David Joshua is a computer-hacker-for-hire who specializes in “equalizing” the world for working people. He erases student loans, parking tickets and unfair tax debts. Despite his notions of being a modern “Robin Hood,” David wants to get out of the game and legitimize his life by marrying his girlfriend and making his family proud of his life choices. During one of his final hacking gigs, David stumbles across a series of payments hidden in an IRS database revealing a conspiracy to trigger World War III. Suddenly, his accounts are frozen, his girlfriend hates him and there’s literally no one who will take David at face value. His world shattered, David can only trust two things: his laptop, and a sarcastic FBI agent while on the run from a spec-ops strike team whose orders are to “kill on sight.” The Joshua Run Special Edition collects issue 1-4 of the groundbreaking series created by Flex Alexander and Brandon Easton, with art by JJBR!

I know what you’re thinking (well, not really, but work with me here), The Josuha Run #1-4 collected?!? When the heck were #3 & #4 released?!? That’s what I was thinking too, because I enjoyed Joshua Run #1 and Joshua Run #2, so I’m sure I wouldn’t have missed two issues. Well, I didn’t. Those issues were never released individually. I guess because of the delay in getting them ready, Lion Forge decided to just put them all together, and release it as a sort of digital trade paperback. It makes sense, as this now makes it easier for new readers to get all caught up (even I had to reread #2 before starting this, to remind myself of where the series left off 5 months ago), and at $5.99 for the 4-issue collection, that’s cheaper than if you bought each issue separately at $1.99 each.

Of course, for those like me who have already bought #1 and #2 individually at $1.99 each, this is now more expensive, but nevermind…

So, #3 kicks off with the mercenaries preparing to shoot David in the head when Agent Reyes shows up just in time and begins kicking some serious buttocks. Then a well-placed hand grenade allows her and David to escape. David is surprised to discover that the jail he was being held in was actually a fake jail set up for police training. Reyes explains that it was all a set up, and that the Mercs would probably go after his mother and brother next. They stop at a special hiding place so David can pick up his hard drive, then head back to Reye’s apartment to see what it is that David has accidentally hacked into that these mysterious people want him dead for. We also get a quick cut to a scene in the White House, where the President and his Chief of Staff have discovered that the C.I.A. and N.S.A. are conducting secret operations across Africa (which explains the 50,000 troops sent there under the direction of the Vice President last issue), under the pretext of fighting Islamic terrorism, which the President knows to be unfounded. His Chief of Staff suspects that the real goal is securing Africa’s oil and other natural resources for America, something that the President (who is Black) does not approve of. Back at Reyes’ place, they see on David’s files that someone is laundering money via the I.R.S. to fund the extra troops in Africa.

It’s at that point that Reye’s apartment is hit by a rocket launcher. Despite Reyes’ orders that they stay inside, David runs outside coming face to face with the mercenaries, who threaten his family. Thanks to some security guards who happen to be on the scene, David manages to get away to a local gas station and hides in the back of a stranger’s pickup truck. That’s the end for #3.

#4 begins with Reyes storming into her boss’ office, pointing out that 2 attempts have been made on her life, only to have him blow her off, tell her that she’s off the David Joshua case, and put her on unpaid leave for a week. David runs home to his mother, which seems a little odd since he knows his mother and brother were already threatened. But he tells them the whole story, and its unclear if they believe him. Someone claiming to be from FEMA calls Michael’s cellphone and tells him that agents are on their way to arrest David and warn Michael not to tell him or else he’ll be arrested to. When the mercenaries show up, Michael tries to stop David, but their mother lets him get away. After a car-chase, involving an awful lot of shooting, David runs into Agent Reyes, who stole a cop car from an ex-boyfriend who is a cop, and they high-tail it to St. Louis to track a lead regarding those illegal I.R.S. payments. Of course, the mercenaries are monitoring their movements.

Then we see the President giving a press conference where he denies that the troop buildup in West Africa is another other than humanitarian aid, but then he’s blindsided by questions about a possible terror attack in the Midwest, which had been publicly alluded to earlier by the Vice President, without the President’s knowledge. And then when David and Reyes finally make it to St. Louis, they arrive just in time to see the famous Gateway Arch explode! TO BE CONTINUED…

Okay, this time I’m going to have to split my ratings into 2 categories.

WRITING: Top notch. Brandon Easton has crafted a suspenseful story here, with plenty of action and heartfelt character moments. I particularly love the dialog and interplay between David and Reyes. He also, without being too blatant or overly preachy, manages to slip in several indictments about race, class, sexism, colonialism, and the media within the course of the story, and it all sounds very natural. This is against the backdrop of cyber terrorism and a vast political conspiracy. FIVE STARS

ART: Not quite as good. In fact, it sucks. I’m sorry, but it does. It was pretty rough in the first two issues, which is why I gave both issues 4 Stars, because even though I loved the writing I was deducting a point for the art. But JJBR has gotten even worse with each subsequent issue. His anatomy is all off, characters look cartoonish (& not in a good way), and his facial expressions mostly range from “frowning” to “almost frowning”. During the Presidential press conference it looks like everyone has their eyes closed. There’s also a scene where David and Reyes switch the stolen police car for a red truck on the way to St. Louis, and from the dialog between them I can tell there was some major trick to make that switch, but I can’t tell what it was from the pictures. I’m going to be generous and give the art TWO STARS.

I still recommend the book, but be aware that you’re buying it for the story.

Available on Amazon

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