Jeremiah Harm #1

[13 March 2006]

By William Gatevackes

In 1983, Keith Giffen co-created the character of Lobo for DC in the Omega Men comic book. Lobo was a rough and tumble, intergalactic bounty hunter who took on some of the nastiest creatures in the universe. Giffen, with some help from Alan Grant, made Lobo into one of DC’s most popular characters through a series of guest appearances, mini-series and one shots. Lobo even took on Santa Claus in one of these one-shots, Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special. And Lobo later received his own ongoing series that was written by Grant.

In 1993, Giffen created Trencher for Image comics. Trencher was a rough and tumble, spiritual bounty hunter who took on souls who were reincarnated in error. The character starred in a four issue limited series and a one shot entitled Trencher X-Mas Bites Holiday Blow-Out that was published by Blackball comics.

In 2006, Giffen and Grant have created Jeremiah Harm for BOOM! Studios. Jeremiah is a rough and tumble, incarcerated bounty hunter who is called upon by his jailers to recapture some escaped fugitives.

Do you sense a trend?

Every ten years or so, Giffen, and to a lesser extent, Grant, have re-visited the bounty hunter character in comic book form. Jeremiah Harm arrives three years off schedule, but its main character seems cut from the same “shoot first (usually with a big gun), don’t ask any questions at all, pity any who get in his way” cloth that Lobo and Trencher were.

Of course, despite the obvious similarities, there are differences that set each of the characters apart. The character of Jeremiah Harm has many qualities that are not shared by Lobo or Trencher.

For instance, Jeremiah Harm offers a much more serious take on its title character than any issue of Trencher or Lobo did there’s. Stories featuring Lobo and Trencher were also filled with bizarre, over-the-top humor and excessive violence. The violence still carries over into Jeremiah Harm, but the humor is extremely muted.

Jeremiah Harm has a European feel to it. The story seems like it would feel right at home in Britain’s 2000 AD or some dark recess or the Judge Dredd universe (Not surprising considering scripter Alan Grant’s history on those very titles). And the artwork would feel right at home in Heavy Metal. While the general overall feel of the book is European, some things about it are distinctly American, namely, the deconstructed writing style so prevalent in today’s comics.

The title character doesn’t even appear until page nine, then only for one panel before disappearing for three more pages. The character doesn’t get involved with the main plot until the end of the book. And in the pages preceding, there is very little in character development. The man Harm is hunting is smart, we figure that out from the way characters talk about him, and he wants to destroy Earth, which we find out from the character himself, but little else is know about him or his motivations. The issue asks you to invest a lot in the series with out showing you much of what to expect.

Characterization aside, the plot, stretched thin though it may be, is good. It would have been better if we had more of an emotional investment in the characters, but is good in showing action. Grant writes the futuristic bits of dialogue very well. This is not easy to do. Too much of this type of phrasing and what you are writing becomes babble speak. Grant puts all his new terminology in a context so are able to easily understand it.

Another criticism I have for the book is its price in relation to its story content. It features 22 pages of story, just like most mainstream books (there are only two pages of house ads in the back of the issue), but at a dollar more. I realize that the cost of producing a full color independent comic must be very steep, but you should offer your potential readers more than what essentially is just a prologue to the storyline. The “writing for trade” trend is unpopular in the cheaper, mainstream books. It could be deadly for any independent publisher to employ this tactic. For $3.99, many people would expect a healthy chunk of story from the issue. You don’t give it to them right away, they might not stick around for the rest of the story.

Jeremiah Harm might be a good read once the storyline is completed and collected in a trade paperback. But if issue one is any indication, buying an issue at a time might not be worth the hit to your pocketbook. And if you wait for the trade, judging on the titles mention above, a copy of the inevitable Jeremiah Harm Phooey on Christmas might be included in the book.

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