Category Archives: Noir Comics

Slayground: Too Good, Too Short

Cover of Slayground

Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground

The day before Christmas I received Slayground, the new Parker adaptation from Darwyn Cooke, and, due to family engagements related to the holiday, had to shelve it until late last night. 30 minutes later I was finished, thrilled to the center of my being, yet devastated by the marquee on the final page of the book “PARKER WILL RETURN IN 2015″– And thus I contemplate another year and more of waiting for the next installment…

I hate waiting.

Cooke delivers an exceptional work once again– the art: perfectly retro, the dialogue: stripped down and punchy,  the pace: frenetic. Actually, the speed with which the plot unfolds is almost jarring. More than any of the other adaptations, Slayground had large sections of zero or negligible dialogue; panel upon panel of brutal silence. I issue this criticism with tongue in cheek, because nothing was lost from the telling of the story during these stretches. Cooke appears to have honed this craft  of ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ with each subsequent novel, but the result is a much faster pace, and less average time on each page, than in any of the other three. I truly finished the entire book in one half-hour, and though I loved each minute, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed.

Slayground Armored Car Accident

The First Page

Additionally, the plot of Slayground is much more straightforward than any of the other novels. Parker finds himself in the possession of a sack of cash, cornered in an amusement park closed for the winter. Gone to ground with crooked cops and mobsters in the peripheral, he waits for the inevitable violent climax. The story commences mid-heist, and concludes mid-conflict– like a slice of Parker pie (we don’t get the whole thing, only a taste). And then Cooke’s decision to append The 7eventh to the end, felt like a bit like a punchline. The book is an hors d’oeuvre, whetting our appetite for future novels.

(I also noticed that the interior dust jacket of the book was dominated by an advertisement for the upcoming re-release of the Parker hardcover novels, which Darwyn Cooke will be providing cover art and some interior placards for. Perhaps Slayground is simply a clever marketing scheme?)

Slayground isn’t sunk by its brevity, but it’s certainly shorter than the other Parker graphic novels. Let’s be grateful that it retains the same quality we’ve come to expect from Darwyn Cooke.

(pick it up here)

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Character Complexities in “The Killer” by Matz and Jacamon

The Killer Noir Comic

My Copy

Last night, I read a noir comic called “The Killer” volume one by Matz and Jacamon. Originally French, the work has been translated and brought across the Atlantic due to it’s fame. The art is accessible, not hyper realistic, but also strangely devoid of the darkness that persists in most noir-centric comics. Matz style is extremely distinct, and his use of angle and color convey emotional depth throughout the story. For example, at a moment when The Killer appears to be slipping into insanity, the images on the page become choppy and skewed; an outward sign of his inward turmoil. The translation is decent, but there were several moments where I could tell that the verbiage didn’t quite fit; as if the translator didn’t have the language to express authorial intent. But these moments were seldom jarring, and overall immersion in the comic was easily maintained.

The plot of this first volume is clearly foundational– it defines the lifestyle of the hitman, as well as the occupational hazards of such a line of work. Next, the emotional state of our leading man is revealed, bit by bit. What initially seemed glassy on the surface turns out to be a disguise for great turbulence beneath. We’re indoctrinated with his gospel throughout, and we witness his self-inflicted alienation (while we’re simultaneously invited to pity him). Finally, we see him sever his remaining ties with humanity out of necessity– they reject him as he rejected them.

Standing at a distance, and reviewing the story from the beginning to the end of Volume One, “The Killer” is a marvelously succinct story whose complete components create a beautifully balanced work. I know there are subsequent volumes to read, but were the story to end with the final page of Volume One, I would still retain deep satisfaction and affection for this work.

Noir Comics The Killer

Early in the Volume

“The Killer” vs. the noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

A vast tapestry of settings is woven throughout the narrative– The urban sprawl, a lush jungle, white sand beaches, and snow powdered slopes.

2) The Anti-Hero

The Killer is a great character because he is so emotionally complex (although he doesn’t outwardly appear to be)– as the narrator, he is constantly preaching to the reader about his lifestyle, particularly he focuses on the justifications for killing the way he does. He speaks in absolutes, and of his estrangement from the cultural rot of society as a conscious decision. The hitman appears to have no regrets, no emotional baggage, or social attachments, but as the story progresses it becomes apparent that he hasn’t been preaching to the reader, he’s been preaching to himself. In his character flaws, his justifications, his shaky hands, and sweaty brow I found his redeeming quality; at his core, he’s killing himself.

