What if Tarantino made a comic book? That’s what it feels like when you hit the first page of this collection. You’ve got the titular heroes’ rocking threads making them colder than ice, with the attitude to match, the first scene (in a church) is delightfully irreverent, and there are times you can almost feel blood dripping off the page.
At first blush I thought I was in for an over-cliched ride-along with two stereotypical badasses to serve the artist more than the plot, but I was delighted to find more underneath here. The first few pages have a beautiful, clean feel, the lines are razor sharp, and the panels convey a sense of calm before the storm. We have Jack Blaze, the strong, stoic type who keeps a cool demeanor, and his brother Billy, the irreverent loudmouth who’s a total slouch until the action kicks in. Our boys in black are well established in their roles in this world, and you’re given no chance to believe that things will stay that way.
Ex-special forces martial artists driving around in a black version of the General Lee, brandishing swords, long knives, and guns with a practiced ease, while addressing the world and each other in the style of your favorite buddy cop film, it’s almost like watching a kid play with all of his toys in one connected game. They throw everything in there, and once you get a grip on the wide range of style and inspiration, you find something greater than the parts. Yes, the brothers are loaded with enough cool to make Chuck Norris take notice, but there’s a great dynamic between the two and their family that fleshes out what could otherwise be cardboard cutouts. There are plenty of twists and turns, keeping you on your toes regarding who’s helping who, and who’s just put a dagger in your spleen. There are a bunch of players at work here, and you’re never quite sure when the world will settle or fall to pieces.
Most of the action features the Blazes mowing through cookie cutter minions, and that’s plenty okay with me; the crux of the drama occurs in the smaller, one-on-one fights that take place between the bloodsport panels. The big fight scenes leave our appetites whetted for these “boss” fights, and we look forward to seeing if someone can be a match for them.
I have to take a moment to really appreciate the art in this book; everything is clean lines and really tight focus until the fight scenes, and then you get to appreciate why. It’s a huge contrast when things get messy, and you can appreciate the visual calm between, like a palate cleanser for your eyes. The balance between the frenetic action and the stillness and calm of the moments between makes you look eager to get to the next extreme without feeling inundated with one style or the other.
If you’re looking for some modern-day bushido-based badassery, jump on into this world of underworld politics and limitless goons, pick up a copy, and hang on tight for a fun ride.