The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 74 | “Pigs, Vol. 1: Hello, Cruel World” reviewed

Leaving Proof 74 | “Pigs, Vol. 1: Hello, Cruel World” reviewed
Published on Saturday, February 18, 2012 by
Pigs, Vol. 1: Hello, Cruel World
  • (Image Comics, 2012; 112 pages, collects Pigs #1–4 originally published in single magazine form)
  • Written by: Nate Cosby and Ben McCool
  • Art by: Breno Temura with Will Sliney
  • Colors by: Chris Sotomayor with Donna Gregory
  • Lettered by: Rus Wooton
  • Covers by: Jock, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, Francesco Francavilla, Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts, Becky Cloonan
  • List Price: $12.99 (US)
Full Disclosure: This is a review of a digital copy of the book provided by the publisher

From the Back Cover: In 1962, a group of Soviet spies were placed in Cuba. In 2011, the children of those spies were ordered to destroy the American government. PIGS is the story of a second-generation KGB Cuban sleeper cell, trained from birth to kill.

But why have they been activated now? 

And will their training be enough to carry out their deadly mission?

What I Liked: It says something about our increasingly short collective memory and the influence of the 24-hour news cycle on our perception of the passage of time when a comic book with a story rooted in the Cold War seems at once nostalgic and innovative. Cosby and McCool’s Pigs offers an intriguing speculative look at what happens when the war never comes for soldiers born and bred to fight in the ultimate conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Beyond the plot specifics though, Pigs addresses more universal themes and issues. By situating the main plot primarily in the present-day as well as upending the moral absolutism that characterized traditional depictions of the opposing powers of the Cold War, the authors also encourage the reader to question the validity of the moral and ethical arguments that concern contemporary homeland security and military matters.

Breno Temura’s page layouts and panel compositions are well-coordinated and easy-to-follow without being routine and humdrum. There’s a raw and energetic quality to his linework that puts me in mind of early Sam Kieth and Steven Griffin’s work on Hawaiian Dick—I imagine some readers might find his style an acquired taste, but I personally found it to be quite refreshing.

What I Didn’t Like: Cosby and McCool draw from the usual character tropes in assembling their sleeper cell cast. There’s the reluctant operative—happily content in his life as a father and a husband—who is roped into the proverbial “one last job”. There’s the suspiciously quiet and brooding wild card given to unpredictable eruptions of violence. A fellow with a relatively gentle demeanour that stands in obvious contrast to his imposing physical stature? They’ve got that, too. These aren’t faults at all, really, and one can argue that Cosby and McCool are simply hewing to genre conventions here, but I thought I’d point these out for those readers who might be bothered by the use of such rote contrivances.

Owing to Pigs‘ subject matter, reader comparisons to The Manchurian Candidate (in any of its incarnations in literature and film) or more recent fare like 2010’s Salt will likely be unavoidable, for better or for worse. Any extensive or definitive paralleling should be reserved for later in the series’ run, however: While Cosby and McCool’s story starts out hitting the familiar notes and beats of the sub-genre, there’s no reason to believe that the writing duo will be content to follow the conspiracy/assassination thriller template down the line or alternatively, that they will resort to perfunctory plot twists in a transparent and ham-handed attempt to subvert reader expectations.

As I’d mentioned above, Breno Temura is a more-than-capable visual storyteller with a good sense of page layout and design, but his rendering ability strikes me as somewhat inconsistent or uneven from chapter to chapter or even within chapters. It isn’t enough of a problem to be even mildly off-putting, but I did catch myself occasionally going back and forth between pages to keep track of who the characters being depicted are supposed to be or where (or for that matter, when) the scene is supposed to be occurring. Not helping in this matter is Cosby and McCool’s penchant for cross-cutting and non-linear exposition, which borders on gratuitous in some instances.

The Verdict: Pigs has a lot going for it—a gripping plot, solid visual storytelling, and a sympathetic if somewhat all-too-familiar cast—that outweighs whatever minor deficiencies the writing or art might have.

I have some small reservations about giving the book a full recommendation, but I’m recommending it nonetheless. The trade paperback is reasonably priced, the overall level of craft on the book is solid, and the premise of the story is intriguing enough that even the most ambivalent of fence-sitters will likely find themselves reaching for the next installment just to see how the main plot plays out.

 

 

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