THE LOSERS by Andy Diggle and Jock (Vertigo / collected)
You may or may not remember around 2010 when Hollywood released several action movies that had a group of renegade heroes at its center, like The Expendables, The A-Team, and related to the subject of this post, The Losers (you may remember it as that other comic-book movie Chris Evans was in as of late). The movie wasn’t a major success, and by my estimation, despite retaining some of the humor and absurd action of the series, was a bit lacking. What few people who went in to see it probably knew, at the time, is that it was based on a Vertigo comic book in the early 00’s by writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock. While the movie pulled a few punches, the book is a far more mature and enjoyable piece of action entertainment.
The story involves a CIA black ops team known as the Losers, made up of Clay (the leader), Jensen (the tech guy), Cougar (the sniper), Pooch (the transportation guy), and Roque (Clay’s second-in-command), who get betrayed on an operation, and are believed dead. But they aren’t dead, and they pop up to put the screws to whoever sold them out, which turns out to be the work and part of a plan by a mysterious CIA agent known as Max. With the help of terrorist Aisha, the group looks to take down Max while trying to regain their lives.
What works about The Losers (and to some level, one of the things I liked about the movie), is the loyalty of this group to each other to take down the bad guys. These are guys who know each other pretty well, and really are the only stable family any of them have. The complication of a hardcore killer like Aisha in the team can rub them wrong, but for her and the team, they are aligned in the goal of taking down Max. But, Max has his claws in many things and many assets, including unbeknownst early on, one of the team.
It also puts tension in that group in ways the movie does (that traitorous reveal is pretty much in the first arc of the book as is in the movie), and between its members, who question how far they want to go in this rabbit hole of corruption Max is in. These are wise-cracking heroes who take a lot of punishment and risk in taking on Max, especially as they start piecing together the corrupt CIA agent’s massive global plan. While there’s that running arc through the entire series, there are also some great “Ocean’s 11 with guns” style schemes that are wonderful to see pulled off.
This is an action adventure book that has some big set pieces and often some more complex and emotional stuff going on. When a story arc later in the book reveals the incident that caused the Losers to go into hiding, it’s a tough read that complicates the relationships of everyone once certain facts are revealed (its in the movie, but in the book’s timeline, comes near the end of its run). The book lasted for thirty-two issues, and unlike most books, got to wrap up its story in a really twisty and glorious finale arc that revealed the secret of Max and lead to some heavy casualties in the group before it ends While I would’ve loved to have seen this book go on a while longer, it goes out on its own terms, which is commendable.
Writer Diggle obviously got some influence from movies like Three Kings and played it amongst the post 9/11 environment of the time, creating a series that was fun as well as very politically minded. The stakes of the Losers’ fight with Max gradually is revealed to be one at the level of a James Bond villain’s schemes, but done with the technology and global politics of today. And with artist Jock (save a few fill-in issues here and there), the book maintains a sense of kinetic-ness and vibrant flair that makes it a breezy read if the politics go past your head. He’s gone on to be one of the more in-demand cover artists in the comic industry, and when seeing some of the ones he did for The Losers, its hard not to see why.
The book got re-released in collected form when the movie came out in two substantially big paperbacks, and should still be in print. While there are no plans for a Losers film sequel (fun AIDWTS connection: Jason Patric plays Max in the movie, and also was the lead in the Powers pilot, which was discussed in this column’s previous installment), the book is worth checking out for fans of solid action/adventure books that don’t have superheroes, but undeniable badasses.
NEXT TIME: We go to Gotham City, not to meet a certain Dark Knight, but to hang with its police force, who have to investigate crimes in this villain-filled metropolis. Come back to read about Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s brilliant cop comic GOTHAM CENTRAL! As always, if you’ve got any suggestions for future installments or want to talk about this installment, feel free to comment below.