by David Lapham (writer), Leonardo Manco (art), Kinsun Loh, Jerry Choo, & Sansan Saw (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)
The Story: Old-timer police captain Frank Lincoln, on his way out, realizes that his little brother Henry has returned, determined to bathe the streets in criminal blood.
What’s Good: There are certain things in storytelling, particularly genre storytelling, that simply works time in and time out. This is particularly the case with crime comics, and Damaged certainly hangs tight on numerous tropes. For instance, we get the haggard, world-weary detective and we match him up with the young, bright-eyed newbie. We’ve also got the gritty narration by said old-timer and, naturally, the Mayor and the higher ups in the police force are jerks. It’s all sort of familiar, which naturally limits how good this comic can be. However, it also limits just how bad it can be as well. Reading Damaged at times feels like putting on an old, favourite shoe. It’s unremarkable, but it’s also comfortable. If you like crime comics at all, you won’t have any strong dislike for Damaged.
Certainly, David Lapham does do some things quite well. The narration by Frank Lincoln, politically unpopular police captain, is well executed and full of exactly the sort of downcast mood and atmosphere you’d hope for in a comic like this. Indeed, Frank’s voice is strong enough that the narrated pages end up being some of the book’s strongest. The tableside political banter between the mayor, the police department’s higher-ups, and the new recruit is also well done and feels natural and, again, comfortable.
This being a Radical book, the artwork very solid. It does make some frequent use of photo-referencing, but it’s inoffensive. Rather, we’re in a rare situation where we get at times photo-realistic art with high-level of detail that also remains gritty, dark, and full of atmosphere. It’s gritty, hard art to match a story that is like-wise, and yet it also holds to the digital, eye-popping Radical standard. Also, having three colorists on one issue is usually a bad sign, but here, it’s not at all noticeable.
What’s Not So Good: As you may have expected from my pre-amble, originality isn’t a strength of Damaged. Honestly though, the most egregious example of this has nothing to do with its use of generic tropes. Rather, it’s the fact that the anchor of the story is a physically intimidating 50-something guy armed to the teeth, single-handedly waging a bloody war on organized crime in his city. Does that sound familiar to you?
It should….because main character Henry Lincoln is basically the Punisher. Hell, aside from the grey hair, he even looks like Frank Castle. Unfortunately, it seems that the plot of Damaged is simply a hypothetical question of “what if the Punisher’s brother was a police captain?” It really hurts the series and frankly, there’s little to distinguish Henry at all. Independent comics are spawning pool for originality, so it’s a damned shame to see one be so in the shadow of a well-known, licensed character with three Hollywood movies under his belt.
Also, it seems that artist Leonardo Manco struggles a bit with his action scenes. We get random snapshots with no sense of fluidity and frequent close-ups that are at times frustrating to decipher. Layouts also get haphazard and everything is a bit too chaotic. I understand that a gunfight in close quarters IS chaotic, but I need a better idea of what’s going on and a clear sequence of events.
Conclusion: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I suppose. That said, this was pretty derivative.