Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Fairer Sex, Part XVI: Assassin School #1

The book that tries to make assassination fun again

Assassin School is a UK import from a small publishing house called Autumn Press Comics. APC seems to have disappeared in recent years, perhaps even swallowed up by another publishing house. Their website went offline sometime in 2006, so finding information about the three-issue volume 1 of Assassin School or the follow up six-issue second volume is near impossible. Series writer Phil Littler has vanished entirely, but artist Edu Francisco appears to still be creating art from his native Brazil. However he is not involved in any mainstream comics.

That’s a shame because Edu is a extremely talented manga-style artist. I’m not a fan of the manga genre, but I can tell hacks from artists. Edu has the stuff. 

It is unfortunate that I’m not a huge manga fan because Assassin School would have probably tickled me to no end. The book tells the story of Emma, a teenage girl marksman in an all-girls school for training teenage killers. Yeah, that sounds awful dark, which Assassin School isn’t. 

Instead The book comes off like someone mixed a Jason Bourne movie in with Pokemon and liberal doses of girl pin-up art. Blending sexy teenagers, killing and school into one book is so odd and strange that I found myself amazed that it was produced in 2003, two years after 9/11. But there it is, a happy tale of a teenager learning how to commit murder at long range.

Let’s jump in and watch Emma in training. Here we see her for the first time after a successful shot on a robot target. Her classmates are the usual bunch of weird looking anime kooks while Emma is rendered like every pedophile’s dream 16-year-old.

There’s some pretty sharp dialogue writing going on in this book. Watch Emma’s response to her jealous classmate’s sour grapes.

The girls are trained by the stout hard-azz Mrs. Moore, who acts more like a drill sergeant than she does a facility member. She knows Emma’s the best shot in her class and stands her up as the kind of assassin the others should aspire to. Moore is also just a bit protective of her.

And she also has a surprise for our young shooter: Captain Hazard has a real live mission for Em. While that may come as a shock to Emma, meeting Captain Hazard doesn’t.

Is that a “How are you doing?” or is that a Joey from Friends “Howyoudoin’?” line? 

Does anyone find it creepy that Captain Hazard appears to have some kind of personal relationship with Emma? I mean, she’s a teenager and all and he’s apparently a much older man. No one? Just me? 

Ok, then. I guess it is a bit much to ask outrage over something like a grown man involved with a teenage girl when Em will be blowing holes through live humans in just a few pages.
Anyway, Mrs. Moore gets both of them on topic by asking if there is “a project” for the school and then by ascertaining that Hazard will take better care with her student this time. Hazard assures her he will. What might have happened to cause all this concern?

Talk about an education costing you an arm and a leg, here it costs you an arm and two legs! 

When Hazard says that the project is “a shot” Moore gives in. Emma is apparently the best student she has. Hazard shuffles Em to a chopper and fills her in. 

ON THE MISSION! Fills her in on the mission. Sheesh! You people!

It appears that she will be responsible for taking out an international terrorist who has been behind more attacks than Bin Laden. He’s sequestered in his desert training camp surrounded by faithful guards. Em’s being sent in alone, with no backup and if she’s caught, the agency will disavow all knowledge of her identity. She’s allowed to pick the position for the hit and everything. You know, the same way I used to occasionally let my 17-year-old daughter pick which restaurant we eat at.

She makes it through airport security just fine. Well, there is this awkward moment:


Is it just me, or does she seem a little…underdressed to be visiting what looks like a predominantly Muslim country? Ehh…whatever. I shouldn’t ask for realism from this book, especially with what’s in store for me. 

First off Emma receives a crate via desert air-drop (which conveniently no one sees), then she makes her way to the terrorist camp and sets up position. Meanwhile our bad guy character ends up looking like a bad guy caricature.

Look at that! He’s like every racist terrorist stereotype rolled into one. He also murders his own followers when they make mistakes, preferring to pull the trigger himself. I’m sure he’s no fun at parties, either. 

There’s no political undertones in this book. This is the bad guy and he’s evil, nuff said. His motivations won’t be explored and expect him to do every vile thing you’ve ever seen done by any villain in popular fiction. My take is we go with this, since sillier things are still in store for us.
Like this, Emma is perched on a hill overlooking the terrorist camp, when along comes a lone goat herder.

Which of course leads to this…

Which leads to this…

And then this…

Yes, I really wish Manga as an art form would stay away from mainstream comic books. I just noticed that I haven’t given Edu props for his panel layout. Clearly that’s in order. He’s got a very good eye for design and a flair for storytelling. If only someone had kept him away from the Manga and Anime sections, I might like the book more.

Still, it is spectacular art.  All this commotion brings out the terrorist’s guards, who surround Emma and try to discern just what’s transpired between her and the goat herder.

Up until this point in the book, I’d just assumed Emma was of the age of consent. But this terrorist bad guy’s line made me go back and re-evaluate her age sharply downward. I mean, if he’s calling her a child…how young could she really be?

Whatever her age, Em is captured and taken back to base to be interrogated. She’s shuffled into a tent and takes up a anime pinup pose.

Yeah, let’s try sneaking out.

On second thought, let’s not.

So when sneaking doesn’t work, she’s brought before the terrorist leader. When she doesn’t immediately tell him what she was doing there, he orders her to be given to the men in order to loosen her tongue. This prompts more Manga-ness.

Cry me a river, why don’cha? Which causes all the guards to start laughing, allowing her to knock one down and procure his weapon. She proves she’s a good shot too.

Not sure why she gives the head honcho a chance to get a line in since on the next page she scrambles his brainpan. Sadly, even though the job is done, she’s totally screwed. She’s surrounded by unfriendlies in the middle of the desert. It’s not like she can just run out the front door to safety.

Or maybe it is. Maybe this is a Looney Tunes feature. 

Against all the improbable odds she makes it back to school where she faces even more trials – there’s a test tomorrow and she’ll have to study all night! This brings on the fake manga “sweat drop” of embarrassment. I'm still taken with Assassin School, even with all this goofy unrealistic action. My recommendation is to check them out if you can.

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