Half Past Danger #5
Written by Stephen Mooney
Art by Stephen Mooney
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Published by IDW
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This issue is entitled “Ours is but to do and die” and paraphrases the poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade,’ which praises the bravery and nobility of soldiers during a war but does not shy away from the consequences noting in its closing paragraph that not all who venture into battle will return. It is as close to a perfect description of the events in this issue as you could find.
The issue starts with a disorientating opening as Flynn, last seen facing down two T-rex’s (rexi?), stirs to find himself and Greta being rescued by Ishi and Noble. This is very surprising considering he was killed in the previous issue! Channelling Monty Python, he dismisses it as but a flesh wound. Although a significant upgrade from dead, Noble is still in pretty bad shape as a result of his confrontation with Toht.
There isn’t much time for our heroes to reacquaint as they find themselves commandeering a German sub as Moss returns, assisting with another of Flynn’s quips “dead Nazis.” The interior of the sub is illuminated with a glorious shade of red, adding to the claustrophobia of the scene. Jordie Bellaire has been an invaluable addition for Mooney as she is one of the few colourists able to understand how important the lighting of a scene is to the feel of a book. She is very much the cinematographer of Half Past Danger. Bellaire seems to be finally getting the mainstream recognition she deserves and this month alone she can be found in DC, Marvel and IDW titles. Most impressively she, along with Declan Shalvey, has jumpstarted a Deadpool series that had become extremely stale.
With his main characters in such close confines, Mooney is able to litter the scenes with his spiky humoured dialogue and wonderfully subtle sight gags. Ishi’s eyes widening when he finds himself forcibly thanked by Noble who also removes Flynn from his Han Soloesqe attempts at communicating with the enemy by launching him out of the panel. The scene also contains a number of blink and you will miss ’em moments of tenderness. Flynn and Nobles reassuring “glad to see you back” smile to each other is a wonderfully executed bromance moment. Also Noble, placing his hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder with Flynn in the background facing away from the couple, is a great contrast to a similar moment earlier in the series where he looked on in jealously and sadness.
The mismatched quartet soon find themselves in a wonderfully tense shootout with a German submarine, each character’s emotions and fears are pitched perfectly throughout the scene. Most memorably in a striking panel showing a close up of Moss’s face, a single bead of sweat betraying the steely focus in her eyes. Having survived the game of torpedo chicken, the group board the German warship determined to stop the deadly cargo reaching its destination. Once boarded, Flynn finds himself frustrated as he starts to lose control of the group as they begin an all out assault on the Germans. Flynn gets his hero moment as he kicks in the door to the ships control room and cooly dispatches a guard before again finding himself face to face with the series big bad, Toht. Toht, who could so easily have been a clich d Nazi bastard, much like his name sake from Indiana Jones we see in most depictions, is instead a very intelligent shrewd operator. He seems to always be in control of the situation no matter how much it seems like he has finally surrendered the upper hand.
When it finally looks like Flynn has gotten his man, Mooney turns the tables in a wonderful triple bluff sequence framing both the panels and the dialogue to appear that at first Noble, then Greta is the groups Judas before finally revealing it is in fact the group’s leader Moss who has turned!!! The timing and execution of this twist was exquisitely handled at various points in the story. Mooney has thrown out red herrings about a traitor within the group, turning the finger of suspicion on Moss, Ishi and with his miraculous return from the grave, I was convinced that Noble was going to be the one not to live up to his name. But no, I should have stuck with Magneto’s motto of “never trust a beautiful woman.” The moment itself is wonderfully drawn, Noble’s face giving a hint of a smirk, veins bursting from his arms, every inch the confident superman as he thinks Moss has given them the upper hand. And then immediately following the reveal looks smaller, his eyes alone convey the sadness of Elizabeth’s betrayal. And with that head spinning moment issue 5 of the series draws its close.
By the end the group is now fractured. Moss has revealed her true colours and with just one issue to go, this series could really go anywhere. Noble is near death, their commander has betrayed them and the hero is a hostage. This issue definitely felt like Mooney’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’ moment as he shatters the core group of characters to their core. Flynn has already lost one squad and is now in the midst of losing another. Will this be the tipping point that finally knocks Flynn over the edge or will it be as the poem says “Storm’d at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well, Came thro’ the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of Hell.”
The series has been an unashamed joy to read. It doesn’t try to be a none more dark story that seems to be the default for many titles. Half Past Danger is pure fun and excitement, packed with great action and interesting characters. It’s the film ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ should have been. Despite being, or perhaps because of being a first time writer, Mooney brings a swagger, confidence and humour to his creation that is missing from a lot of the big two’s larger titles. As excited as I am for the series to reach its conclusion I am quite sad at the thoughts of one of the freshest and most exciting title in years come to a close. This is the first issue that Mooney had completed after the initial release of the title so it is interesting to see the evolution of both his artwork and dialogue. He seems to be placing more trust in his reader’s ability to pick up plot turns and character traits through subtle imagery in his drawing as opposed to dialogue heavy exposition which, was most prevalent in Issue Two. As a result of this the pacing of the story is beat perfect, flowing at a fast moving, exciting pace. Mooney has laid down a huge marker with Half Past Danger and one gets the feeling he won’t be short of offers when the series ends. He has firmly established himself as a unique and exciting voice, not just in Irish comics but in the US as well were Half Past Danger is also selling well. I hope the bright lights of bigger titles don’t darken his storytelling ability. But if Half Past Danger has thought us one thing, it’s never count out an Irishman.
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