For me, 24 was one of those awesome TV shows I got into a fair while after it finished airing. So the wife and I binge watched all of the eight seasons in a pretty short stretch of time. As far as action focused TV, I found it all pretty riveting and on occasions innovative stuff.
I was pretty excited to hear that 24 would be returning with 24: Live Another Day (2014), a 12 episode season. IDW comics released 24: Underground in preparation for the new season, designed to fill in some of the gaps in the Jack Bauer story between the end of season eight and the beginning of this new limited show. Does the five issue run succeed? Well sort of. It is definitely not a comprehensive filling in of the gaps and only covers a couple of day stretch in what must have been a few year gap in the universe of the TV show. But what the comics do well is capture some of the spirit that made the show such a good watch and get the feel of 24 storytelling right. It sees Jack Bauer now living happily with his girlfriend in the Ukraine, under the comical assumed name of Borys. Then, just as so often happened in the series, trouble just seems to find Bauer as he falls afoul of some good ol’ fashioned mobsters. The tension builds nicely through the rest of the run as Jack focuses on his efforts to keep the baddies from revealing who he truly is and protecting his new loved ones. Overall it is a smaller, more domestic version of a 24 story that retains the structure and spirit of the TV series. As well, the Bauer on display here is a violent, resourceful man-apart figure, so they get the sense of character right too.
I think the way this five issue run functions as a bridge between the final season of 24 proper and this new 12 episode one is a very cool example of transmedia storytelling. A term that was in-vogue around the time of The Matrix (1999) – with The Animatrix (2003) and video games as part of the ‘canon’ – but which really never took off. Increasingly though, comics are being used in this way or even to continue properties that have ceased existing in their original forms. Buffy and Smallville are just examples of two TV properties that now have new ‘seasons’ coming out in comic book form. Personally, I love this as a way to have some of our favourite properties live on a little longer.
The main issue I have with 24: Underground is that it is a pretty ugly book. All of the issues have a strange, large black border around all the panels, shrinking the size of the page for some reason. The colours are washed out whilst the art, especially the character designs, suffer from attempting to match the likeness of Sutherland too closely. In some of the panels, it is even hard to see exactly what exactly is taking place. I did find that I got used to the artwork a little more, and grew to especially appreciate the shading as the series progressed. I also liked how the action was drawn, plenty of ‘blams’ and ‘screeches’ and the like which definitely heightened the panels in which they appeared. The cover art is a mixed bag though. I had a standing order for this series so just picked up all the books in one hit at the end and did not get to choose my covers. The ‘sub’ covers are utterly woeful, featuring photos of Kiefer Sutherland as Bauer, which if you ask me are cringeworthy. Better though are the drawn covers such as the at the very top of this review for issue 4, which captures the surveillance/CTU vibe of the show and some aspects of the comics beautofully.
Verdict: Whether or not to recommend 24: Underground is a pretty simple decision for me. If you were a fan of the TV show like I was, you will definitely get something out of these books. As a fan, it is so nice to be back in that universe with the character of Jack Bauer, albeit on a smaller scale than was the norm. But if you never got into the show, there is nothing special enough about the art or narrative on display here for me to recommend this to you. Stubby of Reschs
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