Review - Lowlifes #1 (@IDWPublishing)

"You're on a runaway train Leonard..."

Being a cop typically affords one a multitude of protections, one of which is the brotherhood of the force. Sometimes the law and camaraderie aren't enough, as is the case in Lowlifes #1 from IDW Publishing. The issue is written by Brian Buccellato, illustrated by Alexis Sentenac and lettered by Neil Uyetake.

In the seedy Los Angeles underworld, lives intersect like freeway overpasses. When a crime boss's poker game is robbed, three lowlifes-a bad cop, a drug addict, and a haunted thug-attempt to stay one step ahead of the others, as redemption or destruction is their only ticket out...

There's a lot to unpack in the first issue and that's testament to Buccellato's dropping the reader right into the thick of things. Richard gets the focus of the narrative in the first issue and a lot of it centers around the assault of his wife/his response which is pretty thin; Buccellato doesn't really do much to explore it more intimately as his wife's attack is really just the catalyst for the faux cat and mouse game between Richard and the perpetrator. Richard is hellbent on extracting revenge, yet he seems content to let the perpetrator continually harass him and his wife with seemingly no way to stop him other than getting involved with criminals himself. Buccellato doesn't really elaborate as to why things like due process wouldn't work in this case--in fact, there's even a sequence where he has him detained for another incident. Buccellato doesn't give other relationships as much attention as the Richard/wife/assaulter triangle, yet there's supposed to be a larger plot in play that ties everything together.

The tone of the book is meant to be gritty and Sentenac's style relies on very harsh pen strikes to achieve that effect. The characters are illustrated with slightly thick lines throughout that allow them to blend well together and into the backgrounds. One could even make a case that Sentenac's style is similar to that of cel-shading in the way that the lines contrast with the colors within them, an effect that's further exacerbated by the blackened gutters. The panel arrangements allows for a rather linear story progression that helps to bring some coherency to what's happening. Sentenac washes the issue in blacks and blues, reflecting the brutal nature of being a cop in a painful world.

Lowlifes #1 is an ambitious first issue that doesn't quite reach the heights it's going for. Richard is a cop looking to deal with a problem outside of the law, but how that plays out remains to be seen. Buccellato's script is pretty straightforward and low-key, prepping the reader for what's likely to be a lot more as the series unfolds. Sentenac's illustrations are an appropriate match for the script tonally, tapping into a certain griminess. Lowlifes #1 is a pretty low-stakes first issue.

Lowlifes #1 is available now.