Joining the current run of great books from Black Mask Studios – joining The Forevers and perennial favourite 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank – this tale of female vigilantes is high impact slice of classic revenge thriller style action, but with a 21st century tone. But will it be a hit or will it miss the mark?
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Writer: Matt Miner
Artist: Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, Doug Garbark, Jim Campbell & Crank!
You get a sense of what you are getting into with Critical Hit from the very start as it begins with activists Sarah and Jeanette sabotaging a hunter’s base in the forest. It’s an in your face opening scene which sees one of them literally standing on top of a truck before smashing its windscreen in and then setting the whole compound on fire. It’s a triumphant FU and sets out the stall early on about what kind of in your face book it is going to be.
However, it’s not all like this and we soon begin to learn more about the main characters, how they get to this stage and what motivates them. This ranges from an abusive former relationship to a troubled relationship with a drunk dad, and does a great job of fleshing out what could have otherwise been a fairly vanilla action thriller.
While the concept of vigilantes out for revenge is nothing new – it feels quite 70s in it’s concept – the strong female leads with their complex backgrounds, as well as their more political agenda against the hunters, definitely give it a very contemporary edge. It feels very 2020s and fits right into the political charged world of AntiFa, Black Lives Matter and Capitol Insurrection. Certainly by giving the girls a political, rather than personal motivation for their action, it makes them seem much more justified that it would at any other time.
The story also evolves as it goes along, with a dark twist involving the hunters they target, which further justifies the girls’ action in attacking their stronghold. While their initial motivation felt a little forced or idealistic, this made it make a lot more sense and the ends justifies the means. With a cliffhanger which looks set to continue this action it also makes the whole series feel like a TV adventure serial and we could definitely see this being a sort of female Jack Reacher style episodic TV show.
Writer Matt Miner has crafted a really strong and exciting story in Critical Hit, and is backed up ably by artist Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and in particular colourist Doug Garbark – who’s use of oranges and purples give it a very warm and fiery feel to it and makes the whole thing feel really rich. The artwork reminded us (in a slightly odd way) of Chris Samne’s Firestorm with it’s clean line and very expressive sense of action and dynamism. While in some of the more graphic later scenes we could see hints of John Romita Jr’s work in Kick Ass..
Overall, Critical Hit definitely hits the mark, in terms of making a very current revenge thriller with engaging and interesting heroines. While some of the supporting characters feel a bit forgotten, and the back story elements and motivations get a little bit lost – ehere is a bit too much emphasis on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’ for our liking – this is still a really interesting and highly engaging story, that definitely hits it’s target!