What makes a story better just by the mere fact of being present? If you were thinking a covert team made up of international agents, Nazis and dinosaurs, then you were right. Stephen Mooney seems to know this and that is why he delivered one of the best miniseries of 2013, now collected into a beautiful hardcover here in 2014. Taking care of the writing, the art, the covers and even the colours on issue one, Mooney has brought his dream project to life in full pulp glory for the masses. And that is a good thing for us, as it is one of the best adventure tales to come out in the last couple of years. There are a lot of superhero tales to peruse these days, a lot of science fiction and horror and even a few westerns if they should tickle your fancy, but not too many pure adventure books. Joining him to finish off the colours for the rest of the tale is Jordi Bellaire, who has lent her expertise to many books lately, elevating them to new and wonderful spectrums.
The bulk of Half Past Danger takes place on a little island in the South Pacific. There, Tommy and his team unexpectedly run into some Germans and while circling around the camp to report their findings, and not getting caught as they are outnumbered, run into some dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that are somehow, still alive in 1943. Everyone except for Tommy is killed and he makes it back eventually to report his findings and drink himself into a stupor. Time passes and he is soon recruited by an American named John Noble and a woman of British descent, who also happens to be MI6, named Elizabeth Huntington-Moss. To round out their team, they are joined by a former member of the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces named Ishikawa ‘Ishi’ Minamoto. Their plan? To go back to the island, find out what the Germans want, possibly stop them, and find out if the dinosaurs Tommy saw were real. To say that Tommy is not thrilled is putting it lightly.
The first thing that is quite evident as you start reading the book is that Mooney knows how to spin a compelling yarn. Once he gets his hooks in you, it is hard to pull back as the book just demands to be read. The great thing about it is just when you think it is going to be one type of story it goes and turns into something else altogether. Always nice to be surprised. Secondly, the art is just gorgeous. Mooney really has a nice open style that makes the book seem really clean, clear and inviting. He also has a good eye for panel structure and getting the right shots, when and where they are needed. A perfect example of this is when our team faces off against the deinonychus. Not only is it a great display of the action that is within the book, but you can see just how technically proficient Mooney is with his layouts and panel flow. It is just like watching a movie as the action moves so quickly throughout, but much better as you can stop and admire the detail in each frame.
Another thing that cannot go without mention is Mooney’s character designs. Each of our protagonists could not be more different from each other if he tried, but in having them be so, it gave the book a nice dynamic it would not have had otherwise. The standout character of course is Elizabeth Huntington-Moss who is stunning and if the credits in the back of the book are to be believed, based upon his wife. She is beautiful, deadly and our resident femme fatale, of which every book should have at least one. And perhaps not characters in the classic sense, but the dinosaurs are a big part of the book and are the focal point of which everything revolves. They look great and act how you would think they would act but most important of all, due to Mooney, you feel for them. They have no idea what they are in for and as you make your way through the book you sympathize with them and start hoping that the Germans will get their comeuppance at the hands of a T-Rex or worse. Anytime you can empathize with the characters, or anything, in a book is a mark of great storytelling.
There are a couple of really surprising plot twists in the book, one being the introduction of the great reptiles and the second, when it happens, seemed so obvious for anyone who has ever watched classic film that it bordered on cliché, and yet just hits you out of the blue. If you buy the collection instead of the single issues, you get some great director’s commentary in the back as well as some design sketches, pinups, page layouts and all of the published covers including alternates. Truly worth your money. Another good thing with this book is that it is worth reading again and even better, there is going to be a sequel. So for those that thought the series was a done-in-one, were wrong. There is no doubt that with Stephen Mooney at the helm, that the new series, when it should be released, will be as good as this one.
5 out of 5