After a 20 year sabbatical, does Rabbit have what it takes to return to the life of a professional criminal? I guess it depends on your definition of the word “professional.”
In last month’s debut issue, I complained that for all of its strengths as a concept, Dead Rabbit was a series hampered by its obvious similarities to other, more prominent properties like the Boondock Saints or The Departed. Here we are a month later, and while some of those homages remain, Duggan’s second outing with the character has proved far more promising. I mean, we’re still doing the “hood with a heart of gold” act, which is a little tired as a trope, but expanding Rabbit’s extended cast and motivation has definitely warmed me to the book as a whole.
So we kick off right where we ended the last issue – with Martin Dobbs’ wife’s medical expenses mounting. After her recent spell, Megan’s in a bad way – and a $67K hospital bill is more than enough to send our man Martin back onto the streets to score some quick cash. Of course, it’s hard to rob a bank alone, so the Rabbit brings his old wheelman (named Wheels? Get out of here!) along for the ride. That’s right, if you didn’t think that two men in their 50s could pull of the heist of the century with only a few hours notice you…actually you’d be right. See, while Rabbit is able to handle his end of the stickup with little issue, turns out your boy Wheels is a bit of a lightweight. See, when he was a young buck in the game, dude would take a swig of Stoli to calm his nerves before he took to the road (Don’t drink and drive kids). Nowadays, however, that quick shot of liquid courage is enough to conk the older man out and make him miss his queue.
What then ensues is a madcap car chase, with Rabbit climbing behind the wheel and tearing ass down Beacon Street to escape the heat from the bank robbery. Unfortunately for our hero, the vodka bottle Wheels left in the car has since become lodged behind the brake pedal (Again, don’t drink and drive), forcing the fellas’ stolen car headlong into what I assume is the C train on the Green line. Martin manages to walk away from the collision, but Wheels is sent through the windshield and directly into the trolley, head first. Thankfully Martin’s a good friend, gives up on the plan and stays with his friend until medical professionals arrive. Hah, nah, he pays off a homeless guy to take his shopping cart and rolls his dying companion toward his…other…dying companion. With the heat on, Rabbit doesn’t have a lot of options for escape, so he instead drags Wheels to the hospital that’s treating his wife, leaves him at the door, then does a quick off-screen costume change and (seemingly) immediately fences all of the cash he stole to pay for his wife’s medical bills.
There are a lot of things to like in this second issue, and a lot of it has to do with the art. It turns out penciler John McCrea works best in action-oriented sequences – especially the holdup. The poses for the characters and the pacing of the sequence are pitch perfect, and though some character faces can leave a bit to be desired, they don’t detract from the issue. Props are also due for Mike Spicer’s coloring, which is far better parsed out in this second issue than the previous outing. A stand out is the sequence which sees Rabbit reconnect with Wheels, where the bright purple sky illuminates the scene without sabotaging its evening setting. His use of shadow and heavy blacks also helps define some of the more abstract sequences, and even pop colors in some of the simpler ones. Honesty, if I had to take issue with any of the artwork in this book, it would be that the real Coolidge Corner just doesn’t look anything like the one in this book.
That’s actually at the heart of my biggest nitpick of this issue, and it’s the team’s evidently poor understanding of the physical and spatial layout of the city of Boston. Now I get that Boston is a reasonably popular setting for crime dramas these days, but if you aren’t super familiar with a city, I don’t know why you would set your story there. The lack of any superficial resemblance to the actual Coolidge Corner is one thing, but the fact that Rabbit strikes a trolley car when escaping from the scene of the crime raises a few issues. For one, if they’re heading downhill from Coolidge (as Wheels implied) I’m going to assume they’re heading down Beacon Street. That suggests that the train he hits is the C Train, which runs parallel to the streetway – making it pretty much impossible for him to T-bone the train car unless he made some crazy 90* turn. If he had gone North, instead driving up Harvard and connecting with the B line, the positioning of the train would work, but regardless of which path he took, where would this s--t hole alley that he finds the homeless gentleman with the shopping cart be? The C line runs through Brookline, a fairly wealthy area, and it ends at Cleveland Circle on the edge of a green space and reservoir. None of this should impact your enjoyment of the series, mind you, but as someone who spent a few years living in the area, it’s sort of all I can see.
Still, I’m happy with this new direction for Dead Rabbit. After some initial jitters, the book is starting to settle into the human crime-drama Duggan likely envisioned at the pitch phase. Sure, things are still a little derivative and with the mob seemingly closing in, you can make some strong assumptions about where it’s all going – but who cares? This is shaping up to be a pretty fun series, and hopefully the creative team leans into it.