Review by Karl Verhoven
Neither Archer and Armstrong nor Quantum and Woody could be described as standard adventurers. The former teams a centuries old carouser with a naive martial artist only just shedding the pseudo-religious lies he’s been brought up to believe. A similar chalk and cheese combination characterises the straight-laced army vet with his dissolute half-brother. Each feature mixes comedy and action, and Deliquents is what happens when all four come together. James Asmus co-plots with Fred Van Lente, who guides Archer and Armstrong’s destiny, and as Asmus is responsible for Quantum and Woody’s escapades the scripting is in safe hands.
The basis of the plot has two threads. One is a piece of tattooed skin entrusted to Armstrong by the King of the Hobos in the 1930s, half of which Armstrong promptly lost. It’s now come into the possession of a corrupt organisation very interested in tracking down the remainder. Meanwhile, the Mondostano Corporation is promoting genetically modified farming methods not for the good of mankind, but to violently enforce copyright. It puts both pairs of heroes at odds with each other, and as the methods of neither are exactly conventional the ensuing misunderstandings and complications are hilarious. The corporate analogy is obvious, and hardly subtle, but the compensation is that it’s run by a parody of Dude Lebowski. Oh, and the dialogue is wonderful: “My first drunken regurgitation. Is this what being a grown-up is like?” or “You will pry this buttock from my cold dead hands”, or “You’re either some kind of magic man, or Mary Poppins really let herself go!”
So, very little to dislike about the writing and we’re very grateful that applies to the art also. Kano packs lots of small panels onto a page, sometimes as much to accommodate the dialogue as anything else, but doesn’t sideline the action, which is spectacularly presented by using the same small panels. Sometimes the continuity is from panel to panel across multiples, and elsewhere a spread is partitioned, some squares joining to form a bigger picture and others detailing the simultaneous action. It’s extraordinary. Kano also has to cope with musical numbers. Oh yes indeed, Old MacDonald and Big Rock Candy Mountain receive a full airing.
As might be expected given the cast, the plot is a secondary concern with the character interaction and the jokes being the priorities, but that’s not to say Van Lente and Asmus let us down. There are plenty of surprises, and behind everything there’s a serious point about the unknown quantities of genetically modified food.
The original comics included a board game tying into the story, and that’s duly reprinted in the back, but it’s shame a different format couldn’t have been found. Let’s face it, how many buyers are going to slice up their trade paperback to assemble all the game pieces?