Thursday, February 12, 2009


Secret Services: Occult Crimes Taskforce

Only two more Secret Services to go. Now we're up to the recent Image Comics miniseries (and soon to be a feature film), Occult Crimes Taskforce. Created by actress Rosario Dawson,writer David Atchison and illustrator Tony Shasteen, OCT as a four issue miniseries that ran in 2006, and was subsequently picked up for development by Dimension films.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: A young attractive law enforcement agent accidentally stumbles across the supernatural, and ends up recruited into a shadowy organization that polices things beyond the reach of mundane agencies. Sound a little bit familiar?

Yes, the introduction covers very familiar ground. And it's not hard to imagine that the four-issue miniseries itself was designed as a film-pitch-with-pictures in the first place. But they are very nice pictures, and the attention to detail in the world building and magic systems and such is all but staggering.

The set-up goes like this. NYPD officer Sophia Ortiz has an encounter with a serial killer who seems more interested in the souls of its victims than their bodies, gets put on suspension when she refuses to let the matter drop, and is reassigned to a clandestine division of the New York Police Department that she never knew existed--the Occult Crimes Taskforce. She learns that there was a reason that the Indians were willing to sell Manhattan for a handful of beads--the island is an "extant," a place where our universe overlaps with another. The job of the Taskforce is to police that overlap, and to make sure that no one from the other universe wanders into ours (and vice versa). She also learns that her father was secretly one of the OCT's officers, is partnered with a guy who may or may not be a fallen angel by her ghost sergeant, and set about hunting down the serial killer in earnest.

Dawson is clearly the physical model for the character of Ortiz, and Shasteen's art seems to be heavily photo-referenced. There is a nice fluidity to Shasteen's panel-to-panel transitions, though, that is often lacking in photo-referenced comics, and he's got a knack for making the panels themselves look like comic panels and not film stills.

The narrative itself is somewhat compressed, almost as if six issues worth of script had been shoehorned into four issues by taking out every third page. It reads well enough, but some of the transitions can seem a little sudden.

But, as I said, as much as I like Shasteen's art, it's really in the world building aspect that the book appealed to me. Each issue of the miniseries ends with a few pages from the "Occult Crimes Taskforce Officer Training Manual." These are jam-packed with interesting insight into this world, how magic works in it, and just what it means that Manhattan is an "extant."

Here are the backup pages from the first issue, to give you an idea what I'm talking about.

And that's really just the tip of the iceberg. The "training manual" pages in the other issues go into even more detail about the way the badges function, how spells are cast, and so on. It really is an impressive bit of work, and pretty much worth the price of admission.

The miniseries has been collected in a trade paperback, and individual issues aren't too difficult to find, as well.


Reading your blog is becoming very dangerous to my Amazon wish list. I think I've added a half-dozen products just on the basis of your "Secret Services" series alone!
(Oh, and by way of introduction in the interests of politeness -- Hello! Long-time reader of your blog and Monkeybrain books in general -- introduced via my friend, Jess Nevins.)
Well, howdy! Any friend of Jess's is a friend of mine. (His enemies, though, are all his...)
Thanks for telling us about this -- must have missed it when it came out. I'll have to see about getting a copy.

Actually, there are lots of potential stories in the 19th century background. I'd love to see someone delve into that type of thing.The game's afoot!
That was pretty much my feeling, too, Stu. I was less engaged with the story at hand, probably, than I was in imagining other possible stories that could be told in that framework, and in particular in the early days of the OCT. (If you look closely, there's the suggestion that one of the officers in that group in "Fig. 8" on page 5 is actually a ghost, and you can imagine the kinds of stories that suggested. Is it the same ghost as the modern day sergeant? Was he a 19C cop who died, or something more interesting? Mmmm...)

The supplemental stuff has the feel to me of a nicely worked out role-playing game setting, with all sorts of hooks for stories scattered throughout.
Went to the store for this today, and they didn't have a copy. I panicked and then found PROOF. Thank goodness for Roberson's Guide to Secret Services!

Still, I want to get a gander at that supplemental material.
I live to serve, Mr. Teppo.
It is a service, Chris. I finally got a copy of the first Caballistics, Inc. graphic novel after your entry on it.
How'd you like it, Stu? It's not my favorite of the entries on the list, but I found it to have a certain charm of its own.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?