I dig pulp fiction and hard boiled crime novels. I’m not an expert. I’m not a connoisseur. But I like ‘em. I like the Film Noir that goes hand in hand with the pulps and hard boiled novels of yesteryear. I’m not alone in this, and there seem to be just enough of us out there to support a small number of authors who are fighting the good, nasty, old fight. Leading that pack is one of my favorite working authors, Christa Faust. When I heard she was putting out a comic book, and it was connected to the Hard Case Crime line…well, I knew I was in.
Though I was unfamiliar with co-author Gary Phillips’s work, I knew he had comic experience, which is good. Having dabbled in comic writing myself, I know that it’s a very different beast from writing a novel or a short story. I don’t know what their co-writing technique was, but however they did it, I was impressed that Faust’s brutality and overhanging sense of dread translated into the comic. We see several characters on the fringe of society in 1980s New York City, and we know it’s very possible that none of them will make it out alive. Again, not knowing Phillips’s work, I’m not sure how much of his voice made it into the book, but I definitely heard Faust’s, and that made me happy…in as much as having your heart punched out can make you happy.
There’s a matter-of-fact handling of the sex industry that feels real and not at all exploitative or schmaltzy as it tends to come off. And there’s the near relentless day to day struggle folks go through. Racism, chauvinism, police corruption, greed, and violence infect everything. It only takes one mistake, one bit of bad luck, for your whole life to crumble. This isn’t a superhero comic. Guns kill people. Nobody swoops in to save the victim. Life happens. And death happens.
The art in the book is not really my bag. It’s fine. It gets the job done. Some panels are really evocative, while others are just sort of there. The flow of the story from panel to panel, page to page, is all well done.
If you’ve read Faust, you know what you’re getting into. And this will help hold you over until the next Angel Dare book comes along. If you haven’t…well what’s wrong with you? This book has definitely made me want to seek out Gary Phillips’s work. For a crime fiction fan, it’s a must read. If you liked HBO’s “The Deuce,” this is some good further reading. If you want happy endings and heroic flash, maybe look somewhere else.