3) The Femme Fatale

A girl he slept with in college who introduced him to his profession is the femme fatale. She remains a nameless flashback in his past, but it’s her influence that changes the moral trajectory of his life.

4) Misogyny

“The Killer” isn’t laden with any blatant misogyny apart from his professed aloofness in regards to the fairer sex. Women come and go, vehicles of pleasure and release, their companionship worthless in his eyes. Yet, there is one woman who remains on his estate in Venezuela… (Again, I believe he’s an untrustworthy narrator– I believe he cares for her or he wouldn’t let her so close).

5) Redemption

The Killer is obsessed with the reasons for doing what he is doing– he is constantly explaining why he doesn’t need to be redeemed, but we realize he needs it more than anyone. He claims that his redemption is found in cash– but he doesn’t behave like someone who only cares about money.

The Killer Jacamon Matz

Later (not in english, sorry)

6) The Loss of Innocence

I refuse to spoil the greatest scene in the book, but I will say that it’s the emotional climax of the nameless anti-hero’s character. It’s perfect.

7) Smoke

Here and there, throughout– the thick cigar, the petite cigarette; chained together by the nervously smoking cast.

8 ) Emasculation

I’ve racked my brain on this, but I can’t find emasculation thematically in the text. Not that it isn’t there, or that it won’t become a prevalent theme later, but I didn’t recognize any in this volume.

I was surprised by the emotional depth of this noir comic, and I can’t wait to read the next one.

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Noir Comics | The Last Days of American Crime by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini

Noir Comics The Last Days of American Crime

my copy (cover by Alex Maleev)

This isn’t the first review I’ve done of this noir comic. When I first created a blog, this was one of the books that I was most internally divided upon; half of me loved it’s raw appeal and profane characters, while my other side felt it lacked sincerity (truth, even). I’ve decided to include an excerpt from my younger self, a sort of time capsule review of The Last Days of American Crime– I feel like much of it still fits:

The Last Days of American Crime follows a nobody thug named Graham Burke as he tries to pull off one last heist. The American Government is taking paper money out of the equation in favor of Federally-Controlled electronic credits. Also, they intend to broadcast a signal country-wide that will effectively brainwash the populous, making it impossible for any citizen to knowingly break the law. Initially, Graham has to hire some new partners because the Mexican gang he was allied with double-crossed him (and he “burned” them for it). He hired Kevin (a safe cracking specialist) and his girlfriend Shelby (who knows her way around computers (and the bedroom *wink)). Kevin says he knows where to find a laser cutter, and he leaves Graham and Shelby to prepare for the heist. The problem is Graham’s old partners want back in, and they are willing to do anything to get revenge.

Remender seems to let his pen trace the edge of the taboo and outré, slicing the “politically correct” and daring all to be offended. He forces his readers to the cliff of what they will accept, and then he shoves them just as they were achieving balance. I admire his daring, but I wonder how much of his writing is tied down by this gimmick. Is he a good author because of his extreme style and taste? or are his depictions of the bizarre and offensive a smokescreen for poor writing? For me, it’s too early to say.

Even now, a few years later, I’m not sure about Remender’s style. Certainly I feel that he deserves merit for his literary accomplishments, but there’s some perfume clinging to his work that smells insincere and contrived. As a reader, I recognized that the plot was pushing boundaries– but it felt…unnatural. Overall, I’m pleased with the appraisal delivered by my younger self, and I could definitely see his point while re-reading this comic.

The noir definition vs. The Last Days of American Crime:

1) The Seedy Underworld

A futuristic Chicago underworld– not quite post-apocalyptic, but well on it’s way. Dive bars, condemned buildings, and chaotic streets aflame with debauchery and self-destruction.

2) The Anti-Hero

Graham is old and sour. He’s a security guard with a big idea, and a timeline that’s applying enough pressure to make him risky. He’s calculating and violent, unafraid of any hombre and lacks ties that would render a similar man vulnerable. He’s the sole caretaker of his Alzheimer’s diseased mother, and the proud proprietor of a trailer home. As a character, he’s static and predictable.

