Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Sunday, June 08, 2008

New Femme Noir Review

With the release of the first issue of Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries now only weeks away (I still don't have the actual street date, but as soon as I get it, I'll be sure to let everyone now), crime fiction fan Joe Hilliard, over on the popular PopThought site, has posted a fantastic review of the first two issues.

Here are a couple of excerpts:
Mills really pulls out the old-school hardboiled vibe with this book. Moreover, he overlays it with a 40s/50s detective comic mien. Women with alliterative double entendre or punning names. An amorphous, timelost town. Rain literally drips off the panels. Sure, it wears its Paul Cain and Will Eisner roots on its sleeve. What it doesn't do, however, is simply ape those templates. Mills and Staton take their work that one step further. Like Rick Veitch's Greyshirt, what could easily become pastiche is instead rendered as something unique that can stand on its own. Port Nocturne is indeed a city enveloped in darkness. Crime does run rampant. The cops are on the take, or inept. It rains. A lot. Women like Laurel Lye and Dahlia Blue inhabit it. But in Mills hands, it's not simply a fa├žade; this is a lived-in city with some real backbone to it.

I have long been an admirer of Joe Staton's art. His broad stroke characterizations and thick lines mix perfectly with Mills' story – his women are bold, his men are square-jawed. Everything is so angular. Sharp and distorted. Deep dark shadows. I found myself staring at the first page of issue one, mesmerized. And, Staton really draws rain well. I know that sounds like a strange compliment, but the first two issues are peppered with some really good, really effective panel work that is offset with some striking rain effects. I liked that without compromising his own distinct and cool style, there is an Eisner influence to some of the panel work , countered by some unexpected Chester Gould influence. Detective Riley shows off a real Dick Tracy sheen on several pages, nicely undercut by the seamier aspects of the story. These little nods don't detract from the book. On the contrary, much like the street and character names, they are faint nods to the history of detective fiction. I've argued in this column before that the essential tropes of noir are timeless, it's what you do with them in context of the present that makes a piece work, or not. Staton's art goes a long ways towards subverting them, and making the work his own. Mills writing similarly brings a deeper life to these. They are a potent pair.


laughingwolf said...

praise indeed, gtats chris :)

Charles Gramlich said...

That's a great review. Congrats. Especially good is the comment about the city having a "lived in feel." Beautiful.

bish8 said...

Outstanding review! Well, earned!