As the nights start to draw in and the new series of Doctor Who looms on the horizon, it finally feels like the summer has come to an end.
On the plus side it means I may actually get a chance to catch up on my reading. There are a number of titles out this week that I will be adding to that pile; such treats as Coda #5 from Boom! Studios, Days of Hate #8 and Death or Glory #5 from Image Comics, and a new one called Impossible Incorporated from IDW which caught my eye.
However, there are two titles I want to talk about this week, each for a different reason.
First up is the final issue of Crude, published by Image Comics. If you have read many of my previous posts you will know that I have been enjoying Steve Orlando and Garry Brown’s series about revenge in a corrupted Russian worker city.
The series has impressed me on every level from issue 1 onwards. The narrative is, on one level, brutal and shocking with some uncomfortable reading, especially when the central character gets stuck in to the villains. Neither the script or the art pulls any punches when it comes to the violence; it’s big and violent and definitely in your face. This works so well because the fight scenes are expertly choreographed by Gerry Brown: the movements on occasions are exaggerated but the reactions and consequences of the fights are always realistic and painful. This is not ‘cartoon violence’, it clearly hurts.
In contrast to this, the narrative has a very emotional central theme. At the heart of this comic is a man in desperate need to connect with his son, albeit a little too late. His journey, although soaked in blood, is actually an emotional one which is touching and ultimately has a melancholic ending. Piotr doesn’t learn to appreciate and respect his son until it is too late and everything that he has done in his son’s name is meaningless compared to what Piotr has lost.
Orlando and Brown can dress it up as much as they want in espionage and gangster thrills but this is a story about family and loss. It is a story that pushes the reader’s emotions to breaking point and it does it with style.
The colouring by Lee Loughridge and the lettering by Thomas Mauer enhance the setting and overall tone of the comic. Loughridge especially uses his skills to highlight Piotr’s final journey as the backgrounds slowly change from the cold, brutal blue into the warming reds and oranges of a new day dawning.
If you haven’t read any of Crude, you have been missing out, but now the series has come to an end be on the lookout for the inevitable trade (out in November). Piotr’s journey is one worth following.
A new release this week is something that I have been wanting for a long time; a brand new, monthly, Dick Tracy comic. I am a big fan of Chester Gould’s rough and ready detective and have been reading the collected daily strips for years. I loved the Disney film and every time I hear rumours of a TV series I have to fight the urge to get excited, knowing deep down that it will never come to fruition.
So, a new monthly comic, containing brand new material, should have me leaping for the stars, nearly as much as a new series of Doctor Who. Unfortunately, IDW Publishing’s new offering is far from what I had hoped for.
I have written a full review of Dick Tracy Dead or Alive, written by Lee and Michel Allred, art by Rich Tommaso, for Comiconverse.com but I wanted to add something extra on a more personal level.
I was whole heartedly disappointed with this comic.
Warning, spoilers ahead.
The story is at best a rehash of several earlier Tracy stories, featuring as the central villain Big Boy. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem if there was something new to say, but there isn’t. It is a soulless, uninteresting romp through the motions of a Dick Tracy Adventure. A lot of the script is clichéd and more than one sequence is a direct lift from earlier work; the sequence with Big Boy’s criminal board meeting is a step by step reply of a scene in the Disney Dick Tracy movie without the charisma or presence of Al Pacino and James Caan.
I will admit that I am not a fan of Rich Tommaso’s art style to begin with. His most recent work Dry Country was a difficult comic to engage with and I found all of his characters to be devoid of emotion. So, it will be no surprise that I was equally cut adrift from the characters in Dead or Alive; the difference is that I know most of the characters in this comic already and I have, for the most part, loved them in the past.
Big Boy is an outstanding, larger than life villain, almost Shakespearean in his theatrics but to see him as the oversized toadish character portrayed here feels like missing the mark. The depiction of Tracy is just as troublesome, especially since Tommaso pictures him in gleeful ecstasy as he threatens a criminal in his custody and wallows in the mindless violence. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the Dick Tracy comic strip has been soaked in blood from day one and the violence surrounding the detective has reached shocking and disturbing levels however, Tracy is about justice not violent punishment and making him enjoy the destruction gives him a cruel edge not befitting the character.
Tommaso can produce some interesting work and he has a style which appeals to a number of readers but I don’t believe he has the right aesthetic for a Dick Tracy comic. His work lacks energy and dynamism needed for a Tracy story. The 1990’s movie tie in’s drawn by Kyle Baker captured the energy of the story telling, even though the art work bordered on abstraction in places, whereas Tommaso’s work is lifeless. This lacklustre highlights the more disagreeable aspects of the comic, such as inconsistent speech balloons and caption boxes, turning the reader off from the adventure.
I wanted this comic to work. I have been waited patiently for new adventures of the legendary detective and I thought that was going to happen with the announcement of Archie Comics Dick Tracy comic. Imagine, a comic written by Michael Moreci and Alex Segura, drawn by Thomas Pitilli, based on the exciting adventures of Dick Tracy. What an outstanding comic that could have been, especially when you see the sketch and design work that had already been produced. It is such a shame that instead with have Dead or Alive, a comic leaning more to the former.
I hope that IDW have some success with this Dick Tracy comic because that would lead to others with different writers and artists, each bringing their own unique take on the character. But for me, this offering is nothing more than a disappointment.