Noir Comics The Last Days of American Crime

Graham (via mainstreamclub.org)

3) The Femme Fatale

Shelby Dupree is an exquisite femme fatale– she’s manipulative and beautiful, with her alliances set to roulette. She’s the most dynamic character in the story, and easily the best creation of the piece. Yet she’s still a victim of the classic noir male-author pitfall; she’s completely male-defined– the silver lining is that from her first scene to the last panel, you can’t trust her. I got the feeling that she was betting on horses (each of the male characters) and because she bet on all of them she’s bound to win something in the end. I loved that.

4) Misogyny

Within The Last Days of American Crime, horrible violence is perpetrated against females (to be fair, all of the characters are victims of violence, but the women take more than their fair share). I’m willing to bet that this comic would upset most female readers (I know it upset me).

5) Redemption

Not as much of a redemption theme as you’d think– at least not for Graham. For Shelby, I can see a redemption plot line pretty clearly, but even this is minimal. No, this story is about money– its a smash and grab bank robbery at heart; redeem us from our poverty! redeem us from government control!

The Last Days of American Crime Noir Comics

Shelby (via comicbookdaily.com)

6) Eroticism

Greg Tocchini locks this theme down. Rick’s dialogue was alright, but there are a couple scenes that are incredibly sexy just because of the way they’re drawn. Mr. Tocchini has an superb gift, and I admit he was the primary reason that I re-read the comic. Conversely, there are many scenes that try to be erotic and come off as disgusting– just rote crap that panders to teenage boys and requires zero finesse.

7) The Loss of Innocence

The Last Days of American Crime has many scenes that are meant to shock you as a reader. The trouble is where to find the line drawn between progressive authorial intent and contrived B.S. — You’ll have to read it and tell me I’m wrong.

8 ) Smoke

All the butts in all the trays– the tobacco tar grime stains our fingers as we turn page to page. Delightful.

The Last Days of American Crime Noir Comics

(via mainstreamclub.org)

9) Emasculation

This theme is the most prevalent in the noir comic– each of the men are afraid that they’re being manipulated or played by Shelby (and of course they all are). Additionally, there is a blackmail scenario that involves one of Shelby’s beautiful girlfriends getting the best of Graham’s supervisor– and I don’t want to spoil it beyond that but it’s a complete blitz on his masculinity.

I was surprised by the ending because it wrapped up so nicely– I was prepped for a train-wreck, but the thing rattled through the chaos to a perfect conclusion (this bugged me a bit though, because noir comics shouldn’t leave us with warm fuzzies).

Read it if you’re not easily offended. Buy it for the art– it’s freaking awesome.

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Noir Comics | Lil by Mike Young and Marc Crane

Noir Comics Lil Marc Crane Mike Young

Lil Issue 1: Pulling at Strings…

Lil by Mike Young and Marc Crane is a dark plunge in the deep end of a twisted woman’s psyche. Implicitly noir, this atmospheric graphic novel is a relentless plummet into the life of Lil, a 35 year old waitress with an appetite for self-destruction. This indie noir comic project is daring in its unforgiving treatment of protagonist, and its hide-nothing approach to her life. Five issues have been released thus far, and the plot momentum is on a break-neck course towards the inevitable. Simply stated, Lil is a slice of tasty noir from a new creative team. (Best part? You can read it online here.)

“Where I’m from, most people end up a version of what they oughtta be…Damn near everybody’s a story of what they hope they’re not.”

The first issue, “Pulling at Strings,” is a promise; it places all the pieces on the board and leaves us to guess the first move. Lil is dripping in alcohol, angling for a ‘sugar daddy’ to pick up her tab. Matthew smells like cash, and has the right combination of gullibility and naivete that makes him a mark. She drags him to the bathroom, eager to ‘pay up’, where a bizarre duffle-bag is left by a loud stranger. Lil recognizes the opportunity and snags it, but it isn’t until she opens it that she realizes how truly screwed she is.

Lil Issue 1 Noir Comics

what’s in the duffle-bag….

“I have my good days. And my bad days. But the bad days are getting worse.”

Lil vs. the noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

The art is bleak and pulpy; a skeletal backdrop for the sinister demons in Lil’s mind. Dive bars, flea bag apartments, and cheap diners are real enough to leave the reader greasy. (And there’s a scene in the woods during Issue #2 that’s particularly impressive).

