Gun Honey

The Goggler Pull List #26: Gun Honey

Dept. of Comic Book Compulsions

On this week’s edition of The Goggler Pull List, we review and recommend Charles Ardai and Ang Hor Kheng’s forthcoming four-issue crime series, Gun Honey. It’s a title that we’re particularly excited about seeing that it was recently optioned as a television series and is currently being developed with production companies Piller/Segan (Private EyesHavenGreek, The Dead Zone) and our very own Double Vision (The Bridge) at the helm.

Check it out…

Gun Honey (Charles Ardai and Ang Hor Kheng)

Gun Honey

I can’t remember if Modesty Blaise played any part in my sexual awakening, but I do recall her having the most incredible roundhouse kick. There was always a real kinetic energy to the way she was portrayed in those comic strips. A grace in the way she moved. And an unpredictable edge to how she might react at any given moment.

I remember the first time I witnessed “The Nailer.” Her brilliant trick to overpower a room full of armed men. In order to draw the attention of the bad guys, Modesty would walk into the room, half-naked, and in the brief seconds while the villains stare at her in stunned (but pleasant) surprise, her sidekick, Willie Garvin, would strike. Simple but deadly. Here was a woman who was as comfortable with her sexuality as she was with her strength. Someone who could fight the good fight while showing some skin at the same time. It was sexy. It was confident. It was tough yet feminine.

I grew up reading Peter O’Donnell’s strips which inevitably triggered a lifelong fascination with femme fatale fiction. Stories that featured women who were suave, fearless, and unbelievably smart. Emma Peel. Nikita. The Bride. Xena. Complex characters who were feminine and sexual, that could deliver both a savage kick and a sensual kiss.

After reading the first issue of Gun Honey, I feel like I want to add Joanna Tan to that list.

Gun Honey

Joanna, a Singaporean orphan who grew up on the streets of Geylang, is the best gun runner in the world, always supplying the perfect weapon for any given situation. She ain’t no hero, and she doesn’t claim to be, but she doesn’t see herself as a villain either. That fragile distinction is shattered when the U.S. government brings her in and tells her that one of her weapons was used by a terrorist organization to acquire bombs. To blow up a building. They tease her conscience by triggering past traumas before offering her a job. They know there isn’t a jail cell that can hold her, so they decide instead to utilize her skills as an independent contractor.

Gun Honey feels like something of an homage to the Modesty Blaise story “Honeygun,” in which Modesty is called on to repay an old debt from her days when she ran the criminal organization, The Network. This comic, much like that one, seems to centre around the distorted morality of criminals. And here, Joanna’s own code of honor is thrown sharply into focus, as she is forced to reckon with the unintended consequences of her work.

Gun Honey

There is a lot to love here.

I love the comic’s pulp sensibilities. Which should come as little surprise given that it’s a Hard Case Crime joint. I love the the pacy-ness of the prose. Ardai wastes no time. His succinct narrative style and efficient dialogue moves the story along while still leaving room for Ang Hor Kheng to do his thing. There is a wonderful balance here between writer and artist, each giving the other the space they need to tell this story in their own way. And I love that we have ourselves a real, honest-to-God, Southeast Asian femme fatale, with her long black hair, as much Mata Hari as she is Xena, as much Moneypenny as she is Bond.

(Ipoh mali!) Ang Hor Kheng’s artwork, which is evocative of a classic comic strip look, manages to capture action and emotion with an incredible economy of line. Joanna’s features are defined without being made to look overly exotic. One part action hero, one part pin up, he brings her to life with a fertile imagination and a crisp wit.

Gun Honey

If I was being particularly fussy, I would call out Joanna’s origin story. Having her cut her teeth on the savage streets of Singapore requires far too much suspension of disbelief. Charles, if you’re reading this, all you need to do to fix this is change one line in the second printing, replacing Singapore with Malaysia, and Geylang with Klang.

That teeny nitpick aside, Joanna Tan is a more than welcome addition to the long line literary femme fatales. An amalgam of everyone who has come before, with just enough of her own quirks to make her stand out. I can’t wait to see where they take her story.

Gun Honey is dripping with atmosphere. This feels like cartoon fun for grownups. More please.

We get our comics either from our local comic book store, The Last Comic Shop, or on Comixology. Are you interested in checking out Gun Honey? Have you already read these comics? Let us know by getting in touch with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Check out our previous installments of The Goggler Pull List here.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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