For the past few years I’ve read predominantly comics from the Big Two comic publishers, Marvel and DC, and haven’t read much from the other comic publishers out there, such as Image Comics. Choker is a unique book, both in the artwork and the way in which the story is told, and is definitely in a darker vein than I would typically associate Image Comics’ books with. It’s also a book that I think benefits greatly from being read as part of a collected edition, as I’m not so sure it would read nearly as well if there was a month or two gap in between issues.
The story in this book is deceptively simple, as ex-cop Johnny “Choker” Jackson, now a private eye, is called in by the Chief of Police to do a special job, which involves tracking down a notorious narcotics trafficker who was originally collared by Jackson back when he was a cop. Jackson hates his life since being kicked off the force, and wants nothing more than to return to his old life, so he takes the gig reluctantly, with not much choice in the matter afforded to him. Ben McCool takes the simple premise and really delves into the potential in the idea, as he builds a rich tapestry that is Shotgun City, as well as its history and problems. McCool puts more into building up the overall surroundings that Jackson lives in than he needs to, but it’s to his credit because of how rich he makes the world around Jackson. The script is hard-boiled fiction, mixing together a variety of different genres to come up with a very unique mixture, which oscillates between crime fiction, noir, and horror fiction, in alternating sequences. The story takes a variety of twists and turns, and builds up a few great leading characters, and by the end Seaton and Jackson were almost a partnership reminiscent of Lethal Weapon. When the book opened, and showed Seaton and Jackson together, I had no idea how McCool would build their working relationship, and by the end, I really liked seeing these two characters together, as their exchanges really popped off the page. Officer Walker is also a great fleshed out character, and I hope that if and when McCool returns to these characters for another Choker story that she figures prominently in the story, as her wit and utter lack of charm made her a very engaging presence.
The artwork in this series is provided by Templesmith, and is a very unique visual experience. At times, the gritty darkness of the artwork is a perfect complement to McCool’s hard-boiled script, and the world of Shotgun City really comes to life through his artwork. That being said, there were also a lot of times when some of the action wasn’t all that clear to make out, or when it was easy to confuse which character you were looking at, or who was supposed to be who. Overall, the artwork, while unique and strong in most parts, lacked a certain level of consistency. The tone of the book was consistent, but as previously mentioned, it was at times to figure out what was actually happening, and that’s a pretty major mark against the artwork, when dealing in such a visual-dependant medium. Sadly, the overall score for the book would have been higher had the artwork been a bit stronger, clearer, and more consistent.
Choker was a pretty enjoyable read all-told, but the biggest indicator here is that by the end, I really wanted to see what comes next for the characters of Jackson and Seaton. The story here was a great origin story for their working relationship and friendship, to set them up for careers within the police department, and now I want to see where they go from here, how they operate, and how they help to clean up the police department, among other areas of city government, in Shotgun City. I’m in for the next round of Choker comics, if and when they come to pass.