Black Lagoon vol. 1 – Rei Hiroe

3 out of 5

A smokin’, brawlin’ chick wearing cut off jean shorts. Badass battles. Lots of swearing. A fighting nun. This is that kind of comic, but despite ample shots of said brawlin’ chick – Revy – posing with her barely-there shorts and a giganto gun pointed from between her legs, there’s… something else going on in Black Lagoon.

The plot runs fast: corporate guy Rock gets caught up in a deal hijacked by a group of mercs – our main crew: leader Dutch, tech guy Benny, muscle Revy – and ends up discovering that his company’s bottom line is more important than his life, so decides to stick with the Black Lagoon team. His role never quite feels justified, trying to posit him as some kind of negotiator, but Hiroe also doesn’t exactly use him as a POV character; he’s just kind of… there, as we are. And that is the story-telling m.o., as the approximately two jobs the group undertakes in this first volume blow up in various ways of double-crossings, and all the details of who’s who are there, but are tossed off with a telling ambivalence, as there are brief – brief – flashes addressing the pointlessness of this whole game, and the associated damage and violence.

I mean, while also reveling in it: helicopter versus boat chases, and insane tons-o’-gun showdowns, and rockets shot in tight spaces, and an extended fist fight to end the whole thing, why not.

Hiroe’s art is cartoonish and bombastic; it’s both easy and hard to read: dialogue and action lines and sound effects way overwhelm the panels, making choreography hard to suss out, but it’s almost like you get a feel for the general trajectory of any given scene such that you can fill in the blanks. Still, it’d be nice if I felt like I was actually seeing these badass moments, and not, like, imagining them to a soundtrack of explosions.

The characters, though mostly fitting into their one-attribute archetypes, are nonetheless part of that vagary that indicates there’s more under the hood here. Black Lagoon isn’t smart, exactly, but it’s also not dumb, trying to write an 80s / 90s blockbuster extravaganza with humans that are maybe seeing the effects of all their antics.

It entertains, and it’s enough to see if Rei develops on these themes, or just harps on short-shorts and bullets for the rest of the strip.