At the end of Damaged #4 (See my review of #1-4), Frank, the soon-to-retire head of a special police task force, was teaching his young replacement, Cassidy, how to be a cop on the rough streets of San Francisco. Meanwhile, Frank’s brother, Henry, a cop-turned-heavily-armed-vigilante, has taken on his own protege, Lordsman, a police officer sent to prison for refusing to help while a known gangster died in a car fire. Lordsman, though, doesn’t agree with Henry’s philosophy of taking out the criminals to clean up the streets. Instead, Lordsman believes the cure to the ills of society have to start by cutting off the head – the corrupt politicians and policemen. When he goes on a mission without Henry in tow, he puts a dirty cop in the hospital with a career-ending injury, which only makes the police that much more interested in catching the vigilante duo.
Issue #5 picks up with Frank officially retired, so that he can go after his brother; if he can’t bring him in, they’ll both go down. Meanwhile, Cassidy convinces the injured cop to give up his dirty brethren, and learns they’re whooping it up at a local brothel run by the same mob that pays them under the table. Unfortunately, Henry has lost control of his pupil, and Lordsman, who knows all the dirty cops’ hangouts, heads to the brothel to deal his own brand of justice. While there, Lordsman and Cassidy exchange a lot of bullets with each other, but come out unscathed. The same can’t be said for Cassidy’s backup, though. In the end, Henry realizes that he has to stop his rampaging apprentice.
One of the things I loved about issues #1-4 was how the series was taking its time to build the characters. Through inner monologue voice overs disguised as diary pages, we got a glimpse inside the minds of these men. Things unfolded at a slow burn pace, which not only felt realistic, but added to the tension. It read like a Hollywood movie in the same vein as Heat, with Val Kilmer, Robert De Niro, and Al Pacino, with that sort of underlying rumbling just waiting to explode.
Sadly, very little of that is present in issue #5. In fact, to use an outdated phrase, this may be where Damaged “jumped the shark.” Gone are most of the diary pages, which have been replaced by characters saying out loud exactly what they’re thinking and feeling. As this is the penultimate issue, the pace has been sped up, almost like a TV show that’s been told mid-season it’s getting canceled – they have to tie up loose ends, character development be damned, in order to make the series finale be the big battle with the arch-enemy like all the fans expect (*ahem*Dollhouse*ahem*).
That being said, there are two really striking moments in this issue that hit you pretty hard. It would be a spoiler to divulge them here, but they’re important and impactful. So it’s not that the comic has lost its weight entirely, it just seems to be on some over-the-counter diet pill containing caffeine, sugar, and other natural ingredients whose side-effects have not been evaluated by the FDA.
The artwork is, for the most part, as solid as it was in the first four issues. As before, there are some frames that are so wonderfully rendered, they almost appear to have come directly from a movie. However, there is some evidence that the art might have been a little rushed this time out, too. Some of the characters look more posed than in the previous issues, some of the action scenes are a little awkward, and the perspective seems off every once in a while. There also appear to be times when the same artwork is practically copy-and-pasted, with only minor tweaks to the shading or a slightly different pose (see the first page above). It just feels like shortcuts were taken with this issue in general. These minor quibbles aside, the art is heads and shoulders above what many comic books are doing today, but it feels a little less focused this time out.
Overall, I’d still recommend Damaged #5 with some caveats. The artwork is mostly great, the action is exciting, and the character tidbits that remain are strong, but it feels like a comic that needed more time to breathe and grow. I’m not looking for 437 issues of build-up to a finale that my grandkids will have to hear about from their grandkids, but another issue or two at the same pace as the previous four would have done a lot to make this series a stand-out. I have high hopes for the last issue, but I have a feeling it’s mostly going to be a big gun battle. And while that will be exciting, knowing what could have been will make it feel like a hollow victory.
Damaged #5 from Radical Publishing will be available at your local comic shop on February 1.