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‘Too Dead To Die: A Simon Cross Thriller’ OGN (review)

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Howard Chaykin
With Michael Golden, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Cover by Dave Johnson
Published by Image Comics

 

Too Dead to Die is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a long time.

Wait…What? It’s not a movie…it’s a graphic novel?

Really? Sure felt like a movie.

Imagine an aged James Bond tricked out of retirement by a need to save the daughter he never knew he had and you’ll have the plot of Too Dead to Die. (It even SOUNDS like a 007 movie. Are you absolutely sure it’s just a book?)

Simon Cross is our hero here, old-fashioned in every sense of the word, and long since put out to pasture as a super-spy in this ever-changing world in which we live (in).

The villains’ plot deals with climate change but in such a way that makes it feel like Blofeld might very well be behind it!

The bad guys have gone corporate over the years but they’re still coming up with insane global plots, which is exactly why Simon Cross is needed.

Writer Marc Guggeneheim clearly knows all the clichés the fans of this sort of material have seen a thousand times. He knows when to play into them but just as clearly knows when to turn them on their ear and play against the tropes for maximum effect.

The project’s secret weapon, though, is Howard Chaykin.

Chaykin’s practiced skills as a cinematographer…excuse me, I mean comic book artist…are the perfect fit to match both the exciting story and the level of parody that overlays it. “Unique” is a word that gets thrown around too much these days but Howard Chaykin’s art has always truly been unique. From his beginnings in the field, even before Star Wars, Howard’s art looked like that of no artist before him, nor does anyone since that I’ve seen present a style even remotely close to his.

New to me, though, is colorist Yen Nitro, whose nuanced work seems to fit Chaykin’s art like a glove here. It’s hard to tell at times where one ends and the other begins.

Adding to the feel of a Chaykin project is letterer Ken Bruzenak, who famously broke the mold on comic book lettering on such collaborations with Howard as American Flagg, one of the best comic book series of the 1980s. I question the seemingly random blunted speech balloon “arrows,” but hardly any kind of detriment.

Guggenheim offers up some nifty “back story” on the history of the character and his earlier adventures and even a couple of first-class bonus short stories with art by fan favorites Michael Golden and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, two top-notch comic book artists who simply aren’t utilized enough in the field these days.

If you grew up on spy movies, you’ll wink, you’ll chuckle, at times your heart will beat faster, you’ll point at the screen…err…page… and maybe even tear up at a couple points in Too Dead to Die.

Simon Cross is a cool new look at a cool old hero you’ve never met…even though you’ve known him for years.

Booksteve recommends.

 

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