Crime lit fans, assemble! Dark Horse Comics has graciously bestowed upon us a new series by the one and only John Arcudi—yes—that John Arcudi. The same John Arcudi that has worked on Abe Sapien, B.P.R.D. (and nearly all subtitles therein), Aliens, Doom Patrol, Justice League of America, Major Bummer, Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder, The Mask, and so many more that were I to list them, my fingers would fall off from so much typing.
Now that the praise is out of the way, let’s talk about the story. Detective Linda Caruso is called in to investigate a murder-suicide at Bennett Penitentiary. When she gets there, evidence has been tampered with, security cameras aren’t working, and the warden is an ass. Linda has reason to call for a tox screen, but her boss won’t let her order it. Unlawfully, she weasels her way into having the medical examiner take an x-ray of the killer. As it turns out, he ingested some type of lead before he killed an inmate and then himself. What is it? What could this mean? Why is everyone trying to cover it up? What the heck is going on?!
Arcudi’s characterization is on point—we’re talking tip of a needle point. Linda is a sad, sorry, upset, lonely woman whose only company is a drunken neighbor and the bottle. Nonetheless, she’s actually really good at her job. Even though she has basically nothing going for her in her personal life, she knows how to do her job. She’s not perfectly professional about it, but she’s competent and capable. So, our protagonist is bitter, mildly unreliable, emotionally erratic, and a good detective (even though she didn’t want to be). She is, effectively, dead inside.
Moving right along, now, the introduction of this issue is beautiful. It has perfect foreshadowing and intrigue to pull a reader in and never let go. It’s pretty much narration from the killer (I think) just before he kills another inmate, downs lead (chased with some nice cold milk), then kills himself. What really makes these first few pages pop is the coloring. Andre May, my good sir, you are a genius. The unrealistic, embellished, and bright colors really help create an uneasy feeling. Along with this, a close-up of the dude’s wide eye under fluorescent lighting just one panel after seeing the bloody tip of his knife is sure to make your skin crawl.
Toni Fejzula’s illustrations are largely to consider when thinking of this issue’s overall tone. The heavy shadowing, unrealistic (almost otherworldly) portrayal of the characters, and extraneous line work suggest a suspenseful and mysterious tone. Crime is a dark enough genre as it is, but there are some seriously suspicious things going on here and I’m itching to figure them out.
Crime fans who like a bit of a darker story, head out to your local comic book shop and pick this issue up; you will not be disappointed.
Written by: John Arcudi
Illustrated by: Toni Fejzula