Black Hops is back, and this time he brought some friends along. For the uninitiated, Black Hops (Code name USA-GI), is an elite spec ops commando, highly trained and deadly on the battlefield. Capable of infiltrating the most tightly guarded enemy installations, USA-GI has been called upon countless times to thwart the devious plans of America’s enemies.
…and he’s a bunny. An adorable fluffy ball of US military might.
After a hard-fought victory in North Korea (Black Hops #1, #2), USA-GI retired to the Texas countryside with his handler Penelope Freling, a descendant of the soldier who initially found him miraculously unharmed amongs the ruins of Hiroshima after it was bathed in nuclear fire; marking the end of the second world war. His respite was to be short-lived, however, as he was soon called back into action following an incident at a secret installation located off the coast of Long Island.
The moment you pick up this book you will notice two things. One, it’s beefy. You can feel every ounce of this 68-page action-packed behemoth the moment you pull it from the wrapper. Two, the cover is an absolute master class in dynamic composition. Creator and artist Timothy Lim grabs you by the lapels and punches you square in the grill with a collage of amazing characters set against an epic background fully lit by the fires of war.
Hare Trigger introduces two new villains to the Black Hops universe that appear to be heavily inspired by Hideo Kojima’s work on the Metal Gear series of video games. The villains’ code-named, “Apex Moth” and the titular “Hare Trigger” are brought to life in Lim’s unique style that deftly blends traditional western comic book art with a generous helping of anime/manga influence. Writing duties are once again handled by Mark Pellegrini. The character dialogue is crisp and their actions and motivations are easy to follow. So while the characters may take inspiration from Hideo Kojima, mercifully the dialogue does not.
I cannot say enough how much I adore the way Pellegrini treats the communication between the members of the ‘Black Hops’ team. The dialogue balloons usually consist of no more than two small emoji-like symbols and yet there has not been a single instance in which I did not immediately know what was being said. The panel in which USA-GI meets his ferocious teammate code name “Patriot-R” in particular cracked me up. Just one simple picture in a word balloon was funnier than the entire output of Marvel comics this year. The lettering by Bill Williams is top-notch, and the colors by Lim and colorist Nestor Redulla are pop off the page striking and help bring these wonderful characters to life
Villains aren’t the only new characters we are introduced to. USA-GI gains two new squad members coming in the form of an amusingly named “Rigor-Tortoise”, who is, of course, a tortoise, and the aforementioned “Patriot-R”, a somewhat feral river otter found swimming comfortably in the heavily irradiated waters resulting from the Fukushima power plant disaster.
The story itself is cleverly laid out in two parts beginning on opposite ends of the book. Each side dedicated to agents USA-GI and Patriot-R respectively with both culminating in a center page foldout that neatly wraps the mission up in a single a shot of the Black Hops team adorably being extracted from the mission site. Artist Matthew Weldon handled the artwork on the prologue story and the Patriot-R side of things. His grittier style compliments the dark and fierce temperament of the irradiated otter beautifully. Both Lim and Weldon dedicate a panel to the first meeting between USA-GI and Patriot-R, with Weldon’s take providing a simple yet incredibly effective contrast of viewpoints. It’s my favorite panel in the book, with Lim’s opposing panel coming in a close second.
So the book is lovely and the story is fun and exciting, but let’s talk about what’s really important.
The feline/snake? hybrid makes his return following his introduction as Kim Jong Un’s vicious pet in the last story looking no worse for the wear. His origin story is shrouded in mystery with most accounts linking his creation to the still unexplained Tunguska event in 1908 that flattened a massive portion of Siberia. His glowing yellow eyes shine with a malevolent intelligence that has yet to reveal itself and this time Patriot-R is forced to contend with this formidable monster. Tatzelwurm’s backstory is begging to be explored in detail, so Tim, please.
One part, G.I.Joe, one part Metal Gear, and a dash of various cute Disney animal protagonists. The Black Hops series continues to grow and evolve and I could not be happier. This book, and this series, is worth your time and money. The art and storytelling are top-notch and the book itself is a glossy chunk of high-quality entertainment that will look fantastic on your bookshelf next to your other lesser comics. What are you waiting for…go get it!