I admit, my interest in Duane Swierczynski’s novels, Fun & Games and Hell & Gone, was a result of his being announced as the new writer of my favorite DC Comics series, Birds of Prey. I thought reading review copies of the novels would give me some idea of whether he’d be a good fit for the comic.
By the time I finished the books, I was convinced enough of his writing talent to read Birds of Prey #1, part of DC’s relaunch of all fifty-two of its monthly comics.
Fun & Games and Hell & Gone are part of a three-part story starring former police consultant Charlie Hardie. Fun & Games came out in June, Hell & Gone is due October 31st, and the third book, Point & Shoot, is due in March of 2012.
There are two things Swierczynski does well: Charlie’s internal voice is fun to follow and the action sequences are killer. I could easily see these books as a major summer blockbuster. Charlie’s story begins as he’s hired to housesit for a big Hollywood producer and soon gets in over his head with a down-on-her-luck actress who’d being chased by a mysterious group of people who want to kill her to keep a murderous secret quiet. To say more would be giving away a lot of spoilers but the book goes from action to action, rarely stopping to catch a breath and I stayed up late one night turning the pages to the end.
Only to find out that the story doesn’t really end in Fun & Games. It ends on a cliffhanger. So I had to go grab Hell & Gone in which Charlie and his allies again fight against the mysterious bunch who manage to have a plan for everything and people who’ll do their bidding seemingly at the drop of a hat. And then that ended on a cliffhanger and it’s too soon to get an advance reader copy of that book.
The settings of the books add to the action, using both Hollywood tourist destinations and several lesser-known areas of Los Angeles. As a writer, I know how hard it can be to make action sequences come alive in prose and Swierczynski is really a master at it. However, I had a few problems with the overall story. The first is that Hardie is seemingly indestructible. He’s hurt at the very beginning, a stab wound, but still manages to get around. I bought that but as the injuries added up, from poisonings to shootings, my suspension of disbelief started to really fray. If this were a superhero universe, I wouldn’t blink an eye but since this seemed to be somewhat in the normal realm, it began to bother me. Others in the story remark on how hard he is to kill, even hurt, but still it nagged at me.
The second is more a personal pet reader peeve in that I have a hard time buying vast conspiracies that know all and see all because once you involve a certain number of people in one, the secret inevitably isn’t secret any longer. I bought into this shadow group for most of the first book because they truly did have a great plan for dispatching those they wanted to murder, which was to make the murders look like accidents, not hard with people dying young in Hollywood. By the end, though, so many people are involved and are playing roles that, once more, my suspension of disbelief began to give way and I had more of a problem with it in the second book, which reveals the vast overall scope of the secret.
So when Birds of Prey #1 arrived this week in the shipment from my online comic shop, I wondered if it would feature a conspiracy of killers. Turns out it does. It also features a lot of great action, a particularly good sequence for Black Canary, and an intriguing setup. I worry that the plot eventually might become overloaded with the conspiracy so I hope that this is wrapped up quickly rather than dragging on for a long time.
But there’s no doubt that if non-stop, cool action sequences with fun characters are your thing, you need to read some Swierczynski stories.