.357 Magnum Opus has the most spectacularly provocative cover I’ve seen on a mainstream comic. It depicts a scene from the story, where the battered, bare-chested protagonist is sitting astride the body of someone she’s just murdered by strangling them with her bra. It would probably stop the book getting stocked in some bookshops but, with it being self-published, you can forgive Ghezal Omar and Mingchen Shen for thinking that a shocking, provocative cover is worth a punt. It’s certainly attention-grabbing.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s not a titillating promise that the book doesn’t live up to. The story follows a pair of bounty hunters as they attempt to track a man who’s carving his way through the criminal underworld, collecting bags of money stashed in various locations. Interestingly, no-one seems to care about the collateral damage and these bounty hunters aren’t operating within the boundaries of law and order, but mercenaries caring little about who pays their way or how many people die before they get their payout. They soon manage to get hold of their target’s girlfriend and coerce her into helping them out.
It’s all very edgy. The protagonists take performance-enhancing drugs, shoot their way out of difficult situations and release their tensions through casual sex. Yet there’s some depth to the characters, with flashbacks building up the background and providing motivations for their unusually psychotic behaviour. The pair, it turns out, used to be a threesome, but the third partner came to an untimely end in an episode that still haunts the couple. They’re professional and fearless, but their violent history leaves them scarred and embittered.
Omar weaves a deliberately complex crime caper, with twists and surprises loaded from the start. Some of the story’s detail is deliberately held back in order to surprise us further down the line but, on the whole, it’s deftly done.
Shen’s art is clean to the level of perfection. His characters are beautiful, but perhaps too beautiful. There’s no grime or dirt, even when there’s a trail of corpses littering the story. Also, while his characters are perfect, the background often fades to white, maintaining a cleanliness that just doesn’t sit right with the story.
It’s an interesting crime caper, then, that pushes lots of the right buttons but falls short of perfection. The story is dynamic and graphic, while the illustration is sharp but perhaps a little too shiny. Still, it’s well worth exploring if you’re keen on the genre.
Buy .357 Magnum Opus direct from 357magnumopus.com.