Top Cow hit upon a grand idea when they unleashed Pilot Season in 2007. This year’s offerings are six new one-shots released in six weeks. A winner from that selection is chosen by readers’ votes, and then goes on to receive its own mini-series, so if you like what you read, vote for it so you can read more. Simple.
The latest in this year’s batch is 39 Minutes by writer William Harms (Impaler) with art by Jerry Lando. The Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire) cover sums up the events of the pages inside rather nicely – all greedy, tough guy attitude and the harsh events that surround it.
The title comes from the time limit that a group of ex-Army soldiers give themselves in their small town robberies. The story opens with 2 tough guys barging into a bank and instantly gunning down four people. My reaction was one of disbelief. Usually experienced robbers, and soldiers, would have a lot more subtlety than that, unless they’re in a Lethal Weapon film. However, I kept reading and I’m glad I did. When one of the masked shooters orders a bank worker to, “Make sure you explain how we’ve murdered all these people in cold blood. Tell them to send everyone,” I knew something unexpected was beginning to unfold.
Mirroring the main robbery story is one related to John Clayton, a bearded prisoner, whose own past is entwined with the well armed thieves. Reluctantly recruited by Special Agent Poole, he tells his tale of betrayal involving his tour in Iraq and a shootout between his men (the bank robbers) and a group of contractors.
Also in these rather action packed pages is an ageing sheriff’s stand against one of the robbers in a shopping centre and a conclusion, or possible continuation, that I had to read more than once to make sense of.
There’s aspects of Training Day, The A-Team and a few other blockbusters thrown in here, but it generally makes for a cohesive whole. Lando’s art is suitable, but not spectacular. It’s a bloody and profane book, but not in an over the top manner. To differentiate the team of robbers should’ve been a goal here, especially as they all have balaclavas on for most of the tale, but the limited nature of these one-shots means that characterisation will be restricted due to page space.
Of course, the very nature of the Pilot Season initiative can be somewhat of a catch 22. There must be just enough ideas to make it seem enticing as a story on its own and gather votes, but as the same time they can’t afford to be filled with dangling concepts that will go nowhere if the book doesn’t get a series. It’s actually a brave balancing act, but the Pilot Season books are generally pretty entertaining and it’s a wise strategy to make newbies feel comfortable in buying something away from all the spandex soap operas.
I would like to see 39 Minutes continue, as even this modest debut is packed with a feeling that there’s going to be a tense showdown and the body count will continue to rise. However, I also get the feeling that many will find that this offering isn’t strong enough by itself to justify a multitude of votes. If you’re doubtful after reading it though, I’ll leave you with the original solicitation, although the issue doesn’t exactly leave up to this tantalising description. Yet.
Robbing a bank is easy — it’s the getaway that’s hard. The bank’s surrounded by police officers, alarms are blaring, customers and employees are screaming, and the streets are blocked off. So what’s the solution?
Kill everyone in town.
Now that, I would like to read.