Friday, July 11, 2014


Story: J. Scott Campbell & Andy Hartnell | Script: Andy Hartnell
Art & Color: Phil Noto | Lettering & Design: Richard Starking's & Comicraft's John Roshell
Assistant Editor: Kristy Quinn | Editor: Scott Dunbier
Danger Girl Created By J. Scott Campbell & Andy Hartnell

The second Campbell/Hartnell/Noto collaboration is a much better read than the previous one, HAWAIIAN PUNCH. VIVA LAS DANGER begins with a teaser featuring Abbey undercover in South Africa, involved in a high stakes poker game in order to acquire a one-of-a-kind gem. She wins by cheating and escapes her angry fellow gamers with assistance from Johnny.

I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but one of my favorite things about the DANGER GIRL comics is that they mostly all begin with such quick teasers, sometimes related to the main story's action and sometimes not, evoking memories of the great Connery and Moore Bond films I grew up on. The teasers are then always followed by a double-page title/credits sequence, usually in the form of a montage featuring the girls in varying states of undress in the background. It's another nice, Bondian touch which helps to sell the stories as action movies in comic book form.

Though I have to say that, while Campbell usually provides variant covers for the DANGER GIRL mini-series, I wouldn't mind seeing him devote that energy to these pages instead. I suppose putting his artwork on the cover is a bigger draw for readers, but the montage Campbell drew for the original series was outstanding, and I think he could have a lot more fun with the various mini-series' character designs drawing them into such pages rather than cramming them onto covers which need room for logos, trade dress, UPC barcodes, and more.

At any rate -- following the credits, the story moves to Las Vegas, where Deuce and the Danger Girls, along with Johnny, have arrived to return the recovered stone to its rightful owner, Prince Akoo. Akoo owns an Ancient Egyptian-themed hotel on the Vegas strip, and has been waiting years to get the Jewel of Eternity back. He welcomes our heroes into his home as his honored guests, but Abbey suspects he's up to something. It turns out she's right, that the gem will keep its owner young by aging those around him until they become elderly and enfeebled, and eventually die. Akoo begins to use the Jewel on Valerie while prepping Deuce as a sacrifice, but Abbey befriends his girl Friday, Xyra -- secretly an agent working to recover the Jewel -- and together they infiltrate Akoo's ceremony along with Sydney and Johnny.

The story then takes a legitimately unexpected twist as we learn that Akoo is a good guy, planning to destroy the Jewel of Eternity, while Xyra is the daughter of the Pharaoh who first used the gem on his own people, having used it to remain young all these centuries, and who now wants it back for her own selfish reasons. The girls, Deuce, and Johnny team up with Akoo to destroy the Jewel and save the day.

Along the way we get certain expected Vegas tropes thrown in to good effect. Johnny prowls the casino floor and makes a date with a young lady who actually doesn't find him repulsive, finally showing us for the first time in ages that he actually is the ladies' man he claims to be. We also see Abbey and Sydney undercover as dancing showgirls, which is something that pretty much has to happen if the Danger Girls head to Las Vegas. As well, we get a "Bond villain henchman" type in the form of Akoo's right hand man, Jackpot, who has a slot-machine built into his chest and whose arm is a slot lever (but with a built-in flamethrower). But as part of the twist, Jackpot winds up working alongside our heroines in the story's climactic conflict.

Another nice touch is that Deuce plays a larger role than normal in the proceedings. I wouldn't want to see him "in the field" every time, but it's good to be occasionally reminded that the ex-MI6 agent can still handle himself. He also has a brief flashback to a meeting with Akoo "three years ago" in Tanzania. The scene in question features Deuce searching for Abbey. Akoo suggests that he try Costa Rica, and even provides him the name of Donvain Conrad, the sleazy rival Abbey fought in the original DANGER GIRL's teaser sequence. This exchange seems to imply that the Danger Girls' adventures have occurred in something resembling real time up to this point, which doesn't quite ring true.

Artistically, this story is a step up from HAWAIIAN PUNCH as well. Where last time Noto's work was clean and looked like cels from an animated cartoon, this time around the art appears to be reproduced directly from pencils, with coloring akin to watercolor. The result is somewhat murky, but the effect works very well for the story being told. I maintain that Noto, while an excellent artist, is not the best choice to illustrate characters designed by J. Scott Campbell, but the production process applied here allows for better fudging of that weakness.

Also, there is one other artistic negative, which I noticed in HAWAIIAN PUNCH but chose not to mention. However it's more prevalent here: Noto's figures are very stiff. This is another point toward my belief that he shouldn't be drawing Campbell characters, but just in general he shouldn't be drawing heavy action sequences. His characters look like cardboard cutouts with no sense of motion behind them, even when leaping through the air and jump-kicking their enemies. He handles the conversation scenes just fine, and he manages to skirt some of his action-related deficiencies with creative panel cropping -- but when called upon for, as cited above, a full-blown martial arts scene, the results are less than satisfactory.

But the story's biggest negative -- though not a negative in and of itself unless combined with the previous stories -- is that Valerie saves the day. Again. In KAMIKAZE! she defused a bomb. In HAWAIIAN PUNCH she reprogrammed three missiles. Now, in VIVA LAS DANGER, she is the one who shatters the Jewel of Eternity. It's nice to see the youngest team member get her moments to shine, but it begins to become irritating when that moment is the defining winning moment of every story. I said a while back that I wanted more of a spotlight for Val. Now I want less. Hopefully she'll lay low for a little while following this adventure.

But, that minor failing aside, overall VIVA LAS DANGER is a vast improvement over HAWAIIAN PUNCH. The story is stronger, the art and colors fit the characters better, and the twist is legitimately unexpected -- which is saying something since Campbell and Hartnell already pulled a "good girl turns out to be bad" misdirect in the original series.

Available as part of the DANGER GIRL: DESTINATION DANGER collected edition from

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