Sunday Slugfest - Killer Stunts, Inc. #1

A comic review article by: Keith Dallas, Michael Deeley, Kelvin Green, Shawn Hill, Judson Miers, James Redington, Jason Sacks
Michael Deeley

Well it should make for a fun movie.

Billy Andrews is a leading stunt man in Hollywood. He’s also the head of Killer Stunts, Inc., a team of stunt and special effects persons. Billy’s dating rising star Laura Leigh, but her movie producer father clearly doesn’t think Billy’s good enough for her. He wants Billy to become an actor. One day, Billy chases a car thief into a building, fights a gang, and is offered a job.

The ad copy says Andrews is hired by a government agency that may or may not be the “good guys.” That doesn’t come up in the story. We do get a lot of action and the beginnings of some character arcs. A few relationships are hinted at, but not developed in depth. That’s the book’s weakest point: It’s very light on character. Andrews is the only one who displays any personality.

On the other hand, we get some very exciting action scenes. The opening sequence is a car chase better than recent James Bond films. The ending has Billy ride a motorcycle through traffic, buildings and a garbage truck before fighting three men barehanded. In between, he has two beautiful women competing for his attention. This is a very “guy” comic.

The coloring is bright, which helps make it feel like California. Good figure work all around. These people really “move.” The story flows at a good pace. It’s basic, but has potential for more depth. We don’t get the entire premise in the first issue, but we get enough to know what’s going on. Like I said, it’ll make a great movie.

It’s a hell of a deal for 75-cents. Let’s hope the next issue is worth 3 bucks.

Kelvin Green

I enjoyed this book, but I found that I was having trouble getting over one glaring flaw. Stunt artists, like most film-makers, are illusionists. The tricks they perform are indeed dangerous, but there’s always a crash mat or safety harness offscreen, and the bullets fired are blanks. Anyone who’s seen a stunt reel from Hong Kong knows that this isn’t always the case, but it’s remarkably rare in the US film industry, especially at higher budget levels such as the film being made in this comic. As such, I find the very premise of this series to be highly implausible; I just don’t believe in a stuntman like our protagonist.

However, I’m just about willing to let one implausibility pass; if I can accept a crimefighter dressed as a bat, I can accept a rather-too-hands-on stuntman. Whether I can continue to suspend disbelief as the series goes on, I’m not so sure, but for now I can just about manage it. It helps that the comic itself is so well done.

Especially impressive is the art. While there are a couple of odd moments when perspective goes out of whack, or visual inconsistencies creep in (such as the size of the motorbike during the chase scene), on the whole it’s a very good job. This first issue is essentially an extended action scene (well, two extended action scenes), which would be a problem anywhere else, but is appropriate for this series, and it’s done very well indeed. The action is brilliantly choreographed, and easily grabs the reader’s attention, not letting go until the last couple of pages. Other action-led comics, especially superhero comics, could learn a lot from the way things are done here.

This excellent art job also serves to conceal the lightweight nature of the writing. While what’s here is competent enough, the characters are so lightly sketched that they seem a bit inconsistent and unrealistic. Given more room in future issues to develop and interact, they will probably improve, but for now they remain rather nebulous. Similarly the plot is difficult to comment on based on this first issue, as it too gets sidelined in favour of the action. Some subplots are set in motion, but it’s hard to tell how interesting they’ll turn out to be when they’re given such short thrift.

I'll give Killer Stunts a tentative thumbs up, because there’s obvious talent at work here, and this first issue is a great read. That said, I hope that even though this is clearly an action-led series, the creators will take the time in future issues to provide more of a balance.

Shawn Hill

Plot: Overloaded and formulaic to the extreme, but somehow this is still a likable comic. Movie-industry centered, the comic book presents all the stock players:
intrepid hero. Vapid love interest. More interesting secondary love interest. Unscrupulous old guys. And a wizened mentor to help our hero on his journey. If
only any of us knew what that was.

Comments: Scott Cohn’s art is a boon to this mini-series, as he has a crisp and clean style reminiscent of Tom Grummet, Val Mayerick and Jim Valentino. There’s a lot of objects and action to draw in this life of a daredevil stuntman, and Cohn nails it all with clarity. There are points of the story where I had a bit of hard time keeping up with what was happening, but I put that down to the writing more than the art. A first issue is the perfect place for old-fashioned narrative captions or even a stray thought balloon to pop up and offer some exposition now and then.

Mike Manley’s inking is also professional and energetic, expertly balancing light and dark and giving the settings a gleaming, crisp movie sheen. There’s one excellent bit where the James Bondian climax of a stunt sequence is immediately broken by the fourth wall, shattering the illusion humorously and reminding us that this is a self-aware behind-the-scenes look at making these sorts of stories, too.

