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Picks of the Trade: Half Past Danger

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Another Picks of the Trade already must mean I’ve got too much time on my hands or there are just too damn many good trades and collections out there. Personally, I’ll go with the latter because I don’t think there’s enough time in the day to really do everything I have to do or want to do. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. Anyway, this week, we’re going to talk about a little book from IDW Publishing. It’s an original series and it’s fantastic.

“What book is it?!” you ask? Well, it’s called Half Past Danger and it’s by writer/artist/first issue colorist Stephen Mooney, who was joined for the final 5 issues by master colorist Jordie Bellaire. It’s a book we recently mentioned on The Comic Shoot as a great series to get you started in the wide world of independent comics and it’s a book, that even if you’re already dipping your toes in the indie pool, that you need to pick up.

Why am I being so forward and already telling you to buy this book? Well, aside from the obvious point that everything on Picks of the Trade is something you should buy and check out, this is just a well thought out, well executed and beautifully packaged collection. It isn’t often mention about how something gets collected, maybe because a lot of the times people go for trade paper backs and there’s really not a lot to them, but since I have an insane hard cover addiction I will talk about this one. I’ve seen one or two hard covers in my day and putting aside stuff like Absolute Editions and Library Editions which are on their own level; this hard cover is a shining example of how you should do it.

I hate dust covers, with a fiery passion, so right off the bat the fact that this doesn’t have a dust cover gives it high marks and that’s before even opening the thing. Other things to note are the paper quality, which is thicker than stuff that, say, DC or Marvel produce for their regular hard cover editions, and it’s packed with pages and pages of extras. Unlike extras on, say, DVDs, I love the extras in comics. Even if it’s just a handful of variant covers, it’s very cool. This goes more in-depth and you get more of a sense of Stephen Mooney and this world he’s created/creating. Admittedly I looked at the extras before even reading the comic. I just can’t help myself.

As for the comic and story itself, Mooney has a handful of characters that really seem to have staying power and really come off as interesting, well thought out, believable people. It’s set in the early 40’s and, considering the time, Nazis are the big baddies trying to capture Dinosaurs for some sinister plot to help them win the war. Nazis are, and always will be, a great villain for pretty much any comic. Everybody hates them, everybody knows what they’re all about and as soon as you see that little arm band you’re ready for the good guys to go smash some teeth in. Plus, I pretty much love all things World War II so, again, well played Stephen.

Before we talk about the main character, Tommy “Irish” Flynn, I want to just discuss secondary character John Noble. For me, I can’t help but see Steve Rogers and I mean that in every good way possible. It strikes me as almost a love letter to Captain America and after I made that connection, which was fairly early on, I was really into the character. I’m not sure if that was Mr. Mooney was going for or not but for me it worked really well especially in this normal, well almost normal, world he’s created. He’s a character that works great alongside somebody like Irish, who’s sort of a jump in without thinking, brawling, tough S.O.B that loves Jameson’s Irish whiskey (and who can blame him there).

I hate spoiling the first time reading experience for people, so I really don’t want to say too much more about the story itself. Suffice it to say there’s a, for lack of a better term, ninja and a badass “Dame”—the tag line is “Dames. Dinosaurs. Danger.”—and a whole whack of Nazis and Dinosaurs. Really and truly, this is a story that was made for me and maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much. There are elements from a bunch of different places that are meshed together and worked so well together that I can’t help but wonder if Stephen Mooney just wanted to tell a story about a bunch of different things he really liked and just made it work; and believe you me, it does work.

As mentioned above, Mooney’s characters are just really great. He’s created characters that the read hates, cares about, wants to see succeed and everything in between. That’s not something everybody can do and especially not on their first creator owned original series. It speaks to the talent of Mooney in a loud way that’s impossible to ignore.

Speaking of impossible to ignore, dat art! Mooney, handling art duties himself, is just as talented with a pencil and some ink as he is with words and story. Again the characters are clearly planned out, they all have their own signature looks and it’s all just executed to perfection. His Dinosaurs, too, are a thing of beauty and just remind me of being a kid and being so fascinated by these long dead creatures. Nobody really knows what they looked like, of course, but I’d say Mooney did a damn fine job in the look and feel of them and hopefully they continue to play some sort of roll moving forward because, really, who the hell doesn’t love Dinosaurs?

Okay, so I got a little carried away about the Dinosaurs, sue me. As mentioned above, Mooney handles the coloring of the first issue before Jordie Bellaire takes over and he does an admirable job. Everything is as it should be, and it looks like most other professionally colored comics out there. However, enter Jordie Bellaire on issue two and BOOM everything changes. Okay, maybe it’s not that drastic but it’s noticeable. Jordie Bellaire, as we’ve said many times over twitter and in reviews and just in general conversation, is one of the top coloring talents in the entire comic industry. She colors 58 ½ books a month, or around that figure, and they’re all beautifully colored and expertly done. I dare anybody to find one negative thing with her coloring on anything and I guarantee you don’t find an example. So, with that said, props to Mr. Mooney for scoring a hell of a talent like Jordie Bellaire who elevated his art that one extra step and really making it pop. He could have colored everything himself and it still would have been great, but with Jordie Bellaire it’s just that much better.

So, recap shall we? Dames, check. Dinosaurs, check. Danger, check. Dat Art, double check. Yeah, it’s all there. Half Past Danger is pretty much the whole package and there’s something for everybody to love and get into. I don’t know how Stephen Mooney plans to follow this up, and he’s confirmed he will and even mentioned he’s currently writing the follow up, but rest assured it’s going to be more brilliance. Stephen Mooney is a creator to keep your eye on, especially because he can seemingly do it all. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name on some Image comics down the line, or maybe even big two stuff, because he’s just that damn good. Buy this series for the beautiful hard cover and stay for the great characters, top notch art, and a wicked story. It’s a no brainer.

As a side note, make sure you check out our interview with Stephen Mooney and follow him on Twitter. He’s an awesome dude and, of course, he posts some amazing art. While you’re at it, follow the uber talented Jordie Bellaire here too.

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