Greg Rucka’s gifted comics writing, which brought believability and drama to titles as diverse as Queen and Country and Gotham Central, led me to give his prose writing a try. I think I started with the Queen and Country novels, which were very well written and a nice addition to the mythology created in the comics; but it was with the Atticus Kodiak series of novels that my appreciation for Rucka’s writing found its firmest footing.
Kodiak begins his long character arc in the earliest novels as a the head of a bodyguard agency; over the course of the series his life takes one incredible turn after another, so much so that the only thing tying together his character between the first and the most recent novels is Rucka’s ability to gain and keep the reader’s confidence and investment through passionate but practical writing and what must be mountains of research.
The skill and storytelling style Rucka brought to the Kodiak novels is right upfront in his new novel Alpha, the beginning of what will be at least a trio of novels about Jad Bell, a former soldier who in this first volume finds himself placed at a prominent amusement park ahead of a possible terrorist attack on the park. Thinking about it, the events of September 11, 2001 would have been as effective, if not more so, if one of the targets had been Disney World — the emotional toll (and likely the death toll) would have probably been far higher even than the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It’s a horrific scenario that Rucka dives right into, humanizing it through the point of view of his protagonist Bell, and also Bell’s deafmute daughter and even the sleeper agent tasked with carrying out the attack.
We get right into the heads of these characters, and feel the tension, terror and call to action that arises out of the plot against the park, which may or may not be what it seems to be. Along the way we get a feel for what a soldier like Bell must go through, what motivates him and what he endures to save those he is charged with protecting. Rucka makes what could have been purely political highly personal, so that every setback, and every resulting action, feels logical and sensible, no matter how dangerous or incredible.
I recently mentioned on Twitter that after Donald Westlake’s Parker, Atticus Kodiak was probably my favourite continuing character in prose fiction. I’d say Joe Ledger from Jonathan Maberry’s novels is up there, too. And after devouring Greg Rucka’s Alpha, there’s a good chance Jad Bell will nose his way into that exclusive club pretty soon, too.
— Alan David Doane