Sunday, April 11, 2010

Books: Comic Books, Neo-Noir Edition

One Bad Day

Steve Rolston (who illustrated the award-winning "Queen & Country" and "Pounded") tries his hand at storytelling in "One Bad Day." Like the title implies, the comic follows Marie, an average girl who has a really, really bad day. The trouble starts only a few pages in, when an old schoolchum of Marie's mysteriously reappears. From there, her luck gets progressively worse - car chases, shootouts, and even her unbearable cousin's birthday party.

Despite the clean, Hergé-influenced monochrome art, "One Bad Day" has a violent slacker noir plot; if you've seen movies like "Pineapple Express," where average Joes get caught up in the machinations of the criminal underworld, you know what to expect. Still, Rolston's good at making our heroine fairly likeable, which is more than most first-timers accomplish.

Heavy Liquid

Paul Pope is probably best known for "THB" and "Batman: Year 100," but this is his most successful effort at creating a new world. "Heavy Liquid" features S, a young courier who's good at finding people and getting into trouble. Today, the person in question is his long-lost girlfriend, and the trouble involves "heavy liquid," a mercury-like metal of unknown origin. Everyone wants it: criminal kingpins, the Feds, a reclusive art collector. But no one knows its secret...not even S, who is thoroughly, hopelessly addicted to it.

The world of "Heavy Liquid" has touches of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and Raymond Chandler. Instead of dropping a lot of shiny technology onto his grimy near-future setting, Pope smartly sticks it in here and there: a compact electric bike, an impossibly small hand torch, half-hour transatlantic scramjet flights. Pope's story is mostly unremarkable (if you've seen one hard-bitten protagonist in search of lost love, then you've seen them all), but I did like the final sequence, which was part revelation and part fever dream.


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