Friday, June 13, 2014


Drawings & Story: J. Scott Campbell | Story & Script: Andy Hartnell
Inks: Alex Garner, Richard Friend, Sandra Hope, Scott Williams, Tom McWeeney, Tim Townsend, Art Thibert | Colors: Guy Major, Justin Ponsor, Ben Dimagmaliw, Joe Chiodo, Martin Jimenez, David Baron
Lettering: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Dave Lanphear and Wes Abbott
Editor: Scott Dunbier | Danger Girl Created By J. Scott Campbell & Andy Hartnell

The DANGER GIRL PREVIEW, an eight-page teaser for the regular series, was released with a cover date of December, 1997. It was my first year of college. The series' final issue, #7, was dated February, 2001. My senior year. I distinctly remember being flabbergasted whenever a new issue showed up in my pull box at the local comic book shop back then. DANGER GIRL was my first real foray into something outside the realms of Marvel and DC, as I had passed on the Image Exodus of the early nineties. And it's not an exaggeration to declare that DANGER GIRL soured me on venturing beyond that safe zone provided by the Big Two. I found the series entertaining and the artwork fantastic, but the delays made it impossible for me to remember what happened between issues. And I value entertainment produced on a timely schedule more than work delayed for any reason, be it laziness or the desire for perfection.

So my DANGER GIRL comics sat, stored away and unread, for years. I eventually dug them out one day and read them in one sitting, to find that the story is surprisingly coherent. Campbell and Hartnell must have had their arc worked out from the start, because when read in succession, without months-long delays between issues, everything holds together.

But the thing that really surprised me upon re-reading is that the story isn't just coherent -- it's also pretty good!

Since that first re-reading, maybe eight or so years ago, I've gone back and read this inaugural series three or four more times, and "upgraded" my copy from the original comics to the ULTIMATE EDITION hardcover released by IDW in 2010. Campbell's spectacular artwork really pops on the book's larger pages, and while I won't say the finished product is worth the long delays that plagued its original schedule, I will admit that, when taken as a whole, it's a fun, action-packed romp.

I've referred to DANGER GIRL previously as the equivalent of a summer popcorn movie on the printed comic book page, and that's certainly true. Campbell and Hartnell borrow (or outright lift) liberally from the Indiana Jones movies and the Bond films, as well as other perennial favorites like G.I. JOE. But their swipes aren't done out of laziness or a lack of creativity. DANGER GIRL is a loving homage to those films and series that its creators grew up with, and because of the genuine affection for that source material, the series succeeds where lesser imitators may have failed.

Our story begins en media res with the series' point-of-view character, Abbey Chase -- an international adventurer -- on a quest for a Mayan artifact. Cornered by her rival, Donavin Conrad, Abbey makes a daring escape from Costa Rica with the unexpected aid of the Danger Girls -- a group of highly proficient young women in the employ of an ex MI6 agent named Deuce. Among the team are Sydney Savage, an Australian bullwhip expert in a skintight catsuit, Natalia Kassle, an ex-Soviet agent armed with an array of knives, and "Silicon" Valerie, a British computer whiz. Deuce, an over-muscled caricature of Sean Connery circa THE MEDICINE MAN (ponytail and all), has recruited all of the girls to help him keep peace in this post Cold War world.

The series' primary antagonists are the members of the Hammer Empire, a "Fourth Reich" type organization populated by a collection of eccentric characters based heavily upon Bond villains and members of Cobra, from G.I. JOE, as well as -- to a lesser extent -- the Nazi cult from HELLBOY. At the story's start, Deuce recruits Abbey to translate the symbols on a shield the Hammer is after. She joins the Danger Girls and, after a failed attempt to procure the shield in France, works with the team's CIA contact, Johnny Barracuda, to infiltrate a Hammer party in Switzerland and finally steal it. The story continues its globe-trotting from there, moving to England, the deep sea, and a brief stop in Monaco before proceeding on to a final confrontation at Hammer Island in an area of the ocean called "The Devil's Triad".

Along the way, Natalia is believed killed in action while Sydney and Johnny are captured by the Hammer. Deuce's Danger Yacht is sunk and Deuce himself loses his ponytail during the incident, which leads one to believe Campbell realized it was a bit of a dated look for his Sean Connery clone. Abbey is introduced to Secret Agent Zero, a former member of the Hammer who has seen the light and who is brazenly based upon Snake-Eyes from G.I. JOE -- he wears all black, carries a katana, and, while not mute, he whispers everything he says. He even has a friend-turned-enemy named Assassin X -- with whom he shares a matching tattoo -- in the Hammer who dresses all in white, like Snake-Eyes's rival, Storm Shadow. It is also (very) strongly hinted that he may be Abbey's father.

The story's climax features the return of Natalia, revealed as a Hammer double agent, as the Danger Girls reunite to stop the Hammer's leader from using the shield, along with an equally ancient sword and helmet, from conducting a mystical ceremony which will imbue him with God-like powers. The day is won when Abbey and Natalie put aside their differences, but Natalia reverts to evil at the last minute and perishes in the process.

As noted above, homages and pistaches are prevalent throughout. Chase scenes reminiscent of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM comprise major set pieces in the France and Switzerland segments of the story. The infiltration of the soiree in Switzerland evokes Bond, and the voyage to the bottom of the sea to retrieve one of the three relics smacks of classic G.I. JOE cartoons -- as, indeed, does the general plot of traveling the globe to find separate pieces of one item. And the ceremony at the series' finale once again brings RAIDERS to mind, while the simultaneously occurring duel between Agent Zero and Assasin X is equal parts G.I. JOE and STAR WARS.

The less charitible out there might point out that these bits and pieces are cribbed only because the creators were unable to do their own versions of the various properties in question, but I maintain that the way in which it's all fit together makes DANGER GIRL greater than the sum of its parts. But even if the story is flawed, the artwork more than makes up for any shortcomings or accusations of plagiarism. Campbell's work is, to my eye, better here than any time before or since. His enthusiastic cartooning leaps off of every page -- especially in the oversized DELUXE EDITION format -- and carries the story forward at a break-neck pace. There are no wasted moments in DANGER GIRL. Every scene leads urgently into the next.

It is worth noting, though, that Campbell's style seems to change near the series' end. Early on, his work is more traditionally comic-booky, with several panels per page to illustrate the action. But gradually, over the course of seven issues -- which, remember, were published over the span of three-plus years -- the panels become larger and larger and the issues become sparser. If Campbell had kept up his style from the earlier issues, the entire series could probably have been five installments -- or six tops -- instead of seven. The series is no less enjoyable because of this evolution, but it is a bit jarring when read all at once.

So is DANGER GIRL more than it seems? I would say so, at least somewhat. One of the main draws at the time was the cheesecake -- and while there is plenty to go around, the story does not exist solely for Campbell to draw sexy women running around killing things. There is no place where it appears Campbell sacrifices storytelling in favor of T&A. He certainly incorporates T&A into the story, don't get me wrong -- but he never lets it define the story.

As for the rest -- it is, like I said, a big summer blockbuster in comic book form. The characters are anything but deep, though Abbey does have an arc as she comes to terms with her role as a Danger Girl -- but the script is silly fun and the artwork, coloring, and even lettering are absolutely top-notch. It's a gorgeous book with a servicible story, and it makes for a really fun light read if you're in the right mood.

Left: I don't usually play the variant cover game, but I couldn't pass up this delightful version of issue #5, featuring Sydney, when I saw it at the 1999 San Diego Comic-Con. My own copy is autographed by J. Scott Campbell and after years in storage, now hangs, framed, on a wall in my den.

Available now in trade paperback format at

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