The whole goddamn “drug war” is such a clusterfuck of bad ideas that it’s a wonder the premise in Justin Jordan and Raúl Trevino’s new four-part Boom! Studios series — that of a frustrated DEA agent “going native” and crossing the border into Mexico to take the fight to the cartels using the same brutal methods that they themselves are infamous for — hasn’t played out in real life already. Or maybe it has, and they’ve just managed to keep it out of the press?
It’s certainly been explored in fiction before, no question about that — Joseph Conrad’s timeless classic Heart Of Darkness did it first, and Francis Ford Coppola famously transposed that story into Vietnam for APOCALYPSE NOW — so we can’t go so far as to give Jordan any particular points for originality here, but he adds an interesting new wrinkle into the proceedings by having the agent assigned to bring rouge operative Conrad Marlowe (methinks our author wears his influences on his sleeve) “in from the cold” turn out to be his own daughter. So, yeah, derivative or not, I’m liking where this one’s heading —
Jordan’s other recent-vintage projects such as John Flood and Strayer have shown him to have a real penchant for creating strong and memorable characters, and the same appears to be true one chapter in here, albeit with a political and bureaucratic twist given that the powers-that-be on both sides of Donald Trump’s imaginary wall seem less than enthusiastic about the prospects of our would-be heroine actually succeeding in her task. Which rather leads me to wonder why she was even given it, but that’s just one of many intriguing questions that will hopefully be addressed in due course as events play out in this book.
Complementing the sharp dialogue and smart story hooks is the smooth, gritty-but-stylish art of Raúl Trevino, who hails from Mexico himself, and imbues his locales with an authenticity that is, fair enough, sometimes photo-referenced, but still wildly effective on the whole. His action sequences have a real snappy rhythm to them, as well, and as exposition gives way to violence in future installments, that’s going to come in real handy, you can already tell. Juan Useche’s largely-subdued color palette aids an air of moody immediacy to everything, and the end result is a comic that both reads and, crucially, looks much like a William Friedkin crime flick.
I’ve gotta give the brain trust at Boom! props for issuing a Spanish-language version of this comic, too — that can’t be a move without a considerable amount of financial risk attached to it, but given the subject matter, it would almost seem remiss not to do it, so I hope it pays off for them. I’m a little bit less enthusiastic, it must be said, about them putting out this first issue with something like four or five different different covers, but that’s just how it goes these days, I guess, and if “main” cover artist Jilipollo continues to knock it out of the park as he does here (as pictured at the top of this review — Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi’s far uglier one being shown underneath it), well, there’s no real reason to pick up any of the variants, anyway, unless you’re some kind of die-hard completist. Which, fortunately for both my wallet and sanity, I’m not.
Anyone who’s been around comics for any length of time can tell you that sometimes you just “get a feeling” about a book, and I’ve definitely got that — in spades, no less! — about Sombra. If Jordan and Trevino can manage to follow up this opening salvo with three more rounds that hit their target as surely and confidently as this one does, we’re in for one hell of a memorable ride. You’d be very foolish indeed to miss out on it.