"Predators" #1 begins a four-issue mini-series prequel to the upcoming movie of the same name, offering two opening chapters featuring characters from the film. The lead 14-page story, "Welcome to the Jungle," is a violent story of hunter and prey, while the 6-page second story provides some insight on Royce, the mercenary that Adrian Brody plays in the film.
"Welcome to the Jungle" centers on a group of soldiers in Afghanistan that are blown up by a suicide bomber and find themselves dropped in on a tropical jungle. One by one, they're picked off by an unseen and unknown foe until only our narrator and POV character, Drake, remains. There isn't much more to this story, but its slight nature works for it as it highlights the violence and tension. Marc Andreyko adds small character touches, but mostly stays hands-off to put all of the focus on what's happening to the men.
He uses a great storytelling technique of having the members of the group killed on the first panel of successive pages, giving the series of deaths a quick, brutal feel, while also making turning the page an act of violence. Flipping through the pages, it works quite well to get across the hopeless and helpless feeling that Drake and his men feel, while also providing some surprise when the pattern is broken.
Guilherme Balbi's art is inconsistent throughout the story, moving from thin, scratchy line work to thicker blocky lines. If these changes happened at specific times in the story to provide some heightened feeling to what's going on, it wouldn't be problematic, but that's not the case. It's random with pages not always looking like they were drawn by the same person. However, he does handle the brutality and viciousness of the story well, showing it in gruesome detail. His depiction of movement is also strong, especially when Drake is left alone and on the run. The energy of the art picks up there considerably.
The first part of "A Predatory Life" introduces us to Royce as he begins work for an African tyrant/warlord who wants Royce to kill a problematic man and his family. Focusing on the conditions of the area as Royce watches the government ration the UN rations, David Lapham provides insight into the way that he thinks. He's observant and quickly understands the way things work there, but doesn't care. It's not in his nature to as he's there to do a job. It's an interesting complexity that suggests complications in future installments.
Gabriel Guzman's art has a soft line to it mixed with thick, liberal use of blacks. He captures the general look of Adrian Brody without making the character look like he was drawn from production stills aside from a panel or two. Royce stands out as the most visually developed and detailed character, but not to a distracting degree. Guzman's art is stronger than that of the lead and I find myself wishing they had switched artists.
"Predators" #1 is a slight, but interesting debut to the prequel mini-series for the upcoming movie. The lead story is a series of violent deaths one after another, while the back-up is more character based, but still containing brutality. It will be interesting to see how both stories play out and tie in to the movie, but it is off to a solid start.