennis's personality, with a very grounded non-flashy style that still has animation and humor to it. It isn't particularly stylish or remarkable art, but what it is is impeccably functional. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but with so many artists seeming to try to reinvent the wheel book to book, it's refreshing and admirable to see an artist whose art focuses on telling the story with strong uncomplicated composition and mature confident lines.
It's too early to tell how engaged I'll be by the story as it progresses. I may be an Ennis fanboy, but even I can't love everything he writes (although I try, baby. I try). So far I like the voices of the main characters and the book seems to be largely about them and their job, so a good sign. My recommendation is it's probably worth going back to read the original Red Team before picking this up, but if you don't feel like putting in the effort to update your Amazon queue, this book is very readable on its own. It's a simple cop story, and for once that isn't a bad thing.
[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]