Less interesting: Sadly, that behind-the-scenes is rife with clichés, and no amount of fancy motorcycle stunts is going to hide that for long. Disapproving dad, traitor in the stunt crew ranks, criminal interests intruding, even the aged mentor are all standard tropes that are going to need more polish, and probably some winnowing down. It’s painfully obvious that stuntwoman Kyra is a far better match for young Billy than the dull Laura, and if we can see it, he should too. In a clever bit, we learn that boring starlet Laura is also featured in the movie Billy is doing the stunts for, the humorously entitled “Die For Me Again.” But if Kyra is Michelle Yeoh, Laura is certainly no Halle Berry or Famke Jansen.

Still, the strong art and the potential likeability of the characters counts for a lot. There’s a nice fist fight in a garage that recalls the far quirkier film The Transporter. If Kinney can make his bland hero more distinctive, and perfect the formula of movie stunt/real stunt/mystery, things could look up from this promising debut. Kid’s got potential. And maybe drop the B-movie gangster junk altogether; the movie industry’s hinky enough on its own to provide all the story Billy needs.

Judson Miers

First off, I will have to admit that this review came from an issue I had a free preview to. I don’t believe that biases me in any way, but I just want to be upfront about it.

Besides being a digital copy (so I can’t talk about the finished production quality of the paper issue), overall the artwork, colors, lettering were much better than I would have expected from an independent title.

The storyline didn’t grab me immediately, but the Cliff’s Notes is that Billy Andrews (head of Killer Stunts, Inc. and lead stuntman) has a bad day at work. His bad day at work involves a stunt being ½ second off and things could go very wrong very quickly! Anyway, it seems that a mysterious stranger has been on the set “tinkering” with the props. Is it a villain or an old friend?

All in all, not a bad read. Don’t know that I would buy the issue without being turned on by a friend but not a bad start…

James Redington

From Publisher’s website: The story centres on Billy Andrews, a Hollywood stuntman who is struggling in his relationship with a rising film starlet, Laura Leigh, and to keep his fledgling stunt company, Killer Stunts, Inc., afloat in the new age of CGI-dominated special effects. Billy is then sucked into an assignment from a covert government agency—not knowing he’s being used as a pawn in a vast conspiracy. In over his head, the daredevil-for-hire re-teams with his former mentor, John Lynch, an aging legend in the stunt community, and is forced to utilize all his “tricks of the trade” to not only stay alive, but to stop the bad guys from pulling off a major heist.

My Review: When first hearing the plot of this comic I thought, “mmm, that sounds a bit like XXX (that terrible film that has an even worse looking sequel out soon). Thankfully, this comic is nothing like XXX at all. The comic delivers where that film did not. It presents a likable hero in the form of Billy Andrews, who is clearly tough enough to handle him-self in a fight, and perform the some of the most dangerous stunts on film – but can he handle a relationship where he is not the centre of attention and work undercover for a secret government agency? That question is what makes the comic interesting.

The artwork is great fun, especially in the action scenes. There are some wonderful angles on the pages that a movie camera would never get, especially during the opening scene. The colours are bright as they should be - this comic has an LA/Hollywood setting. However, I would have liked it to maybe go a little darker when things started to happen at the end of the comic. Scott Cohn is definitely someone to look out for, especially as he captures the excitement of a film chase scene very well on the non-moving page. I like it the freshness of his art too. It doesn’t feel strained.

The writing is good, and the story could be interesting. I think it may be a little early to tell as just as I was getting into the comic it ended; but that has left me wanting more which can’t be bad. I found some of the characters a little flat, which might be because of the pace of the comic and not the writing. I found myself wanting to know more about them in this opening act. I think there is a lot more to be seen here and once again that will compel me to buy more to see what happens.

Scott Kinney has definitely created something I like. I feel that the actual 22 page format has worked against him as the comic moves very fast and just as you start to get into it we have the cliff-hanger and a month to wait. A little more background into the characters would have been nice, but I am sure things will be filled out more in the upcoming issues. Overall, it’s a very slick, fun, action packed comic and to be quite honest, it’s better than a lot of the other stuff out there on the shelves by the bigger companies. Recently, I have definitely become more excited by reading titles like this than I am in reading half the regular titles I pick each week.

Jason Sacks

Killer Stunts, Inc. is an independent stunt company in Hollywood. They provide stunts for action scenes for Hollywood movies, while behind the scenes, the action is a lot more complicated...

Yeah, it sounds like a mediocre TV series set to comics, and that’s how the first issue reads to me. We have a few fun action scenes, and behind the scenes intrigue, and an impossibly tacky outfit, too. It’s fine for what it is, but honestly, if this were on TV, I probably wouldn’t tune in. There’s nothing especially fresh or exciting here, nothing that puts a unique spin on the concepts. Instead, it’s a very professional run though ground that feels like it’s been treaded before. I can’t see any compelling reason to spend $2.99 for successive issues of it, but, of course, your mileage may vary.

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