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May 30, 2017

Corruption at its Finest


The Fix #1
Image Comics, April 2016
Writer: Nick Spencer
Review by Neil Raymundo, April 10, 2016

In January 2016 a group of would-be security box thieves called the “Hatton Garden Gang” were apprehended by London police. The unique element to the robbery was that the apprehended thieves were all veteran villains, with the oldest, known as “The Master” or “The Guv’nor”, aged 76. The criminals burrowed though concrete and ransacked seventy-six security boxes, securing 14 million pounds stirling of gems, but seemed entirely ignorant of contemporary problems such as street surveillance cameras. Save for “The Master”, who suffered a stroke in prison and was deemed too unfit for sentencing, most of the robbers were sentenced in March 2016 to seven years in prison.

The first issue of this title begins with an internal monologue decrying the rapid advancement of technology, and how it has made virtual crimes very lucrative while conventional rank and file criminals languish in obsolescence: tech-savvy teenagers steal and defraud millions and use the funds to go on luxurious early retirements, while the old guard struggle with adapting now that people and banks have gone digital. The internal monologue is then revealed to be coming from a ski-mask wearing robber, who, along with a Hawaiian-shirt wearing partner in-crime, have decided to rob an elderly care facility.

Writer Nick Spencer’s “The Fix” is a story where the protagonist is clearly morally reprehensible and incompetent. Despite the unsympathetic main character (whose name is not even mentioned in the first issue), the comic remains an engaging read.

The first twist in the story happens after the botched burglary attempt. The burglar – and protagonist of the story – is revealed to be a detective, who ends up being in charge of the investigation of the crime he has committed. If there was ever any doubt as to the lows that the protagonist will go to, the investigation shows that he is proud of gaming the system. The detective revels in the witnesses’ inability to recognize him and his partner, even though his partner is still wearing the very recognizable Hawaiian shirt.

The comic makes no attempt to justify the protagonist’s lack of conscience. A flashback shows no tortured childhood nor abuse. Instead, our villain idolized criminals as a kid but shifted his admiration towards law enforcement after realizing that policemen are on top of the food chain with all the perks of a criminal without the accountability. There are no emotional sob stories or a Robin Hood type agenda. All of the proceeds from their criminal ventures are consistently lost while betting on a seedy DIY robot fighting game.

“The Fix” then makes the protagonist more palatable by introducing even worse characters. The comic spends the remaining pages introducing characters that are so morally bankrupt that they overshadow the deeds of the two corrupt cops. We go from a drug-addled, sexually deviant film producer who always gets off scot-free after buying the rights to his captors’ life stories, to a corrupt Internal Affairs officer who covers the protagonists’ tracks. We also meet The Boss – a portly middle aged man who is on the one hand a doting father and a positive voice in the local community, but on the other hand also a sociopath who is volatile and sadistic. The protagonist is kept walking on eggshells during his meeting with the Master, as he is as likely to get offered a tea as he is to get disemboweled where he stands.

These are very London rogues, and it is entirely possible that the Hatton Garden Gang were the inspiration of at least some of the characters in this title.

The Boss coerces the thieving duo to pick something up from the airport and get it through customs. The problem is that they have to go through one of the most feared officers in the LAPD, famed for being unbeatable, incorruptible, and responsible for over six hundred arrests and seizure of over two tons worth of illegal contraband in a single year. The comic teases an image of a large, bulky African-American police officer, but drops the punchline by revealing that this police officer is just the partner of the series’ intimidating paragon of justice: Pretzels the K-9 dog.

pretzels

“The Fix” 1 is a great first issue. It is of itself a meaty story, yet still manages to arrange the pieces in anticipation of a much larger and intriguing narrative. The subject matter of the comic is like a train wreck waiting to happen, and we mean that in the most positive way – you know it is going to end badly for everyone involved, but you cannot look away because you will miss something really spectacular.

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