What’s worse than being a parole officer, getting hurt on the job and then finding out your wife is sleeping with a well known crime lord? Well, being the parole officer to L.A.’s most dangerous super powered villains might do it.
Nixon Cooper is a parole officer and a damn good one. He’s your old fashioned hard boiled type just doing what he feels needs to be done for the good of him and his parolees. This isn’t exactly made easy when his parolees all have super powers. Yes, it’s a tough life for ole Nixon, he get beaten regularly, his wife is sleeping around, his boss is a dick, and now one of his parolees has fallen off the wagon. How far is Nixon willing to go for his parolees? Well, he’s still got some limbs left to give.
“Nixon’s Pals” is certainly a different take on the whole super powered beings thing as it brings that over the top nature and pulls it down to earth in a relatively everyday kind of setting. Of course super villains have parole officers. Of course there’d be people watching these criminals as opposed to the seemingly revolving door policy other comic book prisons seem to have. Here’s looking at you Arkham. “Nixon’s Pals” shows these unbelievable characters in a setting that not only make sense in a real world point of view, but is also a topic that is strangely unexplored in super hero comics.
Though, to be fair even calling this a superhero comic is a bit of a stretch given the distinct lack of heroic figures. Instead we’re treated to a more crime noir narrative in a book that really isn’t a crime story. In fact if anything it’s trying to be the anti-crime story as you see our main character, Nixon, attempt to rehabilitate and reintroduce these convicted super villains. It’s not so much a “who dunnit” as it is a “stop doing that”, if that makes sense.
In terms of how well the book pulls this off I’d have to say it manages quite nicely. The sheer difficulty of Nixon’s job is displayed in spades as he frequently has his ass handed to him. The narrative from him does fairly well and manages to say what it needs to without getting in the way of what’s currently going on. In addition to Nixon the villains themselves are really what make the book as you see the difficultly in adjusting to a life outside of crime. The struggle on the part of the parolees is caught very well and manages to even be sympathetic. You really feel the hard place that these people are in as some want to go clean, but struggle to overcome the pressure of sinking back into their old way. While others fall off the wagon completely and face approaching that road of no return.
Through the more serious aspects of the story, though, there manages to be a lot of humor and almost campyness to the whole book. While the more relatable human elements of the characters bring the book down to earth it doesn’t forget that it’s also a book about super powered beings. Each villain comes with a humorously over the top origin and set of powers and helps to lighten the mood in places that really need it. The book manages to actually be quite funny at times poking fun at the more ridiculous nature of not only super powered characters in general but also it’s own overall premise without reaching the point of breaking the fourth wall. A simple look at some of the villains on the cover above will give you some idea to this.
The crime noir, but not crime noir, aspect of the book comes off well in the art work. This is really the first trade that I’ve covered to not be in color which only serves to benefit the feel of the book. It’s properly gritty with a rough almost dirty art style. The setting is captured perfectly in each panel and the rough, shadowy art style serves to drive home each impactful moment as well as serving to encapsulate the more moral ambiguousness of the story’s characters. That said while the art is gritty it still manages to stay relatively cartoony so as to not lose or cloud the more over the top aspects of the story.
“Nixon’s Pals” was written by Joe Casey and illustrated by Chris Burnham. Several people may recognize Joe Casey as being a part of the creator group Man of Action known primarily for their creation of the animated series “Ben 10”. The book was published by Image Comics in 2008. Unfortunately this is by far the most obscure comic I have reviewed as of yet and because of this it is very hard to find. It’s a book that took me months to find with very little info on it existing online. So that said finding this book will be quite a chore, but if you do it thankfully remains at the reasonable price of $12.99.
Overall the story of “Nixon’s Pals” is a fairly short excursion lasting me about an afternoon’s worth of reading. That said what it does right it does really well and manages to be a fun read despite it’s brevity. With art that fits the setting perfectly and a somewhat self aware goofiness at times “Nixon’s Pals” is a wholehearted recommendation from me. If you can find it.
Retail Price: $12.99
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Chris Burnham
Age Rating: Adult
Genre: Super, Crime Noir
Original Release: 2009
Availability: Very Rare