Ex-Con is a new series from Dynamite written by Duane Swierczynski with art by Keith Burns and Aikau Oliva. It tells the story of a 1980s con man who gets caught and upon his release at the end of the decade, must use his skills to go to work for a rich developer who is somehow involved with the con man’s ex-girlfriend who put him behind bars in the first place. The developer and the ex-girlfriend are also somehow connected to a powerful bad guy that the con man met in prison. The brilliant Tim Bradstreet cover perfectly conveys the mood that this book is going for, as what we have here is a guy who always felt that he was the smartest guy in the room only now hie whole life is thrown for a loop and he must adjust to the changes while somehow keeping himself from either being thrown back into jail or worse, getting himself killed. The way that Bradstreet depicts a guy who is trying to remain cool while his whole life is falling apart makes for one striking cover.
Perhaps the biggest twist in the series is the fact that the series protagonist, Cody Pomeroy (he took his name from the Jack Kerouac novel Visions of Cody – which is sort of funny as, like many characters in Kerouac’s works, the character of Cody Pomeroy is essentially just a stand-in for someone else, namely Neal Cassaday – thus, not only did Cody steal his name from someone else, he stole a name that was already being used to disguise someone else) can “read” people by colored auras that surround them. When we first meet him, he’s putting this talent to great use…
Now here’s the thing that sort of confused me about this issue – Swierczynski takes away this ability roughly halfway through the first issue. I thought that was an odd decision, since he had spent a good deal of that first half of the issue setting UP the ability, including a flashback discussing it!!
So my issue is that we did not see the lights impacting the story long enough for its removal to have much of an impact. It was sort of like if they spent the first story in Showcase #22 setting up Hal Jordan’s new Green Lantern ring and in the second story he just loses the ring and the rest of the Green Lantern stories are about Hal Jordan dealing with no longer having a ring (note that they eventually DID do plenty of Green Lantern stories where Hal had to deal with losing the ring, but only after they first had a bunch of stories with Hal WITH the ring).
Otherwise, though, Swiercynski, Burns and Oliva hit the nail right on the head with this first issue. Burns and Oliva manage to evoke the great Sean Phillips, with Oliva’s colors giving the book just the right palette for Los Angeles, circa 1989, where it is too late for noir but too early for a totally modern feel. Burns’ characters are just the right mixture between gritty and appealing.
One of the greatest thing that any crime writer can do for their story is simply put together a bunch of interesting characters and throw them into a situation. The situation often does not even have to be all that interesting, provided that the characters are (the mystery of the water in Chinatown pales in comparison to the characters in the mystery, for instance) and Swiercynski supplies some intriguing characters. On the side of good, you have Cody’s hard-nosed (but obviously with some what of a soft side) parole officer, Alex Quemando, on the side of bad, you have the Pope, the killer that Cody owes his life to for helping him in prison. On the side of who knows what is See, Cody’s ex-girlfriend who ratted Cody out to save her own ass. She seemingly wants to help him out to make up for what she did to him – but is that her real agenda? And at the center of it all, you have Cody, a guy who thought that his shit didn’t stink for years and now finds himself in a mountain of shit with no clear way out and forced to rely on skills that he hasn’t had to use for real in years (since the lights did most of the heavy lifting).
It’s a strong set-up for a series and I’m in for the long haul.
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