Tag Archives: Noir Comics

Noir as Religion: Steranko’s Chandler

Chandler: Red Tide by Jim Steranko

my lil’ copy, published 1976

An Illustrated Novel: CHANDLER… a tough, new detective in a new kind of mystery thriller that explodes with the fury of a lightning bolt!

When Chandler by Jim Steranko was published in 1976, it was cresting the neo-noir wave in which many of the great artists & storytellers of the decade were paying homage to the hard-boiled past. Released just 2 years after Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, even the title (and protagonist’s namesake) is a wink at one of the “big three” noir crime fiction authors, the Holy Trinity of noir to which we offer humble obeisance: The Dashiell Hammett, the James Cain, and the Holy Raymond Chandler.

The book is a sermon. Steranko pounds the pulpit with all the good stuff we’d expect from the gutter genre we’ve come to worship. How’s this for a hook: A dead man named Bramson Todd comes to Chandler looking for revenge. He’s been poisoned and doctors have given him 72 hours to live – 3 days for Chandler to find whodunnit. Chandler’s plot doesn’t disappoint. The hook is a promise that’s delivered like a haymaker; it’s a head-spinning, ears ringing, nose breaking race from one revelation to another.

Chandler Red Tide by Jim Steranko 1

“I’ve got 72 hours to live, Mr. Chandler. I want you to find my murderer.”

Steranko certainly flexes his storytelling muscles, but it’s his art that makes you stop and stare. 2 vertical panels per page, with all the quality of an ad you’d see on an easel at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. These images have a limited color palette & limited space, but there is nothing limiting about their impact. Sexy silhouettes, mean mugs, fisticuffs, wet city streets, & deadly docks are framed with a director’s eye. Steranko is a master stained glass artisan in the Cathedral of the Night.

The Femme Fatale

Our goddess, Ann Crane, is worthy of our devotion. She’s full of lies we want to believe, and she’s got her hooks so deep into Chandler that he believes every one of them. Her shadow looms large over his past and sends us all spinning into the darkest abyss of his pain (the pain of what could have been). I want to tell you that in the end, she doesn’t win. I want to tell you that, but I can’t. She’s femme fatale incarnate; a truly deadly woman.

Chandler Red Tide by Jim Steranko 2

“Stay out of it Ann,” I said. “Promise me. There’s a red tide coming that’ll drown all of us.”

The Anti-Hero

Chandler is the priest of these cold streets. He’s intimate with the prayers of the hard-boiled and more than familiar with the scars of the flagellants. His god insists he work alone; outside of the system, apart from the herd – a shepherd of the sinful hiding their sins. “I’m not a hired gun.” He tells a client, “I don’t like to be shot at.” But his profession often makes him a target anyway, because he gets paid for doing “what other men couldn’t do— or wouldn’t do.”

My Advice: Get you some religion. Read Chandler.

Chandler Red Tide by Jim Steranko 3

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Songs of Goodbye; Review of “My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies” by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Mannequin gaze from a femme fatale

Notice her tiger stripes of shadow? She’s deadly.

The newest window into the world of “Criminal” is fogged with sorrow & deception. Ellie (a.k.a. Angela) standing on a lonely beach serves as bookends to this noir comic. Her mannequin gaze invites us into the book and betrays the ice that must flow in her veins; she’s our femme fatale, a predator. The choice of setting is deliberate. The shoreline is a symbol of stark contrast – an area where the colors don’t mix and where there’s more below than there is above. What’s lurking in those depths? What lies beyond that horizon? This place is where Ellie contemplates the memory of her dead mother and a life she never knew. A life of love.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies pg. 3

page 3

The story appears simple in the beginning: Two addicts (Ellie & Skip) stuck in rehab & falling in love. We want to believe it’s that simple. It makes sense to us. But it isn’t simple, and it’s clear from early pages that there’s only one way this will end. You see, Ed Brubaker gives us an untrustworthy narrator – what’s more, he tells us she can’t be trusted within the first few pages: “All junkies are liars on some level” she says. This conceit is exceptionally noir. It creates a level of discomfort that most readers aren’t okay with. We like our narrators to be honest with us. It’s easier that way.

“I don’t like pretending to be something that I’m not.” (she says as she pretends to be something she’s not for the rest of the book)

Barring a whole synopsis, sufficeth to say that Ellie’s goal is to seduce Skip and convince him to give up his father’s location (who’s been hiding in witness protection). She has powerful motives for doing so (a blood debt to settle), and when pleasure fails to win Skip’s trust, she has no choice but to turn him over to pain. She hates herself but it’s difficult for the reader to hate her. We actually admire her for the ‘honor among thieves’ aspect of her sacrifice. Ellie owed a debt and she paid it in full. (The inevitability & deception is beautifully tragic. Textbook noir crime fiction).

A central theme of the novella is how Ellie romanticizes drug abuse. She frequently turns to the works of fantastic musicians and artists and points out how influential drugs were in the development of their most impactful contributions. She argues that drugs weren’t only helpful, but essential to some of the greatest works of art known to mankind.

“What if drugs help you find that thing that makes you special?”

Her own mother was a heroin addict, and Ellie had problematic proximity to the practice of abuse during her formative years. Ellie saw drugs as deifying – a means of escape & transformation. She said that her mother floated like a beautiful bird when she dosed.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies pg. 15

page 15

Music also permeates the story. Ellie speaks of a mixtape she found after her mother’s death. It was a cassette made for her father; songs of love & longing from parents she never quite knew. The tracks are all written by addicts, and ooze with sorrow, conflict, desire, & hope. For her, music is a time machine. Each song another injection of sweet nostalgia (isn’t music like that for most of us?) (Here’s a link to a playlist featuring the songs mentioned in the book)

“I was much further out than you thought, and not waving but drowning.”

A few years back my parents divorced. Their song was “Babe” by The Styx. It didn’t strike me until now that theirs was a song of goodbye. How could their relationship have ended any different? I wonder which of them chose it? Or if they ever contemplated the real meaning of the song? “My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies” is full of songs of goodbye. Goodbye truth, goodbye innocence, goodbye love.

Postscript – A note on the quality of this graphic novel:

I’m struck by the thickness of the no-gloss pages and the overall quality of the work as a whole. Sean Phillips is as good as I’ve ever seen him – perhaps cleaner in his line work than I’ve noticed in his other Criminal novels. The coloring style is a bit different but after an additional read through I felt that it works. It’s pastel in many areas and there are lots of page breaks where white space is left to breathe. This gives the appearance color splashes & and a highlighter effect. I wonder how conscious the creators were of this choice? It actually adds to the sense of incompleteness which comes through the narrative poignantly through Ellie. Ed Brubaker’s script is intentional and well-paced – in some areas reminiscent of Frank Herbert: where a character is thinking one thing, saying another thing, and acting out something entirely different. These multilayered moments can be difficult to follow if you’re unfamiliar with the style, but I feel that Brubaker executes this wonderfully (and the comic format is perfectly suited for the task).

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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


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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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