Rocketing onto the comic book scene with the force of a Tom Clancy-penned Iron Man, the graphic novel Havoc Brigade (written by Neal Marshall Stevens and featuring the art of Jon Bosco) is an intriguing, surprising, and thrilling story brought to us by independent publisher Studio-407. Telling the tale of nearly indestructible mech-suits and the soldiers trained to pilot them in a futuristic, war-torn Europe, Havoc Brigade never lets up, pushing full throttle all the way on this white-knuckle ride that is sure to satisfy any fan of political thrillers, futuristic military epics, and flying, mechanized warriors beating the @#$% out of each other!
Honestly, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to get when it came to Havoc Brigade. The series was described to me as “a political thriller graphic novel with a Mobile Suit Gundam vibe.” While I have nothing against anime or Mobile Suit Gundam, I don’t consider myself well versed in either and, therefore, had no idea what to expect from Havoc Brigade. What I got was a graphic novel with a truly engaging plot, well-written characters, and an art style perfect for a book focused on soldiers of the future strapped into flying, mechanized suits. Writer Neal Marshall Stevens has a number of horror screenplays under his belt, and while I’m not quite familiar with the tone of those works, his masterful writing in Havoc Brigade kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. Like some twisted love child between Iron Man and John Woo’s Broken Arrow (a favorite of mine), Stevens crafts a script that explores the effects of this new mobile suit technology on the battlefield of the future, and, even more important, what happens when a member of the team goes rogue, switching sides and pitting both Havoc suit vs. Havoc suit and an experienced Major against a rookie member of his team. Stevens’ characters are rich, and while the plot of Havoc Brigade can be compared to “the internal theft of an American nuclear weapon by one of their own” plot of Woo’s Broken Arrow, Steven’s traitorous Major Jackson is actually much closer to Ed Harris’ conflicted yet resolute character from The Rock. I’m not sure that Stevens would agree, but I couldn’t help but hear Jackson’s words coming out of Harris’ mouth during my reading, and imagining the seasoned actor in the role seemed perfect for the dramatic weight, comlexity, and world-weariness that Stevens has written for the character. Charged with taking out his former Major, the nervous, self-doubting, and out-skilled Sergeant Barnes is the perfect opposition, making the conflict a personal one that leaves the reader consistently wondering how Barnes has any chance of over-taking the man who trained him to use the suit in the first place.
As I mentioned previously, artist Jon Bosco has a perfect style for the book with his anime-like illustrations and superb skills at drawing the detailed mechanical suits and the epic, combat-ravaged settings. The colors provided by Diogo Nascimento and Leonardo Mlk are vibrant and fleshed out the visuals of the story even more, especially in the intense aerial battles between Jackson and Barnes. If you even remotely enjoyed the mech-suit battles from Iron Man or Avatar (or the tension-filled drama of films like Crimson Tide, The Rock, or The Hunt for Red October, for that matter), this is not a book that you’ll want to miss!
Havoc Brigade is available at the Studio-407 website or as a digital comic from ComiXology. You can also find a free preview of the first issue in a few different places, including this post at CBR’s Robot 6. It’s definitely worth a look!
That’s all for now, comic book sniffers. Time for me to go do a strip-down and weapon prep on my Havoc-class suit.
‘Till next time, keep all systems green,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer