Murder Falcon, published by Image Comics, is now onto its fifth issue and all the jokes about it being ‘turned up to 11’ have already been made. With this latest issue, Daniel Warren Johnson has pushed it way passed 11 and he’s heading for stadium level noise.
The end of the world; a difficult reconciliation; an amazing discovery of legendary proportions; all this and a potential new band member. Murder Falcon has no intention of slowing down.
This issue starts with Magnum Khaos watching over his hoard of Veldar demons as they are vomited into the world. Luckily a mighty band stand to face them down and save the human race. All praise Whisperwood!
As the fight rages on Jake faces a much harder task: confronting his estranged wife Anne.
Johnson has made Murder Falcon a success by balancing the outrageous with the emotionally heart breaking. The opening of this issue is as bombastic as they come, with a whole new cast of characters where you would expect to see the heroes. This serves two purposes: firstly, to show the power of Magnum Khaos and secondly to allow time for Jake and Anne’s meeting to play out.
The contrast between the two sequences is sublime. It’s like listening to Slayer’s Reign In Blood followed by Joy Division’s Closer. Both are arguably good but the change from one to the other is extreme. And this is how it feels when Whisperwood’s fight draws to a close and the reader is thrown back to the doorstep of Anne’s house. The physical violence is replaced by a greater emotional pain.
It is a jarring transition but Johnson pulls it off by writing a naturalistic and honest conversation between the two estranged lovers. As a reader you drop out of the excitement into a family drama without a break. The change in pace and tone is instant but the narrative leads you along so that you don’t get pulled out of the story. Across the two pages the two characters share some wonderfully written, intimate dialogue that speaks directly from the heart.
Murder Falcon has some of the most tragic yet heroic characters in any comic being published at the moment. Jake is the epitome of the everyman; he has a desperate need to be a hero but his life decisions have been anything but heroic. Johnson recognises that people are not always what they want to be and he is using this forum to explore the consequences of decisions made in difficult times. Physical illness also affects mental wellbeing but this aspect is often overlooked, Johnson makes it front and centre of his ongoing plot; portraying the damaging effects on Jakes life when he shuts himself off from those around him.
All of this plays out against some of the craziest, over the top, action sequences ever committed to paper.
The design work for the characters and the various creatures that inhabit the world of Murder Falcon are outstanding and highly detailed. From the Metal band Whisperwood to the Veldar that stomp across the landscape, every aspect of their design is intricate and beautifully realised on the page. Who would ever have imagined that they’d ever get to see Kiss fighting giant blue Spider demons? And for it to make perfect sense within a narrative? This is the beauty of Murder Falcon’s world; the more ridiculous something is, the more it fits with the narrative.
Johnson uses very fine inked lines to define his characters and the space they inhabit. This approach allows him to fill each panel with extremely detailed images giving everything a strong physical presence. This occasionally becomes chaotic as full page spreads or large panels take over but this is all part of the narrative that Johnson is telling. When needed to Johnson’s tunes it all back, in some instances dropping the background altogether. This creates a stark contrast between the emotional scenes and the action scenes, heightening the impact of both.
Mike Spicer has a difficult job coloring all of this but he manages to pull it out of the bag each issue. To match Johnson’s inks, Spicer tones the coloring up or down to meet the needs of the narrative. Jumping from excessive, prime colors on one page to muted, understated colors on the next. Separating the different aspects of the comic like this enhances the reading experience.
Rus Wooton works extra hard to keep the lettering in line with the style of Murder Falcon. A straight forward approach would stand out a mile on top of everything that is going on in this comic. So, to fit in, Wooton makes the speech bubbles and sound effects as outlandish as possible; after all, why fight them when you can join them?
Magnum Khaos, for example, has speech bubbles with thick, jagged black outlines that are filled with a crimson color denoting the demonic presence that he is. As with everything else, the lettering is simplified for the more touching sequences. Wooton has a wonderful hand-drawn effect for most of his speech balloons and they tend to drop at the bottom. This creates a short hanging effect, like a pause for breath or an awkward silence. This works especially well in Jake and Anne’s conversation near the beginning.
For a comic that sounds almost impossible to realise, from a pitching point of view, Murder Falcon is a roaring success. Johnson is crafting a story of contrasts that is impressive on numerous levels. Both emotionally touching and outrageously verbose, Murder Falcon hits every aspect of storytelling at full pelt. Everyone else on the team has to push themselves above and beyond just to keep up with Johnson and his Metal inspired ideas.
If you’re not reading Murder Falcon it isn’t too late to join the gig. This issue, like each previous one, is easily accessible for new readers. And once you’ve read one issue you’ll be hooked.