2) The Anti-Hero

Lil is a difficult character to understand. As an anti-hero, she foots the bill: a self-destructive addict in the shadow of looming threat. Yet, as a FEMALE protagonist she left me wanting. I couldn’t stop feeling that she was a regurgitated male desire; a hidden remnant of unexpressed sexual fantasy. Certainly, she’s introduced to us as a drunk, an addict, a manipulator, a thief, and eventually a ‘cutter’– but I felt that her behavior was so extreme that the common ground melted (Particularly in the first issue, when it appears that her entire character revolves around the desire for casual sex). As I continued reading, I could see that her character had the potential for depth, but I was frustrated to see her remain in the shallows.

3) The Femme Fatale

Lil appears to flip her charm on and off at will– I loved this. And despite certain flaws as a character, I felt that she’s developing into something terrible and beautiful. I need more!

Noir Comics Lil Mike Young Marc Crane

classic femme fatale

4) Misogyny

Issue #5 has one of my favorite noir misogyny interactions. Lil is confronted with a waitress’ veritable nightmare; as an employee and as a woman. I won’t spoil it, but it nailed the theme of misogyny in noir.

5) Redemption

We’re told that Lil ran away from an abusive home after her mother died. She hasn’t stopped running since. With a life like Lil’s, redemption isn’t an option– but it’s the only gleaming hope her character has. I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to see her redeemed, but the painful part was realizing that she can’t be.

6) Eroticism

I felt Mike and Marc have missed on the eroticism theme thus far; they’ve approached titillation, but it’s been with a heavy male-centric hand (think Rick Remender’s The Last Days of American Crime). The delicate intricacies of eroticism can only be executed with a female protagonist if they begin to truly develop her as a self-actualized female survivor.

Lil Noir Comics

knock, knock…

7) The Loss of Innocence

One of the strongest aspects of Lil is that no innocence remains. We look for solace anywhere in the dark panels, yet we’re constantly turned back on the harsh realities of her disgusting life. The inciting incident has already occurred, we arrive with the flashing lights.

8 ) Smoke

Oh, the lovely smoke chokes the pages and catches in the backs of our throats.

9) Emasculation

The story is a bit young for this theme to be fully realized– only a handful of male characters have been introduced, and none have remained in the plot through an adjacent issue.

Noir Comics Lil

hot coffee…

Despite small concerns with Lil as a character, I’m elated by Lil as a noir comic. I eagerly await more issues, and strongly recommend it. Get over there and check it out.

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Noir Comics | Blacksad: A Silent Hell

Noir Comics Blacksad A Silent Hell

Blacksad: A Silent Hell

Blacksad holds a variety of emotions for me. The noir comic is saturated with painful plot-lines– the types of stories we are afraid to read but cannot resist. Perhaps this seductive quality is what makes it such potent noir; it refuses to compromise itself or resolve in any sort of ‘happily ever after’ fashion. At first glance, I assumed that Blacksad would be a silly comic, but as I delved into the masterful script (by Diaz Canales) the animal caricatures and bold colors began to fade into bleak reality. I’ve already reviewed the flagship hardcover on noirwhale (you can read it here), so this will be a review of the newly released chapter “A Silent Hell.”

Noir Comics Blacksad A Silent Hell

Black Sad at Mardi Gras (via michaelminneboo.nl)

Blacksad: A Silent Hell takes place in the Jazz-fueled south, a setting which isn’t frequented enough by the noir genre. This chapter is easily the most complex, as each page introduces new characters, backgrounds, and plot-lines. Yet again Blacksad is quickly embroiled in long rotten secrets and hedged by liars. In the relatively short book, we’re witness to an incredibly visceral drama– and many of the splash pages are some of the most cinematic I’ve seen in any comic. It begs a more effective medium of expression, a film or a soundtrack– something that could lend a voice to the crooning blues or movement to the debauchery of Mardi Gras. A Silent Hell‘s weakness unfortunately is in its complexity, I found myself re-reading many pages in an attempt to make sense of the quickly spiraling plot. If you can’t read it in one sitting, you may find yourself lost by the final page.

