“When you write a novel, you’re God. When you write a screenplay, you’re the towel boy in a Roman orgy. But when you write comics, you’re part of a Holy Trinity—Writer, Artists, and Editor.”

That’s a line from Swierczynski’s intro. This was to be a novel, then a screenplay, but it wound up a comic – a damn good one. This graphic novel took ten years to come to fruition, it takes an hour to read. It’ll take longer to stop laughing. This is a fine comedy thriller.

I’ve read a few Swierczynski novels and they’re all breakneck pace but this comic tests the theory that nothing moves faster than the speed of light. Time is of the essence, as the clock counts down Philadelphia is ever closer to Armageddon – tick-tock.

Ninety-three minutes from now everyone will be dead; of course, Joe Hayward doesn’t know that. He’s at the George Washington motel on route one, the Philadelphia-Bersalem border, because he’s got bloody violence on his mind. Joe is standing outside one of the rooms with a muddy brick in one hand and an aluminium baseball bat in the other, he’s figuring out the best way to draw his prey into the open. Why? Scott Majeski just waltzed into town and Joe’s wife, Liz, ran straight to him. She lied when she got home but the truth was on her phone. Scott even invited her back for breakfast, that’s how Joe tracked him down. Suddenly the door opens and there he is, Scott. Joe throws the brick, misses, Scott ducks for back inside for cover. In the room the two get into it. Scott just happens to be an agent, anti-terrorist division, he’s better suited to fighting and Joe’s arms won’t work when he gets a kick to the chest.

Scott’s problem is the syringe that fell on the floor earlier because Joe just stuck it in his leg. The last thing he can say before lights out is: ‘Go look in the next room’. There’s a dead guy on the floor and a woman tied to the bed. What the hell is going on? Joe’s next move better be a good one – it’s not! He frees the girl and then goes back to rouse Scott. The drug was a truth serum, so Scott can’t lie. The row over Liz/Elizabeth keeps getting in the way of saving the city. The woman is gone and hitmen are on their way, so Joe and Scott have to get moving – they’re a team now. The problem is, they still don’t know how to stop the attack on the city tomorrow during the Liberty Parade and the Vice President will be there. The clock is ticking.

Along the way the intrepid duo, a boring office nerd and a drowsy agent, come up against some tough hombres and there’s a conspiracy too boot. Luckily they have a couple of friends of their own to help them out. Will they save Philadelphia? Will Scott steal Liz from Joe?

I could give you examples of how funny this graphic novel is but that would literally spoil your fun. Let’s just say inappropriate admissions, the result of the truth drug, sex toys, and other misunderstandings all play a part in the fun. The juxtaposition of a love triangle and a plot to kill a city is beautifully played. Story and artwork work brilliantly together to propel the story forward. If the world needs saving these aren’t the guys you want to do but their all we’ve got! Great plotting, snappy, witty dialogue and a screwball world view make this really entertaining.

Interestingly, Swierczynski has added the opening of the novel, which allows the reader to make a comparison. I should also mention the contributions of Lovern Kindzierski and Chris Chuckry (colours) and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt (lettering).

Paul Burke 4/4

Breakneck by Duane Swierczynski, Simone Guglielminni and Raffaele Semeraro
Titan Comics 9781785864612 pbk Jun 2019