Murder Falcon #1 will make you laugh before it stabs in you in the heart
It’s called Murder Falcon. The name all by itself is enough to make you giggle. The covers for #1 will grow that giggle into a guffaw. The dialogue in much of the book will pull out full-blown laughter, making your immediate neighbors question your sanity. But once your inhibitions have fallen—once your guard is down—Murder Falcon strikes the killing blow at your heart.
The Trojan Falcon
If, like me, you’ve been looking forward to Murder Falcon for some time, then you likely will find what you were looking for here. It’s a really good time, pretty much all the way through. It’s a love letter to metal, both plainly and in parody. The Falcon is an action hero fueled by the power of metal (his assessment), and he delivers plenty of over-the-top lines gently joshing the genre for its grandiose, self-serious tendencies. Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer’s artwork is a blast, with energetic storytelling perfectly befitting a monster-punching rock ‘n roll rampage. There are hilarious hand-drawn sound effects, wonderful hand-drawn word balloons from Rus Wooton, and a whimsical aesthetic overall. And let’s not forget that, at a high level, Murder Falcon is about a guy named Jake who plays his guitar to juice up a humanoid falcon with a bionic arm, all so said falcon can beat the snot out of other-dimensional monsters. This book delivers on expectations.
But there’s more. We learn early that Jake has had a rough go of it, and that he’s quit his band and stopped playing. A few stray panels hint that he’s lost someone. And then, as he and Murf (his nickname for the Falcon) celebrate their victory, a song on the radio pulls him back to his grief, and with one page, Johnson breaks my heart. We see Jake’s face in the present, intercut with panels from the past. He walks off with the girl who was at first a fan. He marries her. He tries to comfort her as she buries her head in her hands after a terminal diagnosis. It’s an amazing page, for its visual storytelling alone. We get a remarkably well-developed story in those three flashback panels.
But it’s also an incredibly astute observation about music—specifically the songs we fill with our grief. Those songs that, when we hear them, make our pain fresh. The pain we can’t let go of because it’s our tether to the time when we still felt alive. As I read this page, I am a teenager again. I am listening to Pearl Jam’s “Black,” my heart aching with unrequited love. The girl who put songs in that heart is sitting rows up on the bus, but she might as well be thousands of miles away. “I read your songs,” she had said. “They were beautiful. I want someone who feels that way about me.” But not you.
My life experience was not Jake’s, but my experience of music certainly was. And with one page in Murder Falcon #1, Johnson captures this, and my heart is rent in two. I’m happily married now—just shy of 16 years at time of writing. I have children. The Lord has been gracious to me. But whenever “Black” comes up in the rotation, for a few minutes, the pain returns. It fades as quickly as it comes, but it comes just the same. And somehow, Johnson found a way to spread that feeling—that unbreakable tether between pain and music—across eight panels. And that’s pretty amazing.
Let your guard down
What is perhaps most impressive is the setup. Murder Falcon’s concept and marketing don’t prepare us for such an emotional scene. And most of the book leading up to that page is a fun, funny adventure—something highly entertaining, with great production value, but light-hearted just the same. Johnson and company get us laughing and having a good time; if we are hardened before picking this up, then the humor softens us before too long. And with our hearts soft and vulnerable, we have no defense against the pain on that one, masterful page. We feel what Jake feels. We hurt the way Jake hurts. And suddenly, all of the bombastic hilarity is wed to purpose. The series will no doubt continue to be great fun, but now? Now we care. Now we want more than simple entertainment. We want Jake to find his way out from under his loss. Having seen ourselves in his grief, we hope to share in his victory.
Pretty deep stuff for a book called Murder Falcon, no?