There’s an 80s action flick dying to tear free of the pages of “39 Minutes.” All the tropes you expect to see are present but it’s not exactly the strongest gambit with which to sell the story. Pilot Season works like a game show where five comics each get one issue to wow the crowd and only one will continue. The creators must give their debut slice all they’ve got, but this issue fails to impress me.
The initial set up is actually quite terse and intriguing. A crew of marauding ex-jarheads wander into a bank and, instead of playing it cool, they blow as many people away as possible. It’s an effective technique that turns the heist drama on its head. They then ensure the local cops know about the bloodshed as a lure to up the ordnance and nuke them as well. The town is opened up without any law enforcers and these criminals use a 39 minute window to take everything they want. Then they leave. This is actually a pretty decent idea but it is squandered here as nothing else is done with it.
There are two stories heading towards each other in this issue like rippled juggernauts of muscle working in slow motion to the best synth-pop they can find. Opposing the marines, we have the imprisoned good guy being blackmailed into working on the case. The good guy, John Clayton (he even sounds like he sprang from an 80’s script), grizzles behind a prison beard that would give MacReady a run but knows he has to do the right thing because, you guessed it, these men served under him in Iraq.
Clayton doesn’t get to do much at all except spout off some thin flashback to explain a rift between him and his men. There is an improbable panel of a bunch of soldiers opening fire on each other, at close range, without seemingly killing any of these offending grunts. It doesn’t exactly make sense and it’s a pretty standard (read: boring) way to show a rivalry.
My main problem with the issue is that the most interesting people -- the soldiers holding these varied heists -- are not explored in the slightest. There’s a meager hint of a brotherhood amongst them, but there’s not one single piece of real character work committed. So, a majority of the comic is engaged with men in ski masks who I just don’t understand. I feel the comic should have hung its hat on these men but instead jumps around like a breeze on fleeting clouds that doesn’t blow anyone’s hat off.
The art is simple and doesn’t take too many chances with page layout or panel composition. Faces are inconsistent and the storytelling is plain. It’s a shame because the gorgeous Rafael Albuquerque cover might lure the pundits in but then it will only serve to annoy them in juxtaposition against what they’re really getting on the page.
“39 Minutes” could have been a pretty cool tale but instead it’s just a cool concept trapped within a very average tale. The characters are sliced super thin and they add no flavor at all as they build up to an ending that tries to shock but comes across more like the uncool uncle who just forgot the punchline and improvised.