Blowback from writers James Hereth and Rhonda Smiley and artist Kev Hopgood is a blockbuster movie on the printed page. US marines travel through time to 1776 where they team up with American revolutionaries to fight flesh-eating pirates. There are fist fights, gun fights and explosions from the opening scene of the graphic novel when the hard-boiled Corporal Church yells out “Best be prepared for anything!”
Writers James Hereth and Rhonda Smiley come from a background of television and Hollywood movies, having written for the likes of Starship Troopers, Tarzan, The Extreme Team and Ninja Turtles and, for better or worse, it shows here. If you like your action fast and furious then there’s lots to enjoy in Blowback. If you prefer subtlety and character development then this might not be the book for you. The marines are fairly interchangeable with other such teams we’ve met before, from the Bad Batch in Clone Wars to the Colonial Marines in Aliens (although unlike that team there are no women here). Characters are painted in fairly broad brush strokes (the brains of the operation is nicknamed ‘Harvard’, wears glasses and is referred to as a “computer geek”). There are no real surprises but the story is pacy and exciting.
Hereth and Smiley seem to be having a lot of fun with their storytelling which rattles along at a fair old rate. Nobody seems massively surprised that’s they’ve travelled back in time and are fighting cannibal pirates (“Must’ve gone through some kind of wormhole”). There’s a job to do, possibly involving defeating both the British and Nazis (another wormhole) so it’s a case of “accept it like a marine and let’s fight for our country!”. There’s even a chance for some romance (the young man who helps the marines is actually a girl in disguise!).
The standout for me was the art from Kev Hopgood. Although perhaps best known for his art on the Iron Man spin-off War Machine for Marvel, I have very fond memories of Kev’s work on Marvel UK’s Zoids and Action Force and 2000AD’s Night Zero. Although Kev doesn’t get a chance to draw futuristic tech or killer robots here, there’s plenty for him to get his teeth into including exploding helicopters, skull-encrusted pirate ships, and sea faring cannibals with machine guns. The action is pretty much non-stop so getting the artist of Action Force to illustrate Blowback was an inspired move. It’s great to see Kev back in comics.
Blowback then is a bit of a mixed bag. Although it feels very much like reading a comic version of family friendly action movie like Jumanji or Pirates of the Caribbean, there’s also some nudity and quite strong language here, enough for the book to carry a Teen + label, something which might put some parents off buying it for their children. It’s difficult to see exactly who the book is aimed at. It is however a mix of so many genres (pirates, time travel, period drama, war…),so much action, has some witty one-liners (“Nothing is impossible but your next breath!”) and it looks great that it makes for a fun read.
Just like a leading make of wood stain, Blowback does exactly what it says on the tin. Hereth and Smiley deliver big screen thills in a book that’s accessible, exciting and unpretentious and it’s fair to say that will always be a market for comics like that. So if time travelling marines versus cannibal pirates sounds like your bag, open up the popcorn and tuck into Blowback!