Self-rated “mature,” Radical Comics’ six-ish mini-series Damaged opens on a suitably violent note. In it, a heavily scarred Frankenstein-ian figure with a police badge scar on his chest walks into a redneck bar in Dunbar, Oklahoma. He’s looking for a quartet responsible for the rape and strangulation of two teenaged girls, but when most of the bar patrons rally around their perp drinking buddies, the hulking vigilante sets fire to the place and kills all but a few innocents. “You nodded for his alibi,” he tells one of the doomed barflies, “that makes you an accessory.”
Cut to San Francisco four weeks later — and the newly appointed head of the city’s task force on organized crime, Jack Cassidy. The new commander is replacing retiring copper Frank Lincoln, who has a personal connection to the Dunbar vigilante. When the latter seemingly shows up and begins taking out hitherto untouched local mobsters, both Cassidy and Lincoln get involved. By the end of the first issue, it’s the older cop who has an edge over the new guy, though one suspects that control of the investigation will shift more than once over the remaining five issues.
Scripter David (Stray Bullets) Lapham, a pro at writing hard-boiled comics, takes this familiar set-up (courtesy Michael and John Schwartz) and invests it with the right dose of violent cynicism. Aided by artist Leonardo Manco, who shows an affinity toward rendering the roadhouse and late-night diner settings that are de rigueur in a tale like this, he pulls us into the story quickly and keeps us there. “A man can’t be sorry,” Lincoln says near the end of the first issue. “He can only try to clean up the mess he’s made.” On the basis of its first issue, lovers of Dirty Harry/Death Wish-styled crime fiction should enjoy the blood smeared clean-up.