Anyone who follows Ben McCool and Nate Cosby on Twitter know them to be a pair of irrepressible larrikins. When it was announced that they would be collaboratively writing a new comic series, people were intrigued as to what this pair would bring. Would they write a black comedy with a hint of the bizarre? Would it be a satire that commented on both societal and political issues? When I first heard the comic’s name, I envisaged a mini-series about anthropomorphised porcine soldiers. Whatever the case may be, I don’t think many expected what the end-result would be.
PIGS, a new ongoing series published through Image Comics, is a story of a second-generation KGB Cuban sleeper cell, which is activated and assigned to overthrow the US Government through a series of kidnappings, assassinations, and acts of terrorism. Named in reference to the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle, the series takes a what-if look into a world where the Cold War never really ended, where the Soviet Union implemented a long-term secret plan, and America faces a credible threat. Smacking of political thrillers like those of Frederick Forsyth and Robert Ludlum, and comic series such as The Losers and 100 Bullets, PIGS is an epic character-driven modern espionage thriller that is spread across multiple timelines and delves into multiple layers of conspiracy and loyalty.
The co-writers have set themselves a mighty goal with this series. With Cosby tackling the dialogue, McCool handling the pacing and description, and both armed with extensive historical research, the two have laid down plot-lines for an impressive 35+ issues thus far. PIGS #1 gets the ball rolling by introducing the sleeper cell and sets up the context of their world by covering at least three different points in time. This is an effective introduction and creates an air of suspense right from the get-go. With minor hints of dark humour, the script flows well and the dialogue develops the characters’ personalities — they are quickly relatable and the reader empathises with the position in which they find themselves.
The interior art is done by relative newcomer, Breno Tamura. He uses rather a different style, one that doesn’t always work for me, and may not work for others either. Tamura’s art has a very rough-hewn look; this is effective in some panel aspects, but jarring in others. The level of detail fades in and out, and can be oddly misplaced at times, yet this creates a kind of fluidity, evincing a feeling of movement in the characters and their surroundings. However one feels about Tamura’s art, it is a style that meshes well with the story. Combined with the muted colour tones, the art brings the story to life in all of its gritty, murky glory. PIGS #1 also features an awesome cover by the legendary Jock, with the next two covers to be done by Francesco Francavilla and Amanda Conner.
Ben McCool and Nate Cosby have created a title that’s something quite brilliant; PIGS #1 is the start of a series that will surely rank as a modern classic like its peers, The Losers and 100 Bullets. Starting on a position where the reader can’t be sure which side any of the characters are on, the writing team have embarked on what promises to be a masterfully crafted modern thriller. If one can be a little punny, I think that Image Comics have a sleeper hit on their hands.
Pros: Solid scripting, appealing characters, that final panel.
Cons: The interior art can be hit-and-miss.