Blacksad A Silent Hell Jaunjo Guarnido

perhaps the most impressive page in comics (via leftmewantingmore.blogspot.com)

We cannot overlook the impressive watercolors within A Silent Hell– just as the plot becomes more complex with each additional layer, the pages are delicate masterpieces that speak countless patient hours sacrificed by Juanjo Guarnido. From the little I understand about the difficulties of working with the watercolor medium, my appreciation for this beautiful book is boundless. The latter-half of the hardcover collection that I own is entirely dedicated to exploring the creation of each page and the tedious concentration and effort such a project demands. We are fortunate to have a master in our midst.

Blacksad A Silent Hell Diaz Canales

(via darkhorse.com)

Both Blacksad hardcovers are prized in my personal library, and hold a place of prominence on the shelf– If you were initially turned-off by the anthropomorphic aspects of this international bestseller, please reconsider. You won’t regret sharing in such an unforgettable noir epic.

Blacksad A Silent Hell Noir Comics

(via gabebridwell.com)

Noir Comics Blacksad A Silent Hell

(via parkablogs.com)

Blacksad A Silent Hell Noir Comics

(via furplanet.com)

 

 

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Noir Comics | Girl & Boy by Andrew Tunney

Girl and Boy by Andrew Tunney

Girl & Boy by Andrew Tunney

I love reading new noir comics from new noir creators! Girl & Boy by UK artist Andrew Tunney is beautifully elegiac; a fresh riff on an archaic theme. His art is wonderfully fresh, and his use of light and shadow (unlike many noir artists) seems to illuminate the work rather than obscure. At 36 pages in entirety, the comic reads like swift hip hop or beatnik poetry– rhythmically haunting and emotionally charged.

Noir Comic Girl and Boy

Manchester, England

 

Girl and Boy are essentially the only characters in the story. I had the impression that Manchester had melted around them, a vacant playground for their exploits. Their relationship is the focal point of the comic, and is composed of a broad spectrum of emotions; lust, love, fear, depression, and anger among them.

Noir Artist Andrew Tunney

But only so we don’t get old.

 

“The crime was love and you made me the victim.”

Girl’s central crisis is in embracing solitude; learning to not only accept herself but to become empowered in the accepting. Thematically, trust and redemption move the plot into intellectually stimulating territory, and beg questions of the text. Tunney’s work is daring, because casting a woman as the lead invites a plethora of complications for the male author. Notoriously, the noir genre has a habit of defining females by male expectation, which reduces them to rote regurgitations of sexually stimulating yet emotionally shallow puppets. Initially, I was afraid that the author was making the same mistakes, (which however noir they may be, don’t coincide with the newest movements in the genre which rejects these notions) but he develops Girl nicely, in a way that I feel many women will find both relate-able and empowering.

Girl and Boy by Andrew Tunney

Boy in the stairwell (Such a great panel)

Girl & Boy is a brief noir comic with layers; in the way even a small onion may leave your eyes wet. You can purchase or preview Girl & Boy here.

Noir Comics Girl and Boy

Now some are only mine and some I’ve lost forever.

Girl and Boy by Andrew Tunney

I did this to myself. I have no one to blame. No.

 

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Noir Comics | Dylan Dog Memorie Dall’Invisibile

Noir Comics Dylan Dog Memorie Dall'Invisibile

Memorie Dall’Invisibile

Dylan Dog is an Italian comic which debuted in 1986. Created and written by Tiziano Sclavi and illustrated by several notable artists, this horror based comic wouldn’t typically be considered noir fiction. I picked up the Dylan Dog omnibus (in English people, I’m not a linguist) on the recommendation of a good friend (thanks Hank). He told me that he read them as a kid and found them to be fodder for a great time. As I cruised through story after story I had to concur– Dylan dog is a smoothly written surprisingly well-drawn comic.

Noir Comics Dylan Dog

A killer in the rain

Mysteries, babes, and villains abound, all just out of the unflappable Dylan’s reach. As a paranormal investigator, he pulls back the edge on the wallpaper of sanity and reveals all the grimy bits hiding beneath. It wasn’t until I found this gem “Memorie Dall’Invisibile” that I realized the truly effervescent story-telling present. A killer and a man forgotten, a city with too many sinners, and a league of prostitutes who refuse to be victims any longer converge in a spectacular visual noir thriller.

