The Game Comics: Kane and Lynch

By Jeremy M. Zoss in Features
Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 10:00 am
[Note: We're trying out some new features by guest writers who may go on to become regular contributors here at Joystick Division. Here's the first, a video game comic analysis by Dan Coyle. If you like what you've read, let us know!]

Kane and Lynch
Writer: Ian Edginton
Penciler: Christopher Mitten
Inkers:  Mitten and Ramon Perez
Letters: Saida Temofonte
Colors: Tony Avina
Assistant Editor: Kristy Queen
Editor: Ben Abernathy 
Cover: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: DC Comics
Collecting issues #1-6 of the 2010-11 miniseries 
Io Interactive's Kane and Lynch franchise illustrates the difference between the usual definitions of famous and infamous. The developer's combination of third person co-op/squad shooting with Grand Theft Auto attitude is most associated with the terrible reviews that greeted both games, most notably the review that arguably got someone fired. I'm not much of a fan of the series myself; despite decent mechanics and interesting (if incredibly unlikable) lead characters, the Kane and Lynch games are pretty average actioners that don't come close to Io's best, and they rely way too much on derivative visual flair. There's just something about the series' and dark characters that's off-putting. Kane may genuinely want to take care of his estranged daughter and Lynch may not be fully responsible for his actions, but it's still difficult to care about them, particularly when they're portrayed as fuckups and fools most of the time. 

Originally released as a six issue miniseries in Summer 2010 to tie in with Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days, the subtitle-free Kane and Lynch comic is written by veteran comics Ian Edginton, best known for his work on  2000 A.D., StormWatch, and the War of the Worlds re-imagining Scarlet Traces with D'Israeli. He's also no stranger to licensed properties, having worked on the Hellgate: London comic in 2006. The comic's artwork is provided by Christopher Mitten, co-creator (with Dead Space writer Antony Johnston) of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi series Wasteland from Oni Press. 

The comic takes place in between the events of Dead Men and Dog Days, starting with Kane, Lynch, and Kane's daughter Jenny holed up in a hotel room in Venezeula, trying to figure out what to do now that the 7, the mercenary group that plagued our duo in the first game, are dead and buried. If you've seen both endings for Dead Men, that scenario may seem a little strange, and Edginton doesn't bother to clarify what happened. Unable to stand being around Kane any longer, Jenny steals some of their money and escapes, and while Kane and Lynch go after her they get sidetracked by pretty much every high class hitman and petty criminal in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Turns out decapitating the heads of a massive criminal organization has consequences, and the remnants of the group have placed a $10 million bounty on Kane and Lynch's heads. The duo try to stay one step ahead of the hunters while dealing with their own fracturing bromance. It also turns out here's another interested party who wants to use Kane as leverage against the 7. 

The story's overall complexity is closer to the run and gun hyperviolence of Dog Days than Dead Men, as Kane and Lynch stumble from one shootout to another. Edginton writes some pretty creative scrapes- he and artist Mitten really love exploding cars. The funny thing is,  unlike the games, on the comics page Kane and Lynch come off as... likable. In this story, they're the true underdogs, and while Edginton doesn't skimp on the violence, there seems to be more of a purpose to it, with Kane fighting to clear his debt for the sake of protecting Jenny. The duo's back and forth with each other and the villains crackle. Lynch is Lynch, his usual deadly self, but when faced with finally ditching him and letting the 7 kill him, Kane can't bring himself to do it. 

Kane's mores an attorney for the 7 derides his belief in "honor among thieves"- is honorable, but as portrayed by Edginton, it's also kind of sad. Leaving Jenny alone is the best thing Kane could do for his daughter. Letting Lynch get killed is probably the best thing he could do for himself (and maybe Lynch). If Kane were to do that, though, what would he have? His old life as a member of the 7 is gone. His wife is dead. He has money, but no future. He has to make sure Jenny is safe. He has to save Lynch from himself. Otherwise he'll be completely alone. Edginton doesn't really explore this idea in too much detail, but I think he gives good insight into why Kane finds himself teaming up again with Lynch at the beginning of Dog Days, even if the story's unlikely final page twist reveals he may have little reason to.

Mitten's artwork is appropriately gritty. It's best when it depicts the chaotic action scenes, where every bullet and punch hits with a brutal impact. When someone gets shot in this comic, it's not with a squib- their flesh explodes and they're thrown back. However, Mitten's propensity for chaos works against the slower, more quiet moments, and Tony Avina's muted colors fail to make the works stand out. Mitten's work isn't clearly as defined as it has been in the past. Some characters look far too alike. Some action scenes are confusing, as opposed to compelling. Bizarrely, Mitten draws Kane with a functioning left eye, or maybe Avina didn't realize that the eye was blind and colored it in by accident. Ramon Perez inks Mitten's pencils in the second chapter, and frankly, the work looks more attractive and defined than Mitten inking himself, bringing my estimation of the rest of the issues down. The worst comes in the aforementioned last page twist, where a character is drawn in a way that I'm still not entirely sure if it's supposed to be Kane, Lynch, or someone else. Mitten has done much stronger work in the past; it would have probably been a better idea to have Perez ink the whole work.

Despite my complaints about the artwork,  which makes it difficult to fully recommend, the comic book version of Kane & Lynch turns out to be a surprisingly fun read. Edginton's work has always been hit or miss but this is more hit than miss. And in the end, I actually found Edginton's simple action movie story far stronger than the story in either game. If you're a fan of the characters and the games, though it's hard to find anyone who would admit to that publicly, you'll definitely get some enjoyment out of this. 
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