Raider: Dead Men's Tales
Thomas F. Zahler
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Buy *Raider: Dead Men's Tales* online

Raider: Dead Men's Tales
Thomas F. Zahler
Maerkle Press
108 pages
July 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Heís dashing; heís super-powered; heís a secret agent. But Raider has less than two years to live. Working for the Benefactor Agency, a secret organization created by the United Nations in the 1950s, Raider combats the evil Dominator, a global conspiracy attempting world domination. Yes, the organizational names and goals donít seem too unique, but the 1950s werenít too creative, right? Raider holds the unique position of being the son of Primus, the current mastermind leading Dominator. After coming to different outlooks, Raider left and became one of the Benefactor Agencyís top agents - and Ben, the director, has taken him under his wing.

Returning from his most recent mission in which Raider was responsible for the deaths of over three hundred men, he discovers that his enhanced capabilities also mean that his body will give out within two years. Frustrated and uncertain, Raider flies to Australia to deliver a letter to the daughter of one of the people he killed. He finds trouble instead when he runs into Vega, a beautiful and talented agent of Dominator. As the two come to blows, they are fired upon and immediately join forces to discover who their assailant is. They soon discover Josh Ballantine, a radical defector from Primusís inner circle, is responsible. Like the great secret agents they are, Vega and Raider manage their way into a party and snoop around. However, Ballantine discovers them and the chase begins.

Raiderís got charisma. He makes mistakes, he makes jokes, but he is still in the end a much more dynamic character than other popular super secret agents. With his mortality much more obvious and prevalent than your typical agent, his actions and words weigh heavy in the story. The antagonistic but playful chemistry between him and Vega provides some elements of humor and also sympathy for Raider, whom readers know is reluctant to make stronger connections with people.

Thomas F. Zahler fantastically brings readers (and neophytes to the series) up to date with his brief summation of the plot thus far. Anyone can pick up this graphic novel and easily fall right into step and enjoy Raiderís adventures. Even the curious sub-plot with Ben and a captured Dominator agent manages to be descriptive enough for readers to enjoy while also being slightly cryptic enough to entice readers to come back for more.

Zahlerís shadowing in this black-and-white graphic novel can at times be very subtle, particularly with Raider, whose obvious ambiguity can permeate almost every panel. He manages to depict violence and action quite intriguingly, including a fantastic and stark panel illustrating a murder by sword. Zahlerís main fault comes from faces. The closer the face, the worse it seems. Angles, roundness, noses, and proportions are contorted enough that most faces just donít feel real or come across as distracting.

In a humorous introduction, writer Beau Smith expounds upon how he hates and envies the dashing and daring Thomas Zahler. Within those words, he primes the audience for what to expect from both Zahler and Raider, and ultimately the promise will be fulfilled. Raider makes for a great example for the spy genre and one can only hope to see more stories about the secret agent.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Lance Eaton, 2005

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