COMICS: John Reviews “2 Guns” by Steven Grant and Mat Santolouco

Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one:  Two guys walk into a bank, armed and dangerous.  They pull a daring daylight heist and manage to escape the scene, but then everything goes wrong.  Nobody is who they appear to be, and no one can be trusted.  Is this the latest Guy Ritchie / Elmore Leonard / F. Gary Gray blockbuster?  No!  It’s 2 Guns, a comic written by Steven Grant and drawn by Mat Santoouco, and it’s quite possibly the best piece of “heist” fiction I’ve seen or read in years.

2 Guns begins as the story of Bobby Trench (a.k.a. Bobby Beans), a deep-cover agent for the DEA, and his attempt to take down a high-powered drug lord by hitting him where it hurts: his wallet.  As Bobby Beans, he partners up with a fellow outlaw named Marcus Steadman and the two plan to knock over one of drug kingpin Manny Greco’s banks.  The heist goes off without a hitch and the pair manage to get to safety, when Marcus promptly shoots Bobby and makes off with the money.  And that’s just the beginning of the story.  What follows is a story of revenge, loyalty and corruption, with more twists than a whole bag full of pretzels.  The story never buckles under the weight of its own complexity, however, and is a testament to Grant’s intricate plot-weaving ability.  Like a Guy Ritchie movie (or perhaps even a Larry David Seinfeld script), 2 Guns is so fast and so clever that it can be difficult to keep up with at times, but everything becomes clear by the story’s end.

The artwork in 2 Guns is top-notch.  Mat Santolouco provides a crisp, clean and colorful sensibility to a genre that is dominated by a gritty black-and-white style.  The result is reminiscent of Adrian Alphona’s work on Runaways and the Clerks animated series (and perhaps a dash of Venture Bros.), but with a cinematic feel that likens it to a widescreen blockbuster.  The pace is breakneck without being overwhelming, and if you’re like me you’ll find yourself racing through the whole story in under an hour.  You might even want to cook up a batch of popcorn for proper enjoyment of this one.

If ever there was a comic book deserving of film treatment, it would be 2 Guns.  It’s no surprise that it has already been optioned for film (to be released in 2011, according to IMDB) by the producers of Wanted, and might even be a better fit for them since it doesn’t have any pesky superhero elements to worry about.  When you’re reading, See if you can’t imagine Matthew McConaughey as Bobby, and either Milo Ventimiglia or Jeffrey Donovan (from “Burn Notice”) as Marcus.   They’re billing it as a “buddy cop” movie a la classics like 48 Hours or Lethal Weapon, which is interesting since the comic spends most of its time on the other side of the law.  A “buddy heist” movie might be really interesting, though.  Some of the best moments in the comic are the “another fine mess you’ve gotten us into” dialogue exchanges between Bobby and Marcus, and I would love to see them given the big-screen treatment.

2 Guns is a fantastic crime comic in the style of big-budget blockbuster “heist” movies.  It has action, intrigue and humor in all the right amounts, and will leave you breathlessly clamoring for more.  I highly recommend this comic for anyone who likes crime stories, especially people who don’t normally read comics.  There’s no overwhelming continuity and nobody running around in spandex, just good old-fashioned double-crossing and gunplay.  I’m looking forward to reading more books from 2 Guns publisher Boom! Studios, who seem to have a small-yet-impressive library of unique comics that appeal to fans and regular people alike.

P.S.: When I read 2 Guns, I didn’t realize I was already familiar with some of Steven Grant’s work.  He writes an excellent weekly column for Comic Book Resources called “Permanent Damage“, and is one of the sources I check consistently for comics industry news.

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