(Monkeybrain Comics, 2013)
Review by Cory Thrall
WRITTEN BY: Brandon Jerwa & Eric Trautmann
ARTWORK: Giovanni Timpano
COLOR ARTWORK: Andrea Celestini
LETTERING: Simon Bowland
Comic titles surrounding the Afghanistan War have been popping up like crazy lately, so I wasn’t too surprised to crack open “Frost: Rogue State” #1 and find this title being set there, as well. When I saw that the incredible artist Giovanni Timpano (whose work I’ve seen previously in the amazingly beautiful and awesome series “Yi Soon Shin”) I was excited to get into this comic and see what his work can do in such an environment. Sadly, though his art is as strikingly awesome as I’m coming to know it to be, this issue is a major letdown, and just not a very enjoyable read.
Our protagonist is a CIA operative who goes by the name Frost. He is the type of operative who gets called in for the crazier situations, such as the assignment he is finishing at the beginning of the comic. In an earlier issue #0, he was sent undercover into a Afghani Warlord’s compound to rescue a Taliban defector named Abbas, all the while pretending to be an American arms dealer. To attempt a believable play-act, Frost has shot Abbas and offers his body to the Warlord. Of course, things go wrong quickly and Frost has to fight his way out of the compound. Where we come in at the opening of this first issue, Frost is carrying Abbas’ injured body across the desert, heading for their base at Camp Hyperion.
30 Klicks away from the Camp, Frost and his human cargo are found by some fellow soldiers from Hyperion, to which Frost gives the ‘code phrase’ (one of the only ‘funny’ moments of this title so far) and they are brought back ‘home’. At the Camp, we enter a scene of Frost being told off by a superior – Clay Donovan. He scolds Frost for the botched operation, mostly ignoring the fact that Abbas has been rescued and focusing more on Frost’s act of shooting the man as cover. It seems Abbas knows how to get in contact with a ‘disgruntled Al-Qaeda Lieutenant’ that also happens to have his hands on a Tactical Nuke, searching for a ‘partner’ in his scheme. Clay and Frost exchange the usual ‘tough guy’ lines back and forth, and eventually Frost storms out of the meeting, only to be followed by a still quite angry Clay. After bringing up the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and how it must make Frost feel ‘useless’ now, Frost knocks a fist across Clay’s face, blood spurting. As Frost walks off, Clay calls for help, only to be shot down by General Graham, still holding a grudge after a cheesy comment from Clay earlier in the book.
Frost is now in the shower, attempting to wash the mission and the conversation with Clay from his mind, when he flashes back to a moment as a younger Frost, walking alone down a road, nothingness all around and rain pouring hard. Eventually a van pulls alongside, and we are introduced to Teller, Frost’s mentor in a form of ‘program’. He tells Frost that this program will move on without him if he is too scared to stay, and Frost expresses his lack of fear. Teller smiles and say that Frost has him to thank for that. We find out soon enough that Teller has been training Frost since before he could even walk or talk for the program, where they make ‘machines’, not soldiers. In this we see Frost’s first mission – an assassination – which turns out to really be an exercise to gauge his readiness for what lie ahead for him.
After a short conversation with General Graham, Frost is called away with new directions – he is now ordered to interrogate Abbas and begin the search for the Nuke. The General follows Frost to the make-shift Hospital on the grounds, and as they approach they hear Abbas scream out in what seems to be pain. Upon entering, they see that not only was he just bloodily attacked, but his attacker had left only about 30 seconds before they had run in. A Captain in the Hospital points the men in the direction of the door used for escape, and Frost takes chase. Finding the man cornered by soldiers of the Camp, Frost quickly follows him into the Supply room, only to find an explosive on top of one of the many flammable barrels found within. He and the crew of soldiers with him make for a quick escape, and are mostly out of danger when the building lights up the sky with the explosion.
Frost demands a vehicle to further chase the attacker, and General Graham grants him access to anything he needs. We close on Frost speeding from Camp Hyperion, heading off to find this assassin himself.
I have many problems with this book, one of which being the strongly generic relationship between Clay and Frost. They are written exactly like any ‘loose cannon’ vs. superior scene that has ever been done before, from cop films and TV shows, all the way back to comics. The number of things that have this exact dynamic are many, and some have been around for so long that this set-up is dead cold. Sadly, most of this first issue is taken up by their conversation, causing time to halt completely as you attempt to make your way through it. It’s so overly cheesy and so rehashed that the want to follow the story is outweighed by the need to get out of the scene.
Another issue I have with this is that it falls under what I’m beginning to term as ‘movie trailer’ first issues. Whereas this should be more like a television pilot, it’s so quick and empty it feels like, yes – a movie trailer. We are told in countless ways how ‘badass’ Frost is, but this is all in text, not actions or imagery on the page. For a character that is supposed to be so amazingly successful as an operative, he runs around the comic more like an idea than an actual character. Honestly, the writing as a whole is boring, and a by-the-numbers cookie cutter attempt at a well established story model. Not to mention that they use the frame of this model for nothing more than what it’s been used for a million times over. This story is tired, and needs to be put to sleep. It was a struggle to get into this title, and a larger battle to actually read through it.
So, what *did* I like? The artowork by Giovanni Timpano and colorist Andrea Celestini give the book a real and honestly gritty feel to it, with Timpano’s interesting use of shadowing and thickness of lines mixing perfectly with the expressive touch of Celestini’s colors. It makes me wish this much talent wasn’t wasted on such a poor title. It is outstanding work, and is the only thing that makes this comic even remotely interesting.
Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter: @FeralFang27