I know, I know. We only do book reviews around these parts once every blue moon. And never, NEVER do we review comic books! All these things occurred to me as I was reading The Reconcilers, the latest from actor/writer/producer/superman Erik Jensen. But then I thought, if you don’t like it, you can LEAVE! But please don’t leave. We value our readers. Especially the girls.
The Reconcilers takes place in a dystopian future in which the world is ruled not by governments, but by corporations. This is kind of like a game of Fortunately/Unfortunately, because unfortunately, no governments means no corporate bailouts whenever a company runs into trouble (topical!). Fortunately, no governments means corporations are instead free to turn to all sorts of hardcore badassery to solve their problems. This is where the titular reconcilers come in. To settle their problems, a company keeps a team of gladiators on hand to compete in a bloody free-for-all that’s broadcast all over the world. The last man standing wins.
This is where we find ourselves when Maximillian Sokor, the grand poo-bah of Earth’s corporate fiefdoms, tries laying claim to the mother of all ore deposits discovered by Sean Hexhammer and the “ore jockeys” of Hansen Lunar Engineering. Not content to be pushed aside and have their find taken out from under them, Hexhammer and company challenge Sokor Industries to full and total reconciliation — which they’re almost certain to lose. And we’re off.
I’ll admit that I was a little iffy on this one when I first opened it up. Televised death matches are a trope of dystopian fiction I’ve never really been able to get on board with. And books like Hunger Games haven’t really done them any favors. But I have to say that I got hooked early in. The book’s secret weapon is its writing. Erik Jensen is one of those jack-of-all-trades bastards we love to hate. When he’s not on TV or producing plays, he’s writing comic books. You want to know what I’ve been up to? I rearranged my living room. It doesn’t even look good. Anyway, Jensen really makes these characters come to life. There are a lot of great little beats, off-hand remarks that really bring them up off the page, which already puts it above a lot of the stilted dialogue we read in today’s better comics. It’s also a story in which the stakes seem high right from the start. I’m not really sure what to atribute that to. It may be because this is our first time being shown this world, so there’s no feeling that this or that character is immune from having anything happen to them. It was enough to keep me guessing, which is really all I can ask for.
The book features some interesting character and technology designs, but other than that is probably best described as barebones, with maybe just a little bit of retro thrown into the mix. It’s not flashy, which I think is to be appreciated. I would say the words do all the talking, but there’s got to be a better way to write that sentence.
My copy says #1 on the cover, which oftentimes is followed by a #2. It’ll be interesting to see The Reconcilers develop into a series, as it works perfectly as a one-shot. But if subsequent stories are as well written, count me in. The book isn’t as hardcore as your Scalped or your 100 Bullets, but once you’re drawn in, you’re there until the end.