Review: “Iron Sights” (Splatto Comics – Monochrome May Special)
Following up on his successful Jawbreakers: Lost Souls superhero book, independent comic creator and Splatto Comics founder Richard C. Meyer chose to go a very different route with his next project, Iron Sights. Co-written by Carlos Ivan Silva and featuring illustrations by Ibai Canales, Iron Sights is a 100-page, black and white graphic novel featuring a “trashy tone and fun style of a 1990s Straight-To-Video DVD.”
Set in a pair of small towns straddling the Texas/Mexico border, Iron Sights follows a former Marine sniper named Johnny, who is nicknamed “Ramadi” after the capital of Anbar Province, Iraq. Ramadi is struggling to adjust to civilian life after his separation from active duty, and it’s easy to see why. His new life consists of buying designer jeans on one side of the border, and selling it at high prices on the other, which doesn’t provide much adventure for a decorated Iraq war veteran.
While showing off his marksmanship skills in the desert, Ramadi spots a young woman being attacked by a small group of Mexican drug cartel members. He takes up a firing position and rains down long-distance death on the cartel, saving the young woman, but inadvertently setting off a series of events described as a “border war” between cartels.
Iron Sights is essentially a grindhouse movie in comic book form – lots of action, over-the-top violence, and a few moments of humor successfully sprinkled throughout. Overall, the story moves along at a very quick pace due to the frequent action sequences and a very focused plot. There’s no day-in-the-life distractions, romantic sub-plots, or other fluff of that kind. There were a few moments when some of the plot points weren’t completely clear, or when the characters’ motivations weren’t fully explored, but these don’t hamper the experience too much.
As a “grindhouse comic”, Canales’ artwork is a good match for Iron Sights, but there is a trade-off. During action sequences or moments of high drama, Canales’ sketchy, expressive artwork really helps to bring the pages to life. I particularly enjoy the way Canales draws vehicles and the care he puts into the large number of exploding cartel heads. However, during some of the more expository moments in which the characters are planning their next moves or trying to maintain normal conversations, some of the stylized proportions are a bit too static.
It may be an odd thing to mention, but the form factor of the book itself is pretty nice, too. Both the cover and pages have a nice grit to them which matches the art and tone of the story. It’s not low quality paper stock or newsprint, but it still feels good to the touch.
Objectively, Iron Sights is far from being a perfect book, but it succeeds in what it tries to do – recreate that “trashy tone and fun style” of grindhouse cinema in a comic book form. And most importantly, I enjoyed it. It’s a fairly quick read despite its girthy, 100-page length, and I expect that I will pick it up for multiple re-reads in the future. Unfortunately, there’s not currently an easy way to pick up a copy of Iron Sights, but the book’s creator Richard C. Meyer has previously made copies available in subsequent crowdfunding campaigns, so it’s probably worth keeping up with Meyer and Splatto Comics via his YouTube channel here.
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