Story by Bryce Carlson
Art by Vanessa R Del Rey
Colours by Archie Van Buren
Cover by Ryan Sook
Review by Patrick McAleer
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that Hollywood never really delivered on the expected reinvigration of the seedy noir thrillers that the release of LA Confidential in 1997 should have heralded. Why this is the case is hard to fathom, but one thing’s for sure, it’s not for the want of good stories being told. Boom Studios miniseries “Hit” from writer Bryce Carlson and artist Vanessa R Del Rey, is a case in point.
Set in the underbelly of 1950’s Los Angeles, the second issue opens with Detective Harvey Slater attending the scene of his old partner Ken Collins’ murder. We are told that Collins and Slater were the original “hit squad”, tasked by their superior Captain Blair with taking out the “trash” of Los Angeles that the courts failed to deal with.
With Slater having fallen out a couple of years ago due to a combination of a little incident involving heroin, Collins’ overarching ambition, and Captain Blair’s daughter Bonnie, we learn that Slater and his old partner didn’t like each other very much. This, however, we already knew from a dust-up between the two in issue #1.
There are several different threads running throughout this issue, and this is one of those series where it really pays to go back and re-read the previous one. Doing so allows you to consider more fully the potential avenues and dark alleys Carlson could be taking us down.
In this issue we are taken from the murder scene, to the arrest of the man who killed his wife in #1, to a bedroom encounter with Slater and Bonnie, on through to a hit gone wrong, and a little undercover trip on a an illicit luxury ship used for gambling (that actually existed albeit under a different name).
As readers, we are informed of each new scene by the location being given in big letters across one of the top panels. It’s a beautiful little touch as it adds a film-esque quality to this undoubtedly movie worthy tale. It is in this milieu that Carlson has chosen to concoct a dark and gritty noir thriller, incorporating some real world figures and events which adds a depth to the story most comics lack. By using these very real and historic elements as a scaffolding on which to craft his multi-layered and intriguing narrative, Carlson grabs your attention. One perfect example is when mention is made of infamous gangster Mickey Cohen, not yet seen, but a presence hanging over both these first two issues. I can’t wait to see where this story will take us.
The first word that springs to my mind when thinking about the art from Vanessa R Del Rey is refreshing. This really is a beautifully unique style, one that neither of the Big 2 are brave enough yet to publish. It’s wonderful to see it on display here from Boom Studios. Del Rey’s pencils really hammer home the pulpy aspect of this series. The angular faces, mix of thick and thin line work, and the often haunting background detail are a perfect fit for Carlson’s story.
Add to this the colours from Archie van Buren. Honestly, this story could have been told in black and white format, so it’s a credit to Van Buren that his palette adds to the noirish overtones, rather than detract from them. I particularly loved the scene in the park where Van Buren does magical things with purple hues to bring out the seedy nature of the encounter.
The covers for this series by Ryan Sook are worth the money alone, each one depicting a scene from the story, and they really convey to potential readers the kind of tale contained within.
Each issue ends with a wonderful little piece from writer Bryce Carlson in which he tells us how he was inspired to write this story, and it becomes quite obvious it’s a labour of love for him. I must admit, after reading this issue’s last page, Carlson had me scouring the internet to check what was real and what wasn’t.
Overall this series is manna from heaven for anyone with even a passing interest in noir fiction. This is a tale of police corruption in 50’s LA that spans the gamut from dames with questionable aims to mob boss power plays. You definitely need to jump on board with this series.
Patrick is a contributing writer for Drunk On Comics. You can follow him on Twitter at @RepStones.