Cannon (Fantagraphics)

CREDIT: Fantagraphics Books

Rating: 4.5/5 – Booze, Broads and Bullets as Only a Legend Could Draw Them.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

If you ever wondered what it would be like to give a comic book legend free rein – as in no comic code or censor to constrain them – Cannon provides the answer. This collection of Wallace Wood’s 1970-1973 secret agent comic strip saw its original publication in Overseas Weekly, a tabloid created to be sold to military personnel stationed – where else? – overseas. Without a comics code or censors to hold him back, Wood delivered violent, two-fisted tales of adventure with enough beautiful, sexy women in various forms of undress, if not outright nudity, to keep any reader from the target audience coming back for more.

Fortunately, Fantagraphics has gathered the complete run of the strip in one handsome volume collecting not only the comics, but a forward from Howard Chakyin, as well as an afterword from Roger Hill talking about the process of finding the numerous back issues needed to compile this volume. Most important is the inclusion of a letter from Wood himself to the publisher of Overseas Weekly outlining his vision of where he’d like to take comics in the coming decade. That he took the time to type the words SEX, VIOLENCE, and HORROR in all caps should be enough of a clue to the nature of that vision. While Cannon offers little in the horror department (perhaps Wood felt he’d leave that to the people at Warren) Cannon certainly offers a wealth of the other two elements.

The story begins with a nod to the Manchurian Candidate, with a brainwashed spy John Cannon making his way back to the United States and his own organization, which carefully attempts to deprogram him. Their efforts leave him an emotionless shell of a man, perfect for espionage but gifted with the ability to fight his way out of any situation if plans go awry. With the Cold War in full swing, the stories have him spanning the globe, from Banana Republic revolutions in Central America to fighting post-Nazi sympathizers in Arabia, his work never seems to let up. Even moments where his superiors attempt to keep him behind a desk don’t last long. Cannon lives up to his namesake: you point him at the enemy and fire.

Lest you think this book is all work and no play, Wood wastes little time bringing on the beauties. From Wood’s Asian nemesis/counterpart Madame Toy to smitten secretary Elena, Cannon pretty much makes his way into the beds of pretty much any female he encounters. Male power fantasy? Of course it is, but it’s to Wood’s credit that many of the femme fatales in this book often get the better of their pursuers. Granted most of the time they’re doing it while completely naked (see the first sentence in the first paragraph above), but if you’re looking for damsels in distress, look elsewhere. Yes, they’re gorgeous. Yes, they have clothing-optional wardrobes. Yes, from the moment they see Cannon they’re completely under his control. No, they’re not as simple as those three sentences make them sound.

Part of the cultural zeitgeist we have today with our serialized stories is the phrase “Don’t Get Attached,” and while Cannon was published while many of us were still in diapers or perhaps not even conceived, the same principle holds true. People die in this series, and not just the bad guys. Even some of the villains are given enough of a back story that you almost hate to see them go (a feat not easily accomplished in a weekly strip where pacing can be a real challenge). To that end, current readers may not find as much shock when someone in this book dies, as they’ve been raised on a steady diet of Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and House of Cards. However, if those readers enjoy that type of tale, they may find Cannon to be a welcome dessert at the end of the meal. Bon Appetit!

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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One Response to Cannon (Fantagraphics)

  1. Pingback: GUEST BLOG: Al’s Year in Graphic Novels | ComicSpectrum – Bob's Blog

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