Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Christopher Farnsworth
Artist: Antonio Fuso
Release Date: 26th April 2017
Given the somewhat lukewarm reception that the new Bauer-less 24: Legacy TV show has received so far, you could perhaps forgive me for going into this brand new comicbook “prequel” to the show with some amount of trepidation, to say the least. Hell, who am I kidding? I was practically incandescent in my righteous fanboy rage.
“Who the hell is this Eric Carter kid, anyway?”
“Why does he even think he can try to fill Jack’s massive shoes?”
“What interest could I possibly have in finding out more… about… hmm, hang on. This is actually rather good, isn’t it?”
Because y’see, when you ignore the stigma caused by the fact that this comic is essentially a spinoff from a TV show that nobody asked for, it becomes pretty obvious that writer Christopher Farnsworth and artist Antonio Fuso have put together one hell of a first issue.
The story alternates between two formative moments that helped shape young Eric Carter’s life – a seemingly routine security mission during Carter’s stint as a soldier in Iraq, and a shady drug deal during his years as a petty criminal on the streets of Washington.
Farnsworth has a lot of fun playing with the parallels between these two events as we flit back and forth between them. In both scenarios, Carter’s instincts and sharp wit are on full display, and he also acts smoothly and decisively when each of the situations inevitably falls apart in a hail of bullets. The story as a whole does a great job of adding context to the character, probing into his younger days in a way that makes him seem a lot more intriguing than actor Corey Hawkins has managed in twelve episodes so far.
I’ve been a big fan of Antonio Fuso’s art since his work alongside Marguerite Bennett on Butterfly, and his restrained, shadow-heavy style works wonders here in packing the story with suspense. There’s more than a passing resemblance to Mitch Geads’ stellar work on Sheriff of Babylon in Fuso’s work, particularly during the Iraq scenes, which is high praise indeed when you consider the critical acclaim heaped onto the Vertigo series. Oh, and a major doff of the cap should go to colourist Lee Loughridge for his stellar work in establishing the mood in both Iraq and Washington, and using a distinctive palette to set the two locales apart.
It’s an impressively economical opening, with nary a panel being wasted as Farnsworth constantly pushes both stories forwards. The scene has been set impressively here, the stakes have been suitably raised, and now all that remains is to wait another four weeks to see how Eric Carter deals with these seemingly insurmountable odds. This is episodic storytelling at its finest, folks, and while there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the content, the execution is thoroughly impressive.
If you’ve been enjoying the 24: Legacy TV series, then this is an absolute no-brainer, but even if you hate it with the fury of a thousand suns, this is still a comic that’s worth a few quid of your hard-earned money. Tense, dramatic and utterly gripping, Rules of Engagement improves on the television show in almost every conceivable way, giving us a thoroughly intriguing look at the formative years of Eric Carter.
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