Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Books: Comic Noir Trifecta

hard–bit·ten adj \-ˈbi-tən\
1: inclined to bite hard
2: seasoned or steeled by difficult experience : tough

The enduring popularity of film noir has influenced plenty of works in the comics industry, and today's entries offer three different takes on the genre. The common denominator? The hardbitten, world-weary protagonist who's in too deep...

Britten and Brülightly

"Britten and Brülightly" is the debut(!) graphic novel from Hannah Berry. Her gloomy, hand-painted take on 1940s London instantly sucked me in, but surprisingly, there's an above-average story here, too.

The book follows Fernandez Britten, a self-described "private researcher," as he slowly unravels the mystery behind the suicide of a wealthy client's fiancé. As is par for the course in this type of story, not all is what it seems, and family secrets, blackmail, and betrayal all rear their ugly heads. Moments of levity are provided by Britten's curious partner, Brülightly, but overall, this is a dark book about dark things.

You Have Killed Me

The most notable twist of "You Have Killed Me" is that there is no twist: in an age of neo-noir, tech-noir, and post-noir, the book mostly plays it straight. There's a hardboiled detective, a femme fatale, jilted lovers...the works.

The comic was written by Jamie S. Rich and illustrated by Joëlle Jones. I'm a fan of Jones's work - she has a knack for drawing attractive dames, square-jawed heroes, and shifty ne'er-do-wells. The panels have clean, black-and-white images and exhibit a good sense of negative space. Which is good, because "You Have Killed Me" has its fair share of bloodletting.


If you're only familiar with the forgettable film adaptation starring Kate Beckinsale, you might want to check out the original "Whiteout," a graphic novel written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber.

That's not to say the movie deviated from the book in terms of plot - actually, it's a pretty faithful adaptation, all things considered. The tone of the two works is markedly different, however - where the viewer never quite buys pretty Kate Beckinsale as a disgraced U.S. Marshal stuck in a dead-end posting in Antarctica, Lieber's artwork and Rucka's writing convey the portrait of a flawed, tough-as-nails woman caught in the middle of some nefarious dealings.


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