Left For Dead | The Assignment | Country Matters | Repairs
Kangaroos, the Outback, gang wars underbelly-style plus panels illustrating cricket bats and freaking ACDC jackets, all set in a dystopian backdrop entirely reminiscent of Mad Max – what could possibly scream Australia more than this comic book?
Book one of the six-part Gangwars series commences what is arguably the biggest, most iconic saga of Killeroo’s life. This book jumps (yes there will be Roo puns) through a collection of short stories chronicling the period where Killeroo and his Outback Warriors ruled the roads.
Book one consists of four short stories that introduce us to all major players and develop the dark, edgy backdrop of where we are and, to point out the obvious, it’s not pretty. Let’s hop to it.
Chapter One: Left For Dead
The first chapter, Left for Dead, commences with the historical rise of the motorcycle gangs. It encompasses how they either corrupted or destroyed all of the nation’s major institutions, essentially infiltrating every facet of modern life in the process. That is of course until our tough and fearless anti-hero, the Killeroo and his Outback Warriors, arrive to fight for change - and fight they do.
Harsh language and gritty art illustrate that we’re playing for keeps here. The weapons come out, there are casualties on both sides. In the end, the Killeroo’s raw strength and ruthlessness is without parallel as he boxed savagely. He went on to beat down Ivan and the Rebels before boldly, and unapologetically, declaring war.
Right off the bat, the message is clear: we’re getting down to business.
Chapter Two: The Assignment
The Assignment, utilises a distinctly different tact to drive the narrative. We meet the morally ambiguous and seemingly deranged Ben Riley, an undercover specialist seemingly acquired by the unsavoury elements of law enforcement to quash rebellion. He achieves his task with frightening efficiency by manipulating his targets into fearing for their freedom before he crushes their hope.
There is a gleefulness, nay, a near perverse pleasure that Riley appear to derives from assignment. It’s not only highly disconcerting in its own right, but even more so because his next target is Killeroo. He weaves his way into the group with relative ease, leaving the reader to wonder as to what end.
Is he a lethal drop of poison set to destroy them from within? He claims to see the good in Killeroo so is this the beginning of a redemption story? Just like that, we have tension, stakes, and suspense.
Chapter Three: Country Matters
Country Matters takes a sharp left turn away from everything we thought we knew. and ROOvolutionises the story with the introduction of dark supernatural themes. Killeroo is pounced upon by an opportunistic, up and coming gang looking to make a name for themselves.
Unfortunately, their success is short lived, as they’re set upon by a demonic being with a seemingly insatiable appetite. What we’re dealing is not entirely clear. As Killeroo hops away as the near sole survivor, we learn that the evil spirit of the infamous Cyrus Horman has possessed another victim.
This series of events is a jarring departure from the gritty, realistic underbelly of gang violence and espionage. It embraces the more spiritual aspects of Indigenous Australian dreamtime culture, adding layers of complexity and unpredictability, ensuring that the direction is anything but transparent.
Final Chapter: Repairs
Repairs, whilst by far the least eventful, is arguably the most important. After three chapters building the story, it’s now time to have some fun. We arrive at Junker’s garage where in addition to repairing motorcycles, they develop characters through good, old-fashioned bonding and banter.
This chapter is critical, not because of the laughs we get from discovering that Killeroo is a light weight on the drink but rather, for the first time, we see some heart. It’s a welcome demonstration that, beneath the group’s tough façade, there is camaraderie, loyalty and a sense of altruism that drives their purpose.
As the kind hearted and happy Jim joins the band to round out Book One, we realise that the stakes have risen once again. This is no longer a battle just for warriors. There are kindhearted, gentle people on the frontlines too.
How Does Gangwars Book One Hold Up?
Every instalment introduces different elements to the plot to build a gritty, realistic backdrop that is unmistakably set in the Australian outback. The story embraces the cultural elements and unapologetic harshness of this great land. The story is beautifully illustrated in black and white with shades of grey that perfectly captures the, at times, intense, dreary tone without shrouding the pages in darkness.
The challenge for Book One is managing the thin line between developing the landscape and progressing the plot. Unfortunately, despite the excellent worldbuilding, there are a number of misses along the way.
The plot unevenly jumps around in time and locations, disconnecting from old plot points, as well as characters with little regard for questions it raises with the reader. For example, Ben Riley explodes onto the scene as the focal point of chapter two before disappearing from the second half of the story.
The Outback Warriors too are inexplicably absent when Killeroo is set upon by the Celtics. Of greater frustration however, is the lack of development of our principal protagonist.
Who is Killeroo? How did he come to be and why is he on this quest? We are none the wiser by the end of book one and are desperately hoping that after an incredibly strong set up, there’ll be more meat on the bone next time.
Ultimately what we have here is a 3 ¾ star story that not only masterfully creates the world in which the gang wars takes place, but it sets the scene for what’s to come. Bring it on.
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