Nixon Cooper is a parole officer working in the seedy underbelly of L.A. He’s in charge of keeping track of super-villains who are released on parole. It’s not a glamorous life by any trace of imagination.
As we meet Nixon, he’s tracking down an ex-con in the middle of the night at a run-down apartment building in the San Fernando Valley. There’s a horrible stench in the apartment, a stench that is a telltale sign of an extraterrestrial gateway. Stepping through the gateway is a nasty villain called the Bricklayer, who looks like Marvel’s the Thing and swears like a sailor.
The Bricklayer proceeds to beat the hell out of Nixon, and then the whole damn building explodes. Nixon is badly hurt in the building collapse, and finds himself awake in a hospital bed bandaged from head to toe.
Some glamorous life Nixon leads, huh? He spends all his time chasing scummy villains in seedy apartments, in the middle of the night, at great danger to life and limb, in order to make a small pittance of a salary so he can support his bitch of a wife.
Oh, and it gets worse. The bitch of a wife is having an affair with a scumbucket of an ex-con, there’s a conceited jerk of a parole officer who gives Nixon hell all the time, and, worst of all, Nixon is having recurring dreams that he’s been abducted and experimented upon by some vicious looking space aliens.
Nixon’s Pals is a really wonderful black comedy from the computer of Joe Casey. I love the seedy and almost desperate feeling of the book. Nixon’s just a guy doing his best to make it in the world, and it’s easy to feel sorry for the guy as all the troubles of the world are literally dumped upon him. No matter how many obstacles come up against him, Nixon just keeps fighting. No matter how many stitches he takes, no matter how much he gets beaten, Nixon continually moves forward with his life.
Finally, in the end, Nixon’s perseverance and innate nobility win out. He finally achieves real freedom in the end–a freedom that feel s like real elation.
It’s a nice Hollywood ending, but somehow it doesn’t quite ring true. A guy like Nixon Cooper can never ride away from his troubles, or never be quite free of all aspects of his nature. I wish Joe Casey had added just a touch of ambiguity to the ending, but the conclusion of this book is still quite satisfying.
Chris Burnham does a wonderful job of conveying the seedy world in which Nixon lives. He does a terrific job of showing the battering Nixon’s body takes as it literally suffers one body blow after another. Burnham has a way of conveying Nixon’s innate heroism as the book moves along, and he does his best work with the oddball characters in the book. The depiction of the nasty assassin Sputter is terrific – he looks weird and frightening, but also vaguely familiar–and the team of Rumble Doll and Dynamoxie is terrific and memorable.
However, the most memorable character Burnham draws in the book is the freaky Alchema, a stripper whose breasts seem to also host two separate minds of their own . . . and mouths. Alchema looks so thoroughly bizarre that your mouth may actually drop, agape, upon viewing her. I read this book last week and I still can’t get Alchema out of my mind.
This graphic novel is awesomely seedy. It’s fun and weird, and it even made me laugh out loud once or twice.