Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Three Strikes

Written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
Art by Brian Hurtt

I wish Oni made more titles like this. This is a deceptively straight-forward story about a college kid named Rey who gets picked up for shop-lifting a birthday present for his girlfriend, and who, because he has two comparatively minor priors from when he was younger, is now looking at twenty-two years in prison, under California's 'three strikes' rules. That he is a decent kid from a good home is never taken into consideration.

Three Strikes is also about Noah, a bail enforcement officer (never bounty hunter) and ex-cop who has difficulty relating to people, especially his teenage daughter, who is staying with him while his ex-wife is on a cruise.

Rey skips town, not knowing what else to do, and Noah pursues him. What follows is a rare story where the reader can't decide who he's rooting for, and both protagonists become fully-fleshed characters that the reader begins to care for, especially as circumstances push Rey into becoming increasingly desperate as he perception of his options narrow.

DeFilippis and Weir did a fantastic job developing their new-generation New Mutants characters at Marvel (until they were replaced on the book), and their skills at characterization are evident here as well. I don't understand why these two don't have a higher profile in the comics industry. Hurtt's art is expressive and perfectly matched to the story, much like his work in Queen and Country.

What really makes this graphic novel stand out is the way in which it criticizes the justice system without being preachy or heavy-handed. The creators simply present their tale, and leave it to the reader to come to their own conclusions. This story would make an excellent movie.

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