Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review - All Crime Comics Vol. 1

"Any dime-store novel will talk of their characters steelin' themselves in moments of merit or strife."

Criminals seem to have all the fun. They get loads of money, drive nice cars and end up being well-respected (feared?) by most of those around them. At the end of the day though, they're just normal people, dealing with people breaking promises to them, planning elaborate escape jobs and having friends lose favor with them. All Crime Comics #1 has all that and a bit more.

The first issue is called "The Hard Graft," written by the Art of Fiction and lettered by Tony Fleecs. The first and third chapters are illustrated by Ed Laroche (colored by Fleecs), while the second chapter is illustrated by Marc Sandroni (colored by Andrew Siegel).

Dodger and Louis are friends since high school, leveraging their strong bond in forming a partnership in crime. Dodger was always the more boastful one in a sense, ready to help Louis when he was being bullied by the jocks. Eventually, Louie fell in love with Carla, who just so happened to be the same Carla that Dodger fell for. Their criminal aspirations culminated in a racetrack, lots of bodies and a trip to Leavenworth for Louie. All the while Carla is waiting for Louie and Dodger is waiting for his chance to take back what he believes is his.

Breaking the first issue up into three chapters makes the story feel much grander in scope; almost like a three-act play. The writing team paces the story beautifully, offering the reader the present state of things for Dodger, a brief look at his past with Louie and their future together in the grand plot. The plot feels like a story from Oceans 11 or the old grifter stories. Those tales were predicated on multiple moving parts and plans with zero margin for error, offering up a great sense of entertainment for the reader. Dodger is very likable as a lead character in that lovable rogue sense and his love for Carla exceeds just about anything else.

Speaking of Carla, she's barely in the story at all, but the's such a crucial element of the relationship between Dodger and Louie. Both men spent time vying for her affections and it was ultimately Louie who ended up with her, much to the dismay of Dodger. You could argue which one is more deserving of being with her and it's that argument that really gives you some pause as you're watching the tale unfold. On the one hand, Louie is pretty underhanded and coarse, yet still put together enough to be with Carla. Dodger is a little more reckless and bold, which is something that endeared him to Carla originally. Dodger is the clear protagonist and Louie the clear antagonist though, but neither is really "right."

The art is fantastic. Laroche's illustrations are somewhere between Frank Miller and Francesco Francavilla, with a little bit of Paul Pope mixed in for good measure. The influences of those artistic luminaries are clearly evident, as Laroche illustrates characters who are used to getting their hands dirty and don't mind going through the day with someone else's blood. The illustrations are understandably gritty and hammer home the fact that these characters inhabit a filthy, dangerous world. Fleec's colors draw from a darker palette with a lot of yellows and reds on display, perhaps to highlight the rampant sense of anger and isolation felt by the characters.

Sandroni's work in the second chapter is quite the contrast, but just as good as Laroche. Sandroni taps into a nostalgic look for the appropriately nostalgic retelling of how Dodger and Louie met, offering a break from the present day and a nod to what were presumably happier times. The work has the look of a comic book from the 1950s and while the two main characters didn't necessarily inhabit those times, the style is unique enough that it reminds the reader that they're no longer in the present. Siegel's colors in the second chapter are expectedly more upbeat and positive; the general warmth conveys a happier sense of emotion, before Dodger and Louie decided to start going their separate ways.

All Crime Comics Vol. 1 is a very solid foray into looking at what happens when friends become criminals, and criminal friends become enemies. You're encouraged to root for Dodger, mainly because he gets most of the attention and Louie comes off a little sleazy. Carla is the real point of the story, as both of the previous friends are doing everything in their power to one-up the other in the interest of being with her. She's the real "boss" in the story, despite her relative lack of involvement in the criminal activities and minimal presence on the pages. The issue is a great one worth reading if you like stories of crime and punishment, both of which are meted out liberally in All Crime Comics Vol. 1.

All Crime Comics Vol. 1 is available via Comixology now.


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