Quarry’s War and the Inescapable Trap of Convention

Quarry’s War #1

Max Allan Collins (Writer), Szymon Kudranski (Artist), Guy Major (Colorist), Comicraft (Letterer), Charles Ardai (Consulting Editor)
Hard Case Crime / Titan Comics
29 November 2017

If you’re like me, you may not be overly familiar with Quarry, the series of novels that inspired this comic, or the fact that it has also been adapted into a TV show. So, here’s the basic premise: the story follows Quarry, the code name for a former US Army sniper, in the years after his time in the Vietnam War. Affected by training and temperament, Quarry becomes a gun for hire who needs little more than a weapon and a target to operate efficiently. Quarry works with a partner named Boyd, which is a code name developed from a pretty tacky pun playing off of his sexuality. Together they take on a hit for a generic mob man, while Quarry’s history in the war is revealed.

Quarry’s War falls into the same trappings of almost any work in the hard crime genre: weakly developed and sexually exploited female characters. The same issues that dominate most, if not all, male writing.

The women portrayed in this volume are practically non-entities. Only two women appear prominently in the book—the mobster’s daughter and Quarry’s fling—to mixed results. Probably the most disturbing moment in the book is when the teenage daughter of Quarry’s target is shown poolside, bikini-clad, in a pin-up pose. She is explicitly described as a teenager and Quarry even refers to her as a “brat,” yet there she sits appearing only to be gawked at with her age apparently being a non-factor. This is only made worse when Boyd’s intel reveals that the girl’s brother also finds her sexually attractive and leers at her from afar. Perhaps this information will become more significant later on maybe I should give it the benefit of the doubt. But I can’t conceive of any other reason for this to be included other than to say that this girl is so attractive even her own brother thinks so. Which is so unbelievably unnecessary.

It’s also disappointing that the woman Quarry has an affair with is almost identical to the mobster’s daughter. On my first read I was almost completely sure they were the same person: blond hair, blue eyes, thin, found by the pool.

The fact that neither the girl nor the woman is named is telling. The affair itself happens spontaneously, with a awkward interaction that in the real world would be considered sexual harassment. This woman’s naked form on the cover of the novel and in a similar scene within the comic are blatantly voyeuristic. In his narration, Quarry states how he never saw her again after their affair, which I guess means we won’t be seeing her, now that her purpose in the plot is over.

Quarry’s War intends to explore some deeply complex issues, like violence in war, ambivalent morality, and even post-traumatic stress disorder, but I wonder if these concepts are enough to appeal to women readers, especially considering how Quarry’s War is typical for its genre. I genuinely have no clue where this series will go, how the characters will change, or even what in this volume will become significant in future volumes. I just leave with a feeling of alienation and a seemingly futile hope that future installments will offer more fulfilling, well-rounded representation.