By Ales Kot, Adam Gorham, Michael Spicer, and Dave Sharpe
‘Can’t stop, won’t stop’ remains the mission statement in Dead Drop and Kot, Gorham, and Spicer deftly continue the frenetic, street level action in issue #2. Handing over the baton in this terrorist-chasing relay to Archer, this issue is structured largely the same albeit just slightly more awkward than the first, but continues to twist and subvert the stated intentions of chasers and chasees alike. Leaping from subway cars to garbage trucks to kiddie pools, it’s a pantsless parkour party that flows with a visual rhythm that refuses to let the beat… mmm…drop.
The opening page is striking both for its comedic effect and in how it instantly engages the reader. Ales Kot structures the story similarly to the first, keeping it tight within the confines of a small window of time focused around the high-speed chase of a Valiant hero and an unknown supposed terrorist in possession of a potentially catastrophic virus. Kot excels at balancing the momentum of the chase, replete with all the action-movie awesomeness, with the further development of the espionage-heavy plot while still managing to incorporate a healthy dose of humor into the mix. The only stutter to the pacing comes in the form of flashbacks to Archer’s morning, which seems to exist largely to justify the joke of having him in his underwear throughout the chase. It’s a funny bit, but not wholly necessary even though it does contribute to the ongoing “I’m having a bad day” circumstances.
Kot is very subtlety molding our roadrunner of a terrorist into a sympathetic and dimensional character all herself without ever slowing the pace to shine specific spotlights on anyone. Archer’s dialogue, much like Aric’s in issue #1, feels a little off to the more well-versed Valiant fanatic in how he’s reverted more to the character he was introduced as than what he would develop into over the course of his own series. However, that could be attributed to treating Dead Drop as an introduction to this universe and its characters and Kot has very specifically highlighted the base elements of Archer whom is still eminently likeable. As an entry-point to Valiant, Kot is absolutely on the money in providing a thrilling, frenzied tale with grounded spy action injected with levity and sci-fi craziness; in short, he’s boiled down the best elements of this Universe into an accessible, satisfying mini-series.
There’s an attitude to Gorham’s art that’s pretty infectious; a loose, yet clean line with an urban aesthetic that’s perfectly suited for the free-flowing nature of this city tale. His character work is tight with the slightest outstretched exaggeration in form and thoroughly emotive facial expressions that time and again prove essential to delivering the bulk of the humor this issue. As effective as his figures may be, it’s the environs and their myriad of vehicles that really stand out. Gorham’s stuff moves; beyond the use of speed lines (which are economically used for maximum effect) it’s the attention to detail like the ellipses of the car wheels to convey the sense of physics at work that really add towards the sense of motion. The behavior of Archer’s clothes (what little there may be) as he clings to the side of speeding subway is on-point and the use of spattered inks as a car slams on the brakes are great touches as well.
If you refer to the credit page map (which is a brilliant bit of design work that lays out where the following action occurs and what page it happens on) you’ll see that Gorham is bringing Brooklyn to life this issue as opposed to the skyscraper infested Manhattan. Gorham has a good feel for the city and its respective idiosyncrasies (the architectural styles of certain neighborhoods, the abundance or lack thereof of tree life, etc.) but there are definitely a few more panels lacking descript backgrounds than what we had the first issue. That may be the result of the different locale or the need to highlight the figures and/or allow the colorist to define the mood, but it is noticeable. A small nitpick in an otherwise rich and unique visual spectacle that the reader comfortably swims through thanks to smartly paced panel layouts and a bold style.
So much of the grimy ambiance is because of Michael Spicer’s rich texturing that pairs exceptionally well with Gorham’s art. The palette for the city streets is an earthen, subtle affair while vibrant pops of effervescent complementary green and purple lines the underground rails. Atop it all is a layer of sponged texture that provides a broad grainy effect, but makes for a perfect duet with Gorham’s near graffitied style. That top layer does occasional create a lack of definition between foreground and background colors, but that kind of uniformity still fits with the overall aesthetic. The lack of rendered backgrounds in some spots gives Spicer room to manipulate tone and most are a textured gradient, but moments like Archer’s big leap are a thing to behold with the subdued light flare and blood orange sky. The tangibility of this series thus far can be attributed to Spicer’s technique and palette and this issue is certainly no exception.
Two issues into Dead Drop and the velocity of this Valiant hero roulette presses on unabated. The plots has thickened a bit, although it’s far from labyrinthine and it quite ably lays down a track from each of your favorite genre beats. Gorham and Spicer are a formidable art tandem and Kot is ensuring that things won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Fast, surprisingly fun and a natural blend of espionage action tropes keeps Dead Drop #2 on track.