Occult Crimes Taskforce #1, July 2006, Image Comics
writer: David Atchinson with Rosario Dawson
artist: Tony Shasteen
letterer: Matty Ryan
editor: Brian Stelfreeze
Rosario Dawson now joins Mr. T, Bruce Campbell, Don Rickles, KISS, and the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, among others, as one of an elite group of celebrities to be featured in a comic book which has in turn been reviewed by A Comic A Day. While many celebrities find themselves making cameos in comics (my first encounter with this phenomenon was a panel in which Spider-man benches Jay Leno straddling a motorcycle for charity in a Micheline/Larsen issue of Amazing Spider-man), few are so bold as to participate in their creative process. Campbell and Rob Zombie are among the first to come to mind, and Dawson, perhaps inspired by hanging out with Kevin Smith on the set of Clerks II or Frank Miller on Sin City, threw her hat into the ring with Occult Crimes Taskforce. I missed O.C.T. (an acronym with a decently clever connection between this series' supernatural context and Halloween) when it first came out a year ago; though I think Dawson is an attractive actress, and I vaguely remember her plugging this comic on Leno (Hey, there he is again!), I'm not an avid fan of her cinematic work -- so, if I don't proactively pursue her films, why would I buy her comic book, even if it that is my medium of choice?
Still, I found this damaged first issue in a quarter bin, so I really couldn't resist. I had to see what all of the hype was about, right?
Well, I've read the first issue now, and I still don't see it. First of all, I'm skeptical of Dawson's writing credit; since her name follows David Atchison's name by a "with" rather than an "and," I assume her involvement was minimal, if even existent in the script writing phase. Honestly, if Rosario didn't blatantly star in this issue, it wouldn't have stood apart from, say, the first act of Men in Black. Yes, that Men in Black starring Will Smith, in which a New York cop stumbles onto a supernatural case and is consequently recruited by a secret supernatural law enforcement group. Only, in Smith's case, he demonstrates some field expertise that leads even the skeptical Tommy Lee Jones to embrace him as a partner. In O.C.T., Dawson's character is suspended from the force after a hot-headed outburst and is reluctantly recruited, apparently only to honor her father's legacy, who was also coincidentally a member of the Force. Either Atchison sought to imply a hereditary tie between his characters and the macabre, or he sought to implement a transparent sense of motivation via a poorly established coincidence. I just couldn't get into it, either way.
Thanks to Dawson's involvement, the creative team obviously attempted to assert a cinematic essence to this issue, and undoubtedly the whole series, but unfortunately I don't think the effort translated well. While Smith in MiB had some poignant moments of contemplation before committing his life to supernatural service, Dawson's character plunges into the mission head-on, so that this introductory issue can establish some weaponry and mythology before the real story begins in #2. Further, Dawson is literally in almost every panel, and though his style is commendable, Shasteen's depiction of the actress is plasticine at best; despite her surrounding circumstances and the general strangeness of her present situation, Dawson maintains a picturesque smile, yes revealing her beauty but effectively removing me from the story. I felt like I was reading an issue of Us Weekly over a comic book, in some cases. Understandably, the other side of the coin could have a similar effect; in the comics I've read starring Rickles, Campbell, or Mr. T, the respective artist didn't always nail his subject's look, instead providing a distorted representation that was equally distracting. IDW's current Star Trek: The Next Generation seems to have had the most success balancing story and caricature thus far, using the original actors as archetypes rather than source material for their stories. Unfortunately, since Dawson is really the only thing selling this issue, Shasteen had to stick to the textbook. Yeah, it's a hot textbook, but it leaves no room for subtext.
And with Brian Stelfreeze as the series' editor, I was disappointed that artistic integrity over blatant celebrity cross-marketing wasn't a bigger priority.
So, while this four issue miniseries had its potential, I'm afraid I won't be proactively pursuing its subsequent three, unless I find them damaged in a back issue bin, like this one. Then again, this issue was already slightly damaged, with a storyline and artistic basis ironically flawed by its association with a beautiful actress. Yes . . . they'll do that to you -- a phenomenon just as supernatural as anything else, I suppose.