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Couriers 3: The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker

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Last time we saw Moustafa and Special, the leads in Brian Wood and Rob G’s The Couriers, they were messing up a bunch of upstate racist yokels. In their newest book, The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker, Wood & G take us back to the duo’s younger days, when they were still a pair of underaged street punks and Special didn’t have that scar on her face. Yup, it’s an origin story, which depicts how our two urban mercenaries hooked up back in “Nineteen [expletive] Ninety-Three.” To my eyes, it’s the most entertaining entry in the series yet, perhaps because it’s most upfront about its own outlandishness. The further we get from the relative slice-o’-life realism of Couscous Express, the more scripter Wood appears to revel in his own Tarantino-y baroqueness.

Couriers 3 is a heck of a lot of fun, in large part due to the book’s title drug kingpin antagonist, who’s about as close to real-life drug overlords as Yosemite Sam is to John Wesley Harding. The book opens with our two teenaged entrepreneurs as they are both hired by Funwrecker: Special after saving the foul-mouthed kingpin from an assassin attempt in the middle of lower Manhattan, Moustafa after he offers to bring a cache of his parents’ own high-grade coke to the drug lord. When Moustafa learns that his new boss’ days in the sun are numbered, however, due to an active FBI investigation, the two decided to cut their losses and split – which dos not set well with Funwrecker. The book ends with the same kind of full-blown battle that also climaxed the first Couriers (there’s even another big helicopter, strafing the streets), only this time the cartoonishness seems more in line with what’s already gone before.

Lots of put-yer-brain-on-sleep-mode coolness, in other words, but I’ll have to confess that my favorite part of the book was its middle, where Special, instructed by Funwrecker to school Moustafa in ways of the courier life, plays Yoda to the young boy’s Luke. She shows him a tape of Quicksilver, the Kevin Bacon bike messenger flick, so he’ll “never ever ever ever do anything like what they do in this movie.” She takes him up to the top of a building in Tribeca, so he can shoot the Styrofoam cups and cell phones out of the hands of Yuppies on the other side of the Hudson River. She sends him out of a restaurant to get all the bus boys’ money, which he successfully accomplishes by selling them all a big bag of weed. Through it all, we see the pair begin to forge their partnership. We also, of course, learn two more of their favorite food dishes.

Rob G’s black-and-white remains engaging, though there are times that he makes his young kid heroines look like they have balloon heads. His Johnny Funwrecker looks suitably trollish, while his action sequences have the same spirited quasi-manga look that we saw in the first two books. Perhaps AiT/Planet Lar oughta considered reprinting this material in pocket-sized form so it could sit on the bookshelves alongside titles like Get Backers. I bet they’d move a lot of units. . .

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.