Black Hops: U.S.A.-*-G.I. (#1 – 2) – Mark Pellegrini

4 out of 5

From noted TMNT fan Mark Pellegrini (writing an idea from artist Timothy Lim) comes what would’ve likely have been a gag strip in most writer’s hands: super secret government agent U.S.A.-*-G.I., forever altered by the atom bomb to have heightened senses, increased strength, and camouflage fur… and a desire to dispense justice.  Camouflage… fur?  Ah, because said agent is a bunny, and yes, it took me a while to get the Usagi Yojimbo nod, but once I did, I had a good laugh.

And yet, that laugh, plus the instantly amusing premise, is not given the narrative brush off by Pellegrini.  Sure, there’s humor a’plenty scattered throughout this two parter, which has the “Black Hops” project sneaking in to Korea to shut down a nuclear missile, but Tim and Mark team up to give us a legit action tale at the same time.  G.I. gathers intel, takes out enemy combatants, and comports himself with all due bad assness, which is fitting given that the man who hands him the mission is drawn to look like Bruce Willis.  As in: you could theoretically swap out bunny for man and this would still be a pretty good action tale; as is, with G.I.’s animal-to-animal communication methods giving him (via Pellegrini’s imagination) a creative way to learn about the opponent and navigate through defenses, it’s a supremely inventive and entertaining tale, with more intelligence and sass than many of its non-rabbit-led comic shelf peers.

Lim’s art is a great match for Mark’s pacing, committing the action powerfully but also selling the mostly silent scenes (overlain with government chatter in dialogue boxes to fill us in on G.I.’s abilities).

I’m only docking a star because we move into real world relevance with the Korean angle and a mention of Trump, and for some reason, that move tends to bother me in comics.  It makes me brain think this is playing out under the veil of some type of statement (though I don’t think that’s actually the case…), which distracts from my full enjoyment.

That aside, we definitely need more of this.