"Critical Hit #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Black Mask Studios
Written by Matt Miner
Illustrated by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer
2014, 38 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on October 1st, 2014
People have been fighting for animal rights for decades. It's something that has produced numerous charities and advocate groups over the years. Critical Hit is a comic that puts these issues front and center, using them to tell a story of two women that get over their head in this fight for animals. The comic opens with Jeanette and Sarah clad in ninja-like gear, utterly destroying a hunting camp. They smash up cars. They break windows. They burn down cabins. Needless to say, the hunters are a little pissed and they're ready to take out their aggression on the girls like something out of The Most Dangerous Game.
Critical Hit bounces back and forth between the past and the present, filling in some details on the events in the girls' lives that got them to this point. Writer Matt Miner does a tremendous job making you sympathize with both of them, especially Sarah. In one instance, the flashback jumps ahead a year, and Sarah goes from a peppy store clerk filled with life to a depressed and battered woman. In this case, Miner speaks volumes by what is not said. Instead, artist Jonathan Brandon Sawyer packs a punch with the scene, showing just how far she's fallen and how desperate she's become. After those pages, you can't help but feel sorry for Sarah and instantly want to see her achieve that happiness she once held.
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On the other end of the spectrum, the hunters are portrayed as cruel and heartless. They're understandably annoyed that these girls have come in and not only disrupted their hunt, but in one case, destroyed a man's livelihood. These guys are not shown breaking any laws or doing anything unusual with the animals. In fact, you don't actually see the hunters interact with any woodland creatures throughout the issue. As a result, I have a hard time accepting the thousands of dollars of damage that Jeanette and Sarah cause at the onset of the issue, especially since hunting is one way that the deer population is controlled. Otherwise it can lead to major problems not only to the forests and crops, but to motorists as well. Saving rabbits and monkeys from lab tests is one thing, but this seems like an odd choice.
Although I disagree with their methods, Jeanette and Sarah look pretty badass as they enact this violence. They look like mercenaries, clad entirely in black. Scarves cover the bottom half of their faces, so only their eyes and some hair is viewable. Jeanette's scarf flows behind her in the wind, which gives it a really cool look. This is used effectively in the cover by Sawyer, with images filling the scarf as it weaves across the top of the page.
Speaking of the cover, there are four in total, each of which are pretty awesome. It's impressive that this indie book got some of the artists it did for the covers. Francesco Francavilla provided a cover exclusively available at select retailers like Midtown Comics, showing the girls running towards a chain link fence. Phil Noto's variant shows them standing tall over a battered truck with the words "Out of Order" spray-painted on its windshield.
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There is a load of personality crammed into each character that appears in Critical Hit. When Sarah's flashback begins, she's like every girl you've ever wanted to hang out with. She seems incredibly cool and instantly likeable. The opposite can be said for her asshole boyfriend, Eddie. You can tell from the start that he's a total sleazeball and he doesn't deserve a girl like Sarah. This goes on for the rest of the issue with each character's traits coming through in their look and style.
Critical Hit begins with a bang..and a wonk, crash, and a whole mess of explosions. It's a comic with a message, although I'm not entirely sure how effective it is at this point. If the book does go down the territory of human hunting as the official description describes, it will get a whole lot scarier as Jeanette and Sarah are put in the shoes..err...hooves of the deer that they were trying to save in the first place.