4 out of 5
An instantly amusing idea – an assassin bunny rabbit; so, yes, like a whole book about that Monty Python joke – managed to very effectively fill up two whole issues by backing up the joke with quality-arted action, and enough of a story to justify the concept’s existence. I wanted more, but what more could there really be?
U.S.A.*G.I. works as a wetworks agent for the government, deployed as an operative when standard troop deployment won’t cut it. He’s “enhanced,” which translates to an ability to run with a knife ‘tween bunny teeth and slash bad guys to death. He has a handler – Penolope Freling – who speaks his rabbit talk, and understands mission operatives when they’re related to him. So we got a great, fun mission in the first Black Hops outing, but again – what more could there be? World building on this concept is possible, but sort of feels silly; at most, you could just toss him in to another mission, which would likely still be fun, but can’t hold many surprises in store.
There was a big, ‘duh’, sequel option out there that I overlooked, but writer Mark Pellegrini did not: go bigger. So now it’s not just U.S.A.*.G.I., but we also have “Patriot-R” – a surly otter, and “Rigor-Tortoise,” an unintelligent but programmable (via “neural impulse implants”) tortoise. And to balance out the bigger, plot-wise, we go narrower: it’s all just noise this time, setting up the weapons-smuggling baddies and deploying our Black Hops special forces to save the day.
They do. It’s massively entertaining, with Timothy Lim’s buoyant figure work handling the G.I. / Tortoise side of things, and Matthew Weldon (with Lim and Nestor Redulla) doing the book’s flip-side, which focuses on Patriot-R’s half of the mission. These both meet in a center page splash.
One of the jokes on the G.I. side sort of feels fumbled, but the build up to it is pretty classic nonetheless, and Weldon’s looser, sketchier art has a lot of momentum, but misses out on some of the choreography / geography at which Lim excels. And in both cases, the slight story ends up leaving you a bit wanting, but seeing as how Pellegrini and crew made me laugh out loud, read through the book a couple of times, and successfully extended this concept beyond its one-joke nature, the slightness of the story seems like a sacrifice for my entertainment, so that’s alright.
In an… unrelated but related note, I remarked on a Trump comment in the first Black Hops issue that sort of worried me, as that’s not the way I swing. I’ve since realized that Pellegrini writes some very pro-Trump material… which makes me a little hesitant to support this book. It sounds like volume 3 of Black Hops (forthcoming as I’m writing this) might start to breach that even more… but I’d say this issue is pretty clear of any direct referencing, making it “friendly” to whatever politics.