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‘Gun Honey’ TPB (review)

Written by Charles Ardai
Art by Ang Hor Kheng
Published by Titan Comics

 

I didn’t know if I needed another pulpy tale about a super-sexy female criminal with a checkered past and a score to settle, but Gun Honey did scratch that itch well enough.

It’s a tale of Joanna Tan, a woman who can smuggle any weapon into any place for someone to use.

She’s the Clemenza who plants the gun in the toilet of the restaurant for Michael in The Godfather. But this time, a gun she planted leads to a deadly prison riot, and the U.S. government forces her to hunt down the killer.  Of course, he’s covered in scars and has a shadowy past, right?

Put all that together, and Gun Honey reads like the kind of bare-knuckled crime action you’d expect from Ardai, co-creator of the Hard Case Crime imprint this story is published under.

It moves fast with dialog that wastes little time in its snappiness.

Take this exchange between the shadow ops handler – a gray-haired, gray-suited woman called “the Burrow Bitch” by criminals and terrorists – and Tan during an interrogation scene. After being antagonized by the handler, Tan grabs her wrist and says, “You’d better have me in cuffs before you call me that again.” The handler replies, “Cuffs? Show me the pair that could hold you.”

So if that kind of economical yet floridly worded storytelling turns you on, the art of Ang Hor Kheng will turn you on even further. Perhaps distractingly and ridiculously so, because this story goes into some softcore porn areas that I wasn’t expecting. Kheng’s art has shades of Frank Frazetta, surely, but there’s also a lot of Milo Manara in here, too. And that begins with our heroine, Joanna Tan, who we first meet when she’s in a bikini on the Santorini coastline being ogled by an oligarch form his yacht. The art literally takes on a peep show quality through the oligarch’s binoculars as the insanely curvaceous Tan reclines. It’s not lost on this old soul that Tan, a multi-ethnic East Asian woman, looks a ton like iconic porn performer/model Tera Patrick.

Don’t get me wrong: Kheng’s art and sequential talents are quite good, and his art does leap off the page. He captures the jetsetting, international woman of mystery vibe necessary. (If this entire book had gone without a jet drawn over a map with dotted lines depicting the route, this book would have been a joke.)

It just also comes with material that felt lifted from the 1990s cheesecake comics era that, yeah, some folks are still out here doing. (Eyes sideways at you, Jim Balent.) Kheng draws Tan in a black leather catsuit through which every curve of her massive breasts are delineated, and it’s beyond comic book ridiculousness. Or that Tan otherwise wears so many super low-cut half-buttoned tops in scenes, if she wears a shirt at all. Or that we get several scenes of nudity, including a lesbian club hookup ripped right out of Atomic Blonde.

On the plus side, Kheng does draw some remarkably natural-looking, yet very large, breasts. Take it from this here burlesque performer on that note.

This indictment of Kheng’s focus on Tan’s chest wouldn’t be as strong if the male protagonist in the series, Agent Brook Barrow (good lord, that name!), was a comparative bit of eye candy. Instead, he’s a bland-looking blond in a trenchcoat whom Kheng draws a somewhere between John Constantine and Bruce Willis. It’s as if Ardai and Kheng joked at each other, “Nobody’s looking at him, anyway!”

If you can get past the super male gaze-y nature of that setup, and it’s a lot to get over, Gun Honey remains some really fun crime reading that has the twists and reveals you’d hope for, plus lots of death and gunplay. This book is sweet enough.

Grade: B

 

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