Downe By Law

 Some days, I want to read a comic book that makes me consider new ideas, or one that stretches the boundaries of the medium’s possibilities. Other days, I just want to read a comic where a guy punches another guy’s head off, and said displaced cranium is stuck on the first guy’s fist for the duration of the comic. Image’s new one-shot Officer Downe was made for just those kinds of days.

 Aimed squarely at fans of hyper-violent comics in the vein of Miller and Darrow’s Hard Boiled, Joe Casey and Chris Burnham’s Officer Downe has a pretty simple concept. In a cartoony-futuristic Los Angeles ruled by animal-headed gangsters and depraved evil geniuses, Officer Terrence Downe is the last line of defense for ordinary citizens. A nigh-indestructible supercop of Hulk-like proportions, Downe uses a combination of foolishly huge guns and freakishly large fists to mow down armies of jumpsuited ninjas and rampaging convicts. When Downe inevitably suffers enough catastrophic damage to his frame that he finally drops dead in a bloody, dismembered heap, his fellow officers recover his remains and the combined psychic might of 100 telekinetic sensitives is used to resurrect him so he can do it all over again. For about 48 of the most violent pages I’ve ever seen, that’s pretty much it. Definitely not for the faint of heart, to put it mildly.

 I keep giving scripter Joe Casey a shot with his various projects over the years, and I keep just not quite clicking with his work (I thought if anything the guy wrote did it for me, his ‘70s Kirby riff Godland would be the book, but strangely I couldn’t get into it). However, the straight-ahead high concept approach of Officer Downe did the trick this time. Chris Burnham’s unbelievably gory artwork helps a lot—clearly, this guy has been studying the combination of operatically-choregraphed mayhem, microscopic attention to detail, and over-the-top ultraviolence that has made Geof Darrow and Frank Quitely superstars. Marc Letzmann’s lively colour palette tops the whole package off nicely. Once again, though, and I can’t stress this enough—this book is not for the squeamish. It contains enough decapitiations, defenestrations, and peeled-off faces to make RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven turn away in disgust.

 A word on the format as well—I really appreciated that Officer Downe was a comic book, a double-sized, glossy-papered, done-in-one affair that isn’t squarebound, or part of a series, or likely to make its way into another collection of some sort (trade-waiting will avail you naught here). For five bucks, you get a substantial, self-contained read with a couple of extras thrown in for good measure (an interview with Casey, and a look at some of Burnham’s concept art). If you’ve ever enjoyed the irresponsible antics of proto-fascist comic book thugs like Judge Dredd or Marshal Law, you’ll be happy that Officer Downe is out there.