Writer: J.C. Vaughn and Mark L. Haynes
Artist: Renato Guedes
This single-volume spin-off from one of my favourite TV shows got a fairly limited release a couple of months ago despite being trailed during Free Comic Book Day, so it’s only recently that I’ve been able to get hold of a copy of it (thanks to it cropping up a certain online auction site). Following Jack Bauer’s first day at work, this prequel to the series gives ample room to most of the regulars (Jack, Nina, Tony) whilst also freeing itself up to include a couple of characters who were killed off early in the first season (Jamie and Richard, Jack’s original boss). The book follows a fairly straightforward spy-plot, with Jack’s mission to protect an ex-real-IRA operative who – after a crisis of conscience - has decided to turn herself in. With only one bullet in his gun as her terrorist cohorts close in, Jack’s situation becomes increasingly desperate…
One of the main attractions of 24 is undoubtedly the real-time structure, and it’s the one element that obviously isn’t going to be easy to replicate in a comic book which the reader can study at his own pace. However, the option of compressing an entire day into 48 pages seems to be a mistake, leaving no breathing space to delve into the acute characterisation or complex plotting that leads to the enjoyably silly twisty-turny antics of each season. As it is, with roughly an hour passing every two pages, we get a more limited insight into the plot of this particular day, with some scenes feeling strangely disjointed as we jump from one time to another all too quickly. However, that isn’t to say that the writer’s don’t understand the show’s characters, as each personality survives fairly intact in the transition from season one to the comic. Jack is the same masculine, gritty, grim character he has always been with a neat line in James-Bond spy thrills and an unflappable persona. We get to see more of Richard than we ever did in the series, which will be a pleasant surprise for longtime fans. And Nina is more like the Nina we saw during most of season one, with a dramatic irony hanging over her and Jamie that will make fans of the show suspicious of their every move – but not necessarily with good cause.
Guedes’ artwork is very satisfying, managing to be true to the feel of the show whilst also capturing brilliantly the characters’ likenesses. I have to assume that most of the facial close-ups were traced in some way, because if not then they stand as impressively effective recognisable faces from the TV show. Action scenes are drawn well, and even if they never managing to be completely outstanding or eye-catching they’re solid enough, with a good eye for military and mechanical detail that fans of the show’s gadgets will appreciate. The colouring also mirrors the TV scheme (which makes frequent use of colour filtering to set mood in a scene) well, with the grey-and-orange CTU interiors, vivid explosions and inventively-lit night scenes all familiar from the TV series. There’s also an effective use of black made during the darker sections of the plot – and nowhere more apparently than in the final two-panel epilogue, which will make a fun twist for newcomers but be utterly predictable for anyone with a working knowledge of the show.
All in all, this is fun for fans of the show but fairly standard fare for anyone else. There’s certainly nothing special to warrant picking it up if you don’t enjoy Jack Bauer in his TV incarnation, and although I’d be interested in seeing a series – although preferably with one hour per comic, to allow for a far more in-depth and densely-plotted adventure – this book is just too much in too short a space to be truly satisfying on the same level as the show. A curiosity, but definitely not a classic.
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