[30 May 2006]
The lead character of Cobb: Off the Leash is cut from the same cloth as the classic characters portrayed by John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson. Cobb, the only name given for our hero, is a strong, stoic man, willing to stick up for the little guy. He’s the kind of guy if you were walking down a dark alley at two in the morning you’d want to have your back, not in your face.
This type of hero isn’t seen too much in any form of entertainment these days, but he was once quite popular. It seemed that you couldn’t turn around without seeing the archetype on the TV or in films. But this type of character seemed to fade into relative obscurity. What Sylvester Stallone once played on the silver screen, Steven Segal now plays on direct-to-DVD.
Cobb: Off the Leash #1 is a throwback as well. The good guys are good, the bad guys are despicably evil, and the girls are buxom and gorgeous. Some of you might be turned off by this description in and of itself. This type of story just isn’t up your alley. But this genre does have worth, and in the right hands can be quite good.
These tales can be “grim and gritty” without being dark and depressing. They can be violent and brutal while still being fun and entertaining. And Cobb: Off the Leash is a good example of the best this story type has to offer.
The hero and villain do not meet in the first issue of this series. As a matter of fact, the book ends in a cliffhanger as the bad guy’s minions close in on our hero. In other books, this would be an instance of the deconstructed story telling style. In those books the entire issue would be filled with padded dialogue and little plot advancement. Not so with Cobb: Off the Leash #1. The story’s gears are meshing, the cylinders are tumbling and the plot is constantly moving. By the time the cliffhanger hits, you are thirsty to see what will happen next.
Beau Smith spends the issue introducing the characters to us. Cobb and his enemy Yuri Ivankov are on opposite ends of the moral compass. Cobb will beat up a group of thugs just because they kicked a dog and Ivan will kill anyone to protect an arms deal with his “terrorist friends”. So diametrically opposed these two men are in their moral outlook that you get the idea that conflict between these two would be inevitable even if the plot didn’t call for it.
Smith defines his characters by their actions. You see the lengths Cobb will go through to defend what he thinks is right. You see how evil Yuri is by his cruelty and lack of concern for his fellow man. This shows Smith’s experience in comic books. Showing and not telling is the much better way to go considering that comics are a visual medium.
Smith is aided immensely by the art work of Eduardo Barreto. Barreto is a comic veteran who nowadays is relegated to the land of the independents. This is DC and Marvel’s loss and the indies’ gain. Barreto shows a true mastery over his craft. His action scenes flow and seem natural, and each of his characters has a distinct look. The latter, not often found in comics, benefits the book greatly due to Cobb: Off the Leash being a black and white book. You are not able to tell the characters apart by the color of clothes they wear, so you’d better have a way to discern them.
In Cobb: Off the Leash, you have two comic veterans working at the top of their game. For those adventurous folks out there, willing to take a chance on something different, you might want to pick this series up. If the first issue is any indication, you will get an action packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.