I’m not one for fully investing into spy drama. Still, I tried to approach this new release as objectively possible, and I found myself pleasantly surprised. One Last Job is a new release from the uprising imprint of Catalyst Comics Studio. It comes from the mind of writer Aaron Dowen, with illustrations by Damiel Jimeno.
Somewhat principled as an assassin; One Last Job follows the waning days of Thomas Clayborne’s career. Citing heart issues and a desire to strengthen his marriage, Clayborne begins the retirement process, with the issue opening on one of Clayborne’s hits. Disguised as a confidante of his target; he kills deftly in a manner that evokes spy thrillers such as Casino Royale (2007). This aesthetic applies all the way down to the black and white palette. However, Bond marks the beginning of his ascension to his license-to-kill status. Clayborne’s internal realization that his career – something that he has let define himself by for far too long – is coming to an end holds him back.
Back at HQ, Clayborne’s boss – an old friend he saved on a mission in Afghanistan – is disappointed by his retirement, but accepts it. They part on good terms and Clayborne returns to his wife. He promises her his next mission will be his last, burning his other aliases as proof. However, as they return to the house, a mysterious figure dowses the flames.
During his mission, Clayborne reunites with an old partner, Beth. A sense of nostalgia sets in for Clayborne as they proceed with the hit – a nightclub owner with shady dealings – perhaps suggesting he’ll somewhat miss the only career he’s ever really known. The conflict heats up and their target bolts. But Beth shoots said target on the leg before a truck hits him. Clayborne suffers an attack from his heart problem. Having hidden it from Beth all this time, he manages to get it under control through sheer willpower alone.
Returning home to his wife once more, Clayborne packs them both up into their car and they leave their life behind to begin a new one. At a cheap motel, the couple settle in for their nightly routine. This is when Clayborne’s instincts kick in. He realises the woman he shares a bed with is not his wife, and points a gun at her!
One Last Job really makes the most of its budget. It has dynamic art style that compliments the gritty tone. This tone remains consistent throughout, helped by the achromatic display that pays homage to the golden age of spy films alongside newer, stylistic releases. Clayborne also has relatable flaws; the fear of his own mortality and the obsession of not losing his wife to the job. His blunt internal monologue sells all of this well. It’s also neat that Dowen withholds information from his protagonist, but privileges the audience with it to maintain the intrigue for the reveal.
However, One Last Job‘s predictability threatens to lose the investment it tries hard to maintain. The brisk pacing keeps the story moving. But One Last Job lacks innovation, sticking to the safety of its genre conventions. While the characters are strong, they often become parodies of themselves. This is due to the overuse of clichéd dialogue and one-liners that juxtapose the realism that Dowen applies to his story. This is especially true in Clayborne and Beth’s interactions. The dialogue also often lacks contractions, suffering unrealistic in ordinary conversation. All of this come across as likely jarring to the casual reader.
Clearly humbled by his heart problems and the years spent as an assassin; Clayborne remains a strong character. However, secondary characters often feel underdeveloped. So much so that many of them lack names, including Clayborne’s wife and boss. The deficit of artistic detail on the faces of these characters only furthers this fact. It’s as if the comic intends for them to be forgettable. If this is the case, why are they there?
Regardless, One Last Job is a stirring first issue that will hopefully prove a captivating series, despite its few shortcomings. But this can be forgiven for its nature as a Kickstarter project; it remains an achievement, verified by the enormous support it has received. As for myself specifically, I remain interested in seeing where Clayborne’s story heads to next. Who knows, perhaps Dowen is holding his cards close to his chest? After all, in spy dramas, there is always another twist.
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