Garan Madeiros, Charles Shell, (Writers) Dave Ross, Sal Vellutto, Kevin Sharpe, Mark McKenna, Ariel Padilla, (Artists) and Mad, Fuzion (Colors)

Issue #0 On Sale: Now
Issue #1 On Sale: 7/30/08
Issue #2 On Sale: 8/27/08

For whatever reason, I tend to have a soft spot for mercenaries and the stories that involve them. For example, Deadpool, “the merc with a mouth” is one of my favorite Marvel characters. Also, I consider Firefly to be one of the greatest television shows of all time. Outlaw Star was an anime favorite for a while as well. I say this because Contract, a new series from First Salvo Productions, has potential to be a solid, unique entry into science fiction mercenary genre.

Contract tells the story of Jess (the leader), Tsumi (the brains and swordsman), and Panzer (the brawn) – members of the mercenary team, “The Stellar Rangers”. These guys take a wide variety of jobs in a technologically advanced future society. To be honest, Contract doesn’t really bring a whole lot new to the table in the way of team dynamics, however, the characters are entertaining enough. Tsumi was, for me, the standout character of the group because, let’s face it, the technological brains are rarely the sword wielders. He just has the “it” factor. Jess is a fairly generic, sexualized team leader that uses her smooth talking and sexual nature to get the job done. Panzer is the only member of the team I had a real issue with as his ridiculously written accent and lame action movie dialogue/”humor” annoyed me within a couple of pages. Seriously, they tried to hard to make Panzer funny and it just comes across as irritating.

The missions the team goes on are pretty entertaining and I enjoy the fact that they’re episodic in nature. Each could be told as a stand alone story, yet still fit within a larger on-going arc as well. While nothing particularly groundbreaking, the story elements work to good effect. Programmed cybernetic warriors, technological implants, and underground crime rings have all been done before, but they are good plot elements both for the story being told and for the futuristic nature of the society.

The writing featured in Contract leaves a lot to be desired. As I mentioned before, Panzer comes across as an extreme action movie cliché (“funny” accent included!) and much of the humor feels forced. It felt as though the writers would rather go for a joke before they went for storytelling. That said, I did like the team interaction and chemistry. Also, props to whomever came up with the cybernetic warriors that were programmed to see things a certain way. The scenes featuring Crechebaby V.R. are hilarious and extremely unique. Basically the warriors are programmed to see things as though they’re warriors living in a high fantasy world filled with elves and such. This is a great idea and acts as a standout concept in the seriess. The humor in these scenes are spot on and it shows that the writing team can do humor when it comes naturally to the story itself.

I really enjoyed the artwork in both Contract books. A number of artists worked on the project, but each brought something unique to the table. While some stories featured better art than others, as a whole this an attractive comic. In particular, the black and white artwork in issue #2 really stand out and I believe Ariel Padilla to be an artist worth keeping an eye out for. Simply put, Contract is a good looking series.

Keep an eye out for this series when it hits stores over the summer. While there will be some growing pains, it has a lot of potential. If the writers can scale back the attempts at humor a bit in favor of a more coherent story, I see good things in store for those willing to give this a chance. If you like mercenaries or are a fan of team books, check out Contract. Issue #0 is in stores now and Issues #1 and #2 are slated for July and August, respectively. For more information on Contract or how to order the books, head over to First Salvo Production’s site. (Grade B-)

-Kyle Posluszny