In a small province of Russia, the secrets that father and son keep from each other lead to the breakdown of Piotr’s family life. After years of wallowing in regret Piotr suddenly finds himself returning to his old ways in an attempt to find out who his son really was.
Crude is not the only Russia centric comic coming out this week, see also The Dead Hand from Image comics, and both feature a mysterious place that some desire and others fear. In Crude, this place is called Blackstone and is the destination that the central character travels to in order to feel closer to his wayward son.
Crude reads like a very personal story. The focus is on Piotr, a man who hides his profession from his son in order to protect him but in the end this has the opposite effect. Steve Orlando, the writer, barely touches on the violence that forms so mush of Piotr’s life, instead the writer focuses on the affects it has on the man’s home life and relationships. The narrative is very melancholic as the reader witnesses the slow decline of the central character. But there is a poetry to the narrative flow as it slowly bleeds from one moment into the next.
The passage of time plays an important factor in the story telling and several different approaches are used to highlight this. The most straight forward comes from the captions informing the reader of the location and time period. These are provided by Thomas Mauer, the letterer, who uses a typeface that sets the location as much as the actual place names. There is something instinctively Russian about the typeface he uses.
Subtler shifts are provided through the panel transitions from silent panels to a panels with speech or vice versa. These tend to signify small time shifts or uncomfortable moments of dead air but they are as important as the big skips in time. These smaller moments are where the strained relationships and distant emotions are illustrated most successfully.
Garry Brown’s artwork is an exquisite fit for this story. He is an expert at creating emotion through facial expressions and body language. His use of very bold, often overpowering, black shadows emphasise the mood of the character and sets off their relationships perfectly. For example, the scene in the kitchen with Piotr and his young son is spacious and has the feel of a family home however Piotr casts a dark shadow and is positioned away from the child, always a little bit in the distance. As his son and wife leave he is left alone for the darkness to envelope him. Piotr is hiding his work from his son but the lies are hard, they are creating a gulf between father and son which is captured by Brown’s composition and heavy shading.
Something similar happens later with Kiril and his lovers. A first they are shown together, their closeness emphasised but then Kiril is separated through their conversation and the positioning of their bodies in the panels. From the moment he is out of bed Kiril is detached from his partners by a barrier created by the bed clothes. This separation is accentuated even further by Lee Loughridge’s colour work. The background, behind the lovers, is a warm pinky/red colour but the bed is a cold blue/grey. The clothes that Kiril puts on are again this cold colour slowly covering up the warmth of his skin. This is finished off with the dark green jacket; a final reminder that Kiril has become distanced from his lovers. All of this highlights the importance of the conversation they are having and illustrates the difference between how they live their lives, in secret, and how Kiril wants to be able to express himself more openly.
Crude issue 1 is an emotional family drama about how secrets eat away at a character and creates unwelcome distances between loved ones. The consequences of this are extreme here in these pages but the emotional drive behind Orlando’s story is evident on every page. This is a story about regret, about guilt, and about the desire to understand family better.
Orlando and co have produced a surprisingly moving drama and executed it expertly. Crude will touch your heart and make you understand the alienation that a parent can feel.
Crude #1 published by Skybound/Image Comics
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Garry Brown
Colour by Lee loughridge
Letterer Thomas Mauer
Life long comic book reader, collector, and reviewer.