|Pop Culture Gadabout|
Sunday, January 08, 2006 |
( 1/08/2006 12:24:00 PM ) Bill S.
"NOTHING MORE FRIGHTENING THAN RANDOM, GRAHAM!" – The central idea behind Boom Studio's new horror one-shot, 10, is deceptively simple and familiar: in it, ten Californians are sent a package with a Smith-&-Wesson semi-automatic and a letter telling them that they've been randomly selected to be part of the Hunter/Seeker Competition. Nine of these recipients are given the address of one other member of the competition; the tenth has been the addresses for all nine other players. The competition, of course, is kill or be killed.
Who is behind this contest; what they hope to get out of it or how they keep track of their ten unwilling recruits once the killing starts is never explained. It's as if scripter Keith Giffen, after struggling and failing to provide a consistent and logical explanation for the goings on in his Americanized adaptation of Battle Royale, decided to jettison explanation altogether and concentrate on his victims' dilemma. We quickly learn to doubt the small bits of explanation that we're given in the letter: if Hunter/Seekers are chosen "randomly," then how come all of 'em are unattached adults, how are both members of a recently split relationship chosen for the same competition – and why does the one guy who gets the full list, pill-poppin' Isaiah Pope, work a day job as an exterminator? That last's a bit too convenient, especially since Isaiah seems to take to his part in the game with such unbridled enthusiasm.
But whether their selection is the result of author contrivance or an unseen villain with a strong case of motiveless malignancy, Giffen's mini-royale battle remains gripping. Primary focus of the story is on Pope and average guy Graham Meachum, who in a nice twist receives his package while he's away on vacation. When he returns, blissfully unaware of the life-&-death struggle going on around him, at least one of the competitors assumes his vacation is a cover story, that he's been playing Hunter/Seeker all along. Poor Graham is quickly forced to catch-up in a game you know he's not equipped to win: from what little we see of him beforehand, the guy looks about as adept at life as Milo, the loser half of Hero Squared.
10 plunges into its swiftly bloody action from the opening page, so we start out in the same position as Graham. Artist Andy Kuhn does an efficient job keeping up on the cold-blooded action - which plays Tarantino-y with its timeframe - though I have to admit that at one point I wasn't initially sure whether what I was reading was a flashback or not. Still, for readers of plain ol' heartless pulp violence, 10 delivers the cynical goods; to his credit, Giffen doesn't shy away from his inevitably downbeat conclusion. If what we're seeing isn't random, it's definitely (at least to the men and women inexorably caught up in it) unknowable – which is plenty frightening by itself . . .