Review: The Psycho

Written by James Hudnall with art by a young Dan Brereton, The Psycho is a blast from the past.  It’s a bit like Watchmen, in that it blends the superhero genre with political intrigue, and the fact that it was released just a few years after Watchmen points out that influence.  But that’s not actually a bad thing.  This isn’t a simple rip-off of the most iconic superhero story ever.  Hudnall writes in the foreword that he wanted The Psycho to be similar to Watchmen, but also include a lot of his feelings about the end of the Cold War and America’s first war with Iraq.  Reading it almost twenty years later, I was surprised that it still holds up.

The story itself begins with Jake Riley, a government agent, is set up by his bosses and has to go on the run.  His life is ruined and he’s forced to become an FCO (Freelance Costumed Operative) to get revenge.  The story’s pretty basic, and it plays out like a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie (to me, Jake looks almost exactly like JCVD—he’s even considered dangerous because he knows a little karate).  History is a little different also.  Tons of FCO’s are running loose and they’ve had an impact on global politics since World War 2.  America and the Communists are engaged in a genetic arms race, but on a little island called Aldaria, FCO’s are given tax-free citizenship.  As a result, Aldaria’s shadow government quietly amasses an army of FCO double-agents loyal only to them.    

Brereton’s artwork is unique and awesome, but you can tell that this was early in his career and he was still perfecting his craft.  And like the story itself, the artwork reeks of the early nineties.  This isn’t a bad thing.  Brereton’s character designs are all weird and psychedelic, with creepy superpeople lurking around every corner. The story’s pretty basic, with Jake becoming The Psycho and going on a revenge spree, but the Brereton’s weird style and the mixture of political intrigue and early-nineties nihilism makes The Psycho a unique read.

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