I’ve piled a bunch of marvelous scans from MangaEden.com– they’re in Italian so most of you will be spared the spoilers. If you want it in English, pick up the ridiculously cheap Dylan Dog Case Files from Amazon.com here.

Memorie Dall'Invisibile

Memorie Dall’Invisibile

Noir Comics

A prostitute entertains an unexpected customer

Dylan Dog

he finishes the job

Noir Comics Dylan Dog

Dylan Dog is sought out for help

Dylan Dog

their relationship becomes more than professional

Noir Comics Dylan Dog

I love this art, splendid detail

READ THIS COMIC…please.

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Noir Comics | 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

100 Bullets Deluxe Edition Book One

My Copy of the Deluxe Edition

100 Bullets is a noir comic with massive scope and breadth of plot. Traditional noir story-lines stick to a handful of characters within the confines of a single city, whereas 100 Bullets is an international noir thriller. Boasting an incredibly original and complex plot, this comic from the creative team Brian Azzarello and Eduaro Risso is non-stop heavy-hitting crime fiction. While the series is massive, with a daunting list of characters and settings, this review covers issues 1-19 (which are collected in Book One of the 100 Bullets Deluxe Edition).

What begins with a gimmicky plot hook, ends with scathing, soul raking noir, buoyed up by Azzarello’s deft wit and Risso’s attention to detail. Isabelle “Dizzy” Cordova is out on parole when she meets a strange suit calling himself “Agent Graves.” He hands her a briefcase and explains that within it are 100 bullets of ammunition, a 9 mm handgun, and irrefutable proof that her husband and child were murdered by two crooked cops. He further explains that if these bullets are recovered at a crime scene, all investigations will cease; she won’t be pursued or prosecuted. Dizzy must then decide how she’ll proceed, with revenge or disbelief.

Dizzy 100 Bullets

Dizzy Cordova (via chrisstrife.tumblr.com)

The first several issues follow a similar formula; Troubled individuals who’ve been wronged are approached by Agent Graves and given an identical attache to Dizzy’s, with similar promises of answers, revenge, or retribution. Initially, I felt that the gimmick of the briefcase (albeit an interesting plot device) would quickly lose it’s originality and drown the comic in a repetitious flood of bland cliche. But I stand corrected. Azzarello is brilliant in his treatment of each individual’s reaction to the briefcase. You’d think that they would find the ‘get-out-of-jail-free-card’ an enticing means of avenging their loved ones or correcting the errors fate made for them, but each character treats it like the moral dilemma that is it (this made me love the characters SO much more). As a reader, I cared about the characters because they reacted how I would: They were believable.

Noir Comics 100 Bullets

Dizzy’s choice (via weegall.tumblr.com)

You can find plot reviews and synopses for 100 Bullets issues 1-19 all over the internet, but you can’t find a noir definition round up, so lets do that:

1) The Seedy Underworld

The setting of 100 Bullets is not shackled to a particular city; it’s a thriving world of clandestine international corporations and secret organizations. Eduardo Risso is wonderful at portraying each city with as much character and detail as the last; You’ll never be lost in Paris or Miami, you’ll only be lost in the story.

2) The Anti Hero

Many anti-heroes exist in the plot of 100 Bullets. Both those who chose to act on Agent Graves invitation (like Dizzy) and those who did not have their failings, but because of their struggles we ultimately love them and pray for their success. The best anti-heroes are the ones that you care about, and it’s hard not to care for the cast that Azzarello and Risso have created.

3) The Femme Fatale

Megan Dietrich is the absolute femme fatale force of the 100 Bullets series. She’s young, powerful, sexy, and ruthless. We’re introduced to her in a story arc called “Shot, Water Back” (issues 4 and 5), where a former restaurateur named Lee Dolan is given the attache and a reason to kill her. When Lee confronts Ms. Dietrich in the penthouse office of a posh skyscraper, we watch her seductive intellect turn her would-be killer into bumbling idiot. An idiot she quickly kills. It’s a beautiful femme fatale scene because it’s as sexy as it is frightening.

100 Bullets Brian Azzarello

Megan Dietrich (via kid-epic.tumblr.com)

4) Misogyny

Very little typical noir misogyny exists in this comic. I would say that the only offenders are the male-defined character designs, which simultaneously titillate and demean. Also,the main female characters are very empowered, but all the minor supporting roles played by women are stereotypical regurgitations (I didn’t feel like this took away from the comic at all, it was just a bit predictable). Example, Chucky’s girlfriend in “Short Con, Long Odds” (issues 6 and 7) or a couple of the ladies in “Hang Up on the Hang Low” (issues 15-18).

