Brian Wood and Rob G return to their popular franchise with the third (or fourth, if you count Wood’s collaboration with Brett Weldele, Couscous Express) installment of The Couriers. All you need to know about previous installments is that Moustafa and Special are bad-asses and have a tendency to find trouble.
This volume goes back in time to 1993, when 12-year-old Moustafa is dealing weed and dreaming of bigger things, and 15-year-old Special is already killing assassins and making her way in the underworld. When Moustafa jumps at the chance to impress Chinatown mob boss Johnny Funwrecker by claiming to have access to cocaine, he finds himself partnered with Special and training to become a gangland courier.
All is going well until the Feds stick their noses into Johnny Funwrecker’s business, and opportunity knocks – Special convinces Moustafa that now is the time to cut ties with Johnny and bring him down so they can strike out on their own. What follows is a botched FBI operation, Special’s reunion with her demented ex-boyfriend, and a car chase through New York City involving a sweet Camaro and an attack chopper. And we get to see how Special got the scar on her cheek.
Couriers 03 is a wild action ride, sort of what would happen if Michael Bay made comics, only with more brains and characterization than his movies. And a plot that makes sense. Brian Wood brings us all the action and snappy dialogue that we’ve come to expect from The Couriers, and some surprisingly quiet moments — like when we get a glimpse of Moustafa’s home life when his mother walks in on him and Special. Or when Special shaves Moustafa’s head and gives him his initiation gift. And there’s even an Easter egg for long-time Couriers fans when a certain young girl spies on Moustafa at Couscous Express.
Of course, all of the explosions and car chases and backstabbing wouldn’t work without a capable artist, and Rob G is more than capable. His manga-style artwork gets better with each volume of The Couriers, and this time he gets to draw a street battle between courier clans and motorcycle-riding Chinatown gangsters armed with swords. I have to admit, sometimes I think Rob G’s art looks rushed, particularly when it comes to vehicles, but he excels when it comes to drawing people and their reactions. I really like the scene where Moustafa and Special are eating together the first time – the look on Moustafa’s face gives away exactly what he’s thinking, almost making Wood’s narrative unnecessary.
So what do I think of the third installment of The Couriers? Is this a graphic novel series that has worn out its welcome? Hell no! In fact, I think Brian Wood and Rob G are hitting their stride in the adventures of everyone’s favorite Couriers, and I look forward to more. In an era where most comics consist of extreme decompressed storytelling and page after page of people talking but saying nothing, The Couriers delivers thrills, humor and characters who actually speak and have something to say.