"Choker: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Ben McCool
Illustrated by Ben Templesmith
2012, 170 Pages
Trade Paperback released on May 22nd, 2012
You've seen Robocop, right? The city of Detroit sells their police department to a mega-corporation and they build a cyborg using the body of a nearly dead cop. What if instead of robotics, the cops used a drug that gave them super strength? In addition to that, they also handed out a physical brutality license to all of their officers? That's the case in Choker from the team of Ben McCool and Ben Templesmith. Welcome to Shotgun City. It's kind of like a toilet but with more crap.
At the center of this bowl is Johnny Jackson. He's a former cop who's struggling to make ends meet as a private eye. It's mostly taking pictures of cheating spouses, but what else can he do after he was taken off of active duty? He had a bad reaction to Man Plus, the drug that gave the cops the edge they needed to take on the ever-increasing crime in Shotgun City. Now Johnny's got a gimpy hand which has a mind of its own if he doesn't take medication to calm his nerves. He's given one last shot to get his old life back. He has to bring in Hunt Cassidy, the drug dealer that he put away a few years back. It seems the force is having a tough time finding the guy.
Johnny is torn about this. On the one hand, he's wanted nothing more than to get his job back and return to whatever passed for a regular life in this place for a while. However, it also means serving the same people that put him in this predicament with their shaky drugs. Johnny doesn't really have anything else going on, so why not at least give it a try?
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Meanwhile, that drug dealer Hunt Cassidy is out there spreading all kinds of bad narcotics. I'm not saying bad like it's heroin laced with baking soda. It's bad like it's causing people to become vampires or super strong cannibals. I definitely wouldn't put those side effects in the good column. Choker contains what will probably go down as one of the most terrifying scenes in comics in which a group of huge fat guys descend on a bus filled with elderly people to eat them. Templesmith draws them complete with bibs and utensils. It's so friggin' creepy. The best part is that you don't actually see them do it. You know it's happening. You see the before and after effects, but you don't see the physical act. It makes it so much worse because I'm imagining all kinds of horrible things.
Choker is the kind of book that's perfectly suited to Ben Templesmith's art style. It's a crime noir with super powers and vampires. The city itself is a cesspool. The early shots of it look like a beat-up version of the city in Blade Runner. You know how in the Jetsons everyone lived way up in the air? Their cars flew and their houses were on giant poles? That's because way down below were places like Shotgun City and people like Johnny Jackson. That's the kind of vibe I get when Templesmith shows pieces of the city.
Templesmith has a way of drawing characters that can be so unsettling. The police chief is a perfect example of this. From the very first time he's shown, you know that this is a creepy old man. He's on a Bluetooth headset in what looks like a strip club with a dirty grin on his face. It's as if he knows how much power he holds in this town and he's not afraid to use it whenever he wants. Whether that's getting Johnny to do his dirty work or taking advantage of his position, he'll do whatever he wants.
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The truly disturbing characters are the ones that are hopped up on Man Plus. Picture your basic lunkhead with muscles bigger than his face. Now make him about five times bigger and give him a homicidal rage. Now you're around where these guys are.
Choker works like a distorted version of C.S.I. or any of those procedural cop shows. It's darker and way more twisted. Johnny and the cops are on the trail of Hunt Cassidy. They have to take him down by any means necessary, but a lot of people are going to get hurt or killed along the way. They're not up against a jealous ex-boyfriend or even a drug kingpin. There are vampires and other super-powered bad guys, but no one is flying in on a cape to save the day. Instead it's going to come down to whoever can punch the hardest or shoot the fastest.