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Caper #9
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Tom Fowler

Judd Winick’s Caper is one of the new breed of comics: a 12 issue limited series broken into three stories linked only by theme and genealogy; Three different artists tending to the facets of one writer’s vision.

The first tale followed two Jewish underworld enforcer brothers in 1906 San Francisco through cold-blooded murder, vicious turf wars, and personal vendettas. The second joined the same family two generations later in the midst of 1970’s Hollywood sex, drug, and murder scandals. With issue #9, the third story kicks off two more generations up the Weiss family tree, where the saga enters the present day.

Louis Rayburn Weiss’ caper begins with him and slacker sidekick Calvin Richard Coolidge screaming like little girls, flailing their limbs in the faces of men in black packing major heat, and running as fast as their adrenaline-pumped bodies will move (for three solid pages) before Winick does the comic book equivalent of a midair freeze frame and informs us they’re just “guys” who happened to get in a lot of trouble because of one little package.

Rewind to the day before, when Lou was still just an organ transplant delivery man, rushing much needed eyes and kidneys around the San Francisco Bay Area on a moment’s notice. Richie, perennial tag-along that he is, begs Lou to take him on the day’s run and manages not to screw anything up until he notices the ice-box their delivery is in weighs too much for it to be human eyes. But should they open it to be sure?

The first two Caper storylines were so strong and vivid, it’s understandable that this modern-day arc would lack the punch those unique settings had. Present-day San Francisco is… well, present-day San Francisco. Certainly one of the most fascinating American cities, in many regards, but seeming so mundane in comparison to its 1906 counterpart that the story comes to weigh heavily on its main characters.

And they really are just “guys." Not too smart, not too brave. They sit around watching Star Trek reruns, complain about the numerous editions of Army of Darkness floating around on eBay, live boring lives, and take comfort in the fact that, for the most part, they’re decent people.

Yeah, I don’t see how comic fanboys would identify with it, either.

But Caper has delved into so much period art, history, and pop-culture, you gotta ask what’s so special about a modern-day crime story from the same team. When Winick does his homework, it’s pretty hard for him to go wrong. Hell, for the most part his writing just sings. But, this time around, it’s all about some everyday characters caught in the middle of something way bigger than themselves (and Richie’s a pretty sizable man, too). He may have proven his ability in this arena with Green Lantern, but Caper is about as far from superhero as a main line DC book gets. Putting all the weight on character and dialogue like this is a risky venture that doesn’t quite payoff.

However, much as I can fret over the story, the art leaves me with no qualms whatsoever. Tom Fowler’s characters deftly straddle the picket fence between caricature and realism. Their nuanced expressions (which are amazing, considering these guys only seem to feel fear and fatigue) squeeze every drop of excitement from the script. His inks are nice and juicy, and Guy Major’s coloring team once again lovingly fleshes out a new era of the Caper saga.

As a jumping-on point, this isn’t the most promising chapter in the story, but there’s still room for the material to expand, so Caper loyalists definitely shouldn’t jump ship just yet.

Newbies? Wait for the TPB.



Jason Schachat

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