The GeeksverseREVIEW | Body Bags, Vol. 2: Theories of Violence TPB (Image Comics)

REVIEW | Body Bags, Vol. 2: Theories of Violence TPB (Image Comics)
Published on Thursday, December 13, 2012 by
Jason Pearson’s Body Bags is back (sort of) in this trade paperback collecting four previously published stories of father-daughter Body Bagger mayhem. How does the book fare? “Hit da switches” to find out!

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Collects four Body Bags stories in one convenient volume.
  • A showcase for Jason Pearson’s brilliance at illustrating balletic, sequential art action and physical comedy.
  • Three of the four stories require little to no prior knowledge of Body Bags continuity in order to be enjoyed.
  • Hilarious character interactions, although the style of humor employed will not be for everybody.

Cons:

  • None of significant note, although long-time Body Bags readers should note that the book’s contents consist of somewhat recent, previously published material that they may already own.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Publication Date: December 2012
  • Written and illustrated by: Jason Pearson
  • Colored by: Dave Stewart, Stine Walsh
  • Lettered by: Stine Walsh, Ken Bruzenak, Doug Wagner
  • Book design by: Innfusion Studios
  • Format: 112 page, full-color trade paperback. Collects Body Bags: One-Shot (originally published in 2008 by Image Comics), as well as the stories “Hit Da Switches” (originally published in 2005 by Image Comics in the Body Bags: 3 the Hard Way one-shot), “World Destroyer” (originally published in 1997 by Dark Horse Comics in Dark Horse Presents: Annual 1997), and “Well, It’s About Time!” (originally published in 2000 by Dark Horse Comics in Dark Horse Maverick 2000).
  • List Price: $12.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale on 12 December 2012

Page Previews (Click on images to view in larger size)

  

For more preview images, check out our Body Bags, Vol. 2 preview.

Full Review

Ah, Body Bags. Comics readers of a certain age will likely remember Jason Pearson’s creator-owned work for the controversy generated by its over-the-top violence, profanity, and the—let’s say voluptuous—portrayal of teenager Panda Delgado, if nothing else. While the moralistic furor over its content helped the first Body Bags mini-series (originally a Dark Horse Comics title) gain fame and notoriety, it also obscured the fact that Jason Pearson was and is a comic book artist possessed of first-rate visual storytelling skills, even at that early stage of his career.

New Body Bags material has only intermittently and rarely seen the light of day since the father-daughter bounty hunter team of Clownface and Panda debuted in print in 1996 for a number of reasons ranging from Pearson’s other professional commitments, illness, publishing delays, and the writer-artist’s desire to maintain a certain level of quality for his work. Image Comics’ Body Bags, Vol. 2: Theories of Violence collects all of the extant post-debut material. The trade paperback comprises the following:

  • “One Shot,” the lead story in Body Bags: One-Shot, published by Image Comics in 2008;
  • “Hit Da Switches,” the lead story in the 2005 Image Comics one-shot Body Bags: 3 The Hard Way;
  • “World Destroyer,” the epilogue to the original Dark Horse Comics Body Bags mini-series that first appeared in black & white in Dark Horse Presents: Annual 1997, reprinted in color as a back-up story in Body Bags: 3 The Hard Way; and
  • “Well, It’s About Time!,” a story that first appeared in black & white in Dark Horse Maverick 2000, reprinted in color as a back-up story in Body Bags: 3 The Hard Way.

The upshot to all of this for Body Bags completists is that if they’ve already purchased the two most recent publications featuring new Body Bags material (2008’s Body Bags: One-Shot and 2005’s Body Bags: 3 The Hard Way), there’s nothing new for them here save for reproductions of the originals’ variant covers. For other Body Bags fans however, this volume is a handy compilation of all Body Bags material that has appeared in print outside of the original mini-series which, if you aren’t confused yet, was retroactively re-titled as Body Bags: Father’s Day in the collected editions released in 1997, 2005, and 2009. Readers new to the property will still find Theories of Violence an accessible entry point into Body Bags‘ near-future world and the adventures and conflicts of the government-sanctioned, licensed-to-kill bounty hunters (“body baggers”) that reside in it: The stories, with the exception perhaps of “World Destroyer,” provide more than enough contextual information for even novices to easily find their narrative footing and immerse themselves in the book’s setting—this isn’t exactly War and Peace we’re talking about here.

The book opens with “One Shot,” which finds Clownface and Panda in a mission to recover a super-powered corpse from terrorists seemingly intent on weaponizing it, all while a meddling celebrity journalist documents the proceedings on live television. Pearson throws in a couple of plot twists to keep things from playing out too predictably, but the story is really just there to serve as a framework for Pearson’s detailed rendering and his brilliantly executed action set-pieces. Pearson is a master of perspective and distance, changing up one, the other, or both at the same time at just the right moments to control narrative tension and story pacing. As good as Pearson was as a visual storyteller on Father’s Day, he has grown to become so much better in the years since and for this reason, Theories of Violence might even be a more ideal introduction to his work for new readers than the original mini-series.

“Hit Da Switches” is a slightly more sedate affair that is no less entertaining. Panda washing her father’s armored low-rider (a fanservice moment if there ever was one in this book) while being subject to an informal police interrogation serves as the framing device for a number of action-filled flashbacks. The framing sequences exhibit Pearson’s skill at depicting facial expressions and physical comedy that run the gamut from subtle to slapstick.

“World Destroyer” and “Well, It’s About Time!” are shorter pieces, the former is a twelve-page, action-packed epilogue to the original Body Bags mini-series and the latter is a six-page comedy piece. As mentioned above, those unfamiliar with Father’s Day might find themselves slightly out of their depth in “World Destroyer,” which presumes a degree of reader familiarity with characters and events from that particular story, but the dialogue provides enough in the way of exposition to fill in the bare minimum of continuity blanks. “Well, It’s About Time!” has Pearson utilizing a slightly different rendering style: Comparatively looser and less detailed when viewed alongside the rest of the art in the book, but no less effective and visually interesting.

Tying all the stories together is a cheeky, self-aware sense of humor. The violence is so extreme that it almost circles back to a Looney Tunes-level of physical mayhem. Panda is ridiculously-proportioned even for a comic book female, perhaps even to the point of causing offense to certain sensibilities, but she actually comes off as strong, motivated, and eminently capable at her job as a licensed gun-for-hire, which in my mind makes her a better female representation in comics than the many “superheroines” who are empowered only in the most ostensible sense. However one wants to parse Pearson’s character design choices and the book’s level of violence and profanity, the fact remains that the collected material in Body Bags, Vol. 2 Theories of Violence is something of an achievement in visual storytelling, and fans and students of comics and sequential art should seek this trade paperback out if they can, especially at the relatively economical price-point. Highly recommended.

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