Monday, November 10, 2008

Chuck #5

If you own a TV, you've probably seen the ads for the show this series is based on. In Chuck, the story's namesake and lead character, we've got an employee for a major electronics retailer with a deep appreciation for technology. When he catches an e-mail from an old college buddy who landed a job with the CIA, the message fires a whole mess of spy secrets into his brain before deleting itself from his inbox. His gig at Best Buy now a distant memory, Chuck is suddenly trotting around the globe with a small troupe of beautiful killers, serving his country and rescuing its celebrity political candidates. Personally, I've never watched the NBC series, so I may not be the target market here. Or then again, maybe I'm exactly the person they're hoping to attract.

Co-writers Peter Johnson and Zev Borow (co-producer and writer of the Chuck TV series) provide a smooth transition between the Wildstorm mini-series and its small screen cousin. The issue is blessed with a deep, personable cast and an interesting basic premise, but the writers' penchant for one-liners and wise cracking sometimes gets to be a bit much. A well-timed joke to break the tension is one thing, especially when your lead character bows so constantly to the everyman stereotype. But when a series can't go a page and a half without firing out a pun or two, whether the jokes are good or bad, (and this is a mixed bag) it's something else entirely. Johnson and Borow keep the plot moving and the surprises coming, but nothing seems to carry any permanence (one henchman takes a bullet in the face and shouts "OW!" before resuming the chase) and that takes its toll.

Jeremy Haun‘s artwork in this issue is smooth and clean, somewhere Ex Machina's Tony Harris and Civil War's Steve McNiven. Haun owes a great debt to his colorist, Wes Hartman, whose efforts enliven his compositions and add mood and atmosphere where it would otherwise be lacking. Despite Hartman's best efforts, though, the core of this artwork often feels stiff and unnatural, particularly when the spies are fleeing down the side of a mountain aboard a set of snowboards, with a dozen bad guys somehow managing to give chase side-by-side-by-side-by-side. How often do they get the opportunity to practice their downhill slope sniping formations? I've seen some of Haun's other work, and when he can pull it together he shows a lot of potential, but most of this issue is spent wallowing in mediocrity.

There's a fine line between politely asking your readers to suspend their disbelief and bluntly insulting their intelligence, and sadly Chuck lost sight of it long ago. I can buy the story's far-fetched premise, but the sheer number of coincidences and unreasonable situations that lead to the conclusion of this issue stretch my patience beyond the point of no return. With no less than seven gunfights, an evil clone and a fistfight aboard a spiraling personal jet, Chuck reads like an extra-cheesy director's cut of Moonraker. And I don't mean that as a compliment. Skip it; what starts out well enough quickly spirals out of control.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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