5) Redemption

Redemption is a central theme (as it is in most crime fiction), but the slant of this plot is quite unique. Instead of intellectual redemption that comes as a result of solving a crime, individuals are presented with a solved but un-avenged crime. These jaded and often miserable characters are then given the opportunity to deliver their own brand of justice… if they have the stomach for it. It seems that most exercise the option as a means of redemption, but are seldom satisfied with the result. Noir endings are bereft of peace.

100 Bullets Eduardo Risso

Agent Graves delivering the attache (via pollinisation.tumblr.com)

6) Eroticism

The comic has several scenes that are erotic in nature, but they aren’t extreme. It seems that the comic is mature because of the profanity and violence and not for nudity (which is rare throughout). Risso is skilled at withholding the right amount of skin in a tasteful way.

7) Loss of Innocence

Lono is a frightening manifestation of violence in 100 Bullets. He’s sadistic in its truest form, as he experiences great pleasure while inflicting pain in others. He has no conscience (at least, not that we’re privy to), and he appears to be entirely self serving. A horrifying loss of innocence is experienced in “Epilogue for a Road Dog” (issue 19), where Lono inflicts his brand of vengeance on a man and woman who had stolen a great deal of money from him. It was… hard to read.

100 Bullets Noir Comic

Lono in town with a purpose… (via paty-shoo.tumblr.com)

8 ) Smoke

Of course 100 Bullets has cigarette smoke. It’s an international noir epic with a beautiful sense of style. Smoke is not lost on Azzarello and Risso.

9) Immasculation

There are two characters from these first issues that become truly immasculated. The first is the gambler, Chucky, who stumbles from one pitiful situation to another, eventually losing his best friend and his girlfriend (who find each other). The second is Curtis, the retired “Minuteman” who teaches his son how to survive in the world of crime, only to be undone by the relationship he’s trying to foster. Oddly, these two characters were my favorites in these early issues. Perhaps I loved them out of pity?

100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

Curtis meets his son “Loop” (via roselalonde3367.tumblr.com)

100 Bullets

Chucky confronts an old friend (via Weegall.tumblr.com)

The story arcs in 100 Bullets are fast paced, devious, and convoluted, and through Brian Azzarello’s voice they are high-class contemporary noir. I loved each issue as it unfolded, and can’t wait to read more of this critically acclaimed noir comic series.

Agent Graves 100 Bullets

Cover by Dave Johnson, Agent Graves (via filmghoul.tumblr.com)

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Noir Comics | The Score by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke

The Score Darwyn Cooke Richard Stark

My Copy

Darwyn Cooke has an amazing talent for novel-to-comic adaptation, and The Score is a particularly delicious example. Originally a noir crime fiction novel by Richard Stark (AKA Donald Westlake), Mr. Cooke has turned a great heist plot into a visual treat of diabolical noir. The Score is the third such release in the last few years, and is easily the most ambitious of the trio not only in the broad scope of the heist but also in the breadth of the characters.

I imagine that one of the most difficult things about such an undertaking is making sure that each character is represented correctly and is easily recognizable from panel to panel. In the previous volumes, there were only five to six characters maximum, but The Score is comprised of a cast more than twice that. As a result, the story seems to be more shallow than the previous two, albeit no less entertaining or engaging. I feel compelled to read the entire graphic novel again, purely to make sure that all the moving parts fall into place.

The Score begins with Parker wandering the streets of a deserted city at night. A smallish fellow in a plaid coat obviously follows him, though Parker seems to be ignorant of the tail (the keyword here is “seems”). The little guy is quickly cornered and interrogated, his last mistake pulling a knife in defense. Parker kills him with bare hands.

Noir Comics Parker The Score

Page 16

This sort of thing doesn’t spook Parker, it annoys him. He returns to a hideout and tells a small gang waiting there, “The deals off. I’m out.” You see, to Parker, something like this is a sign that the job is sour; and he won’t take a job that’s sour. The finger, a man named Edgars, prevails upon Parker to at least hear the job out before walking, and it’s in the details that Parker can’t resist: They’re going to knock over a whole town.

Parker is a great protagonist because he feels like an antagonist. He’s unfeeling, cold, and abrasive. Donald Westlake writes:

The idea of the book had come about in a very mundane way; I walked across the George Washington Bridge. I’d been visiting a friend about 30 miles upstate from New York, and had taken a bus back to the city. However, I’d chosen the wrong bus, on that terminated on the New Jersey side of the bridge instead of the New York side (where I could catch my subway). So I walked across the bridge, surprised at how windy it was out there (when barely windy at all anywhere else) and at how much the apparently solid bridge shivered and swung from the wind and the pummeling of the traffic. There was speed in the cars going by, vibration in the bridge under my feet, tension in the whole atmosphere.

Riding downtown in the subway I slowly began to evolve in my mind the character who was right for that setting, whose own speed and solidity and tension matched that of the bridge. People I knew came and went, but he quickly took on his own face, his own hard-skeletoned way of walking; I saw him as looking something like Jack Palance, and I wondered: Why is he walking across the bridge? Not because he took the wrong bus. Because he’s angry. Not hot angry; cold angry. Because there are times when tools won’t serve, not hammers or cars or guns or telephones, when only the use of your own body will satisfy,  the hard touch of your own hands.

So I wrote the book, about this sonofabitch called Parker, and in the course of the story I couldn’t help starting to like him, because he was so defined; I never had to brood about what he’d do next. He always knew. To some extent, I suppose, I liked Parker for what he wouldn’t tell me about himself.

I absolutely love this series, these books are the noir crown jewels of my bookcase. The binding is the highest quality possible, and the hardback is beautifully vintage. My only peeve is that I have to wait until 2013 for the next one!

Parker Richard Stark

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Parker Darwyn Cooke

Page 19

The Score Comic

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Noir Comics The Score Darwyn Cooke

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Richard Stark's Parker The Score

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Femme Fatale Parker The Score

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Parker Novels Darwyn Cook

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Noir Comics Darwyn Cook

Page 119

The Score by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke

sans dustjacket

The Score by Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark

sans dustjacket 2

I hate the quality of these images (taken with my last gen Android)- but the internet has a pitiful offering where the contents of this great noir comic is concerned. I wanted to at least give you a peek at some of the quality work being done here, even if the pics don’t do it justice.

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Noir Comics | Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Noir Comics Fatale Ed Brubaker Sean Phillips

Fatale by Ed Brubake and Sean Phillips

Fatale is a noir and horror genre cross-breed from my favorite creator team, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Brubaker’s tale is his most complex and twisted yet, spanning a half-century of events told in tandem. Phillips’ art is an exercise in style, his own now-so-recognizable as it enters its fully-realized maturity. I was delighted to trudge through muddy uni-sized panels as dark as any noir and darker for their horrific tilt. Taken as a whole, Fatale is cosmic Lovecaftian noir orbiting an undying femme fatale.

Noir Comics Fatale Josephine

(via dadsbigplan.com)

Where the complexity of the plot intimidates, it’s important to pay close attention to the characters and events as they unfold. Fatale is not a lazy reader, to be taken in random snippets on assorted afternoons; It’s made to be read in the deep throat of night, white knuckles turning pages and reexamining panels for hidden, less-obvious, details.

Noir Comics Fatale

(via comicsalliance.com)

The setting is split between our present-day and the 1950s- with the same seductive and ageless woman in the center of the action.  In former times, we see San Francisco reporter Hank Raines falling into the fatal perfumed pitfalls of classic noir fare. While in our day, Nicolas Lash discovers a secret that sets him on a perilous and dark trajectory, dooming him to repeat the past. The woman that spans the century in question, Josephine, breaks the archetypical mold of the femme fatale, becoming a creature of fantastical power and influence. Most femme fatale themes within the noir genre deal directly with the idea of resistance, but what if you are physically unable to resist her? What if you must obey? This theme of helpless obedience, of complete power wielded by the female lead, comprises the central theme of this groundbreaking noir comic.

Horror Comics Fatale

(via superpunch.blogspot.com)

We need more creators who aren’t afraid to push the noir comics genre into new realms. Brubaker and Phillips have been staking new boundaries for years, I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Fatale Josephine Sean Phillips

(via itsadansworld.net)

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