Review - Snap Flash Hustle #1 (@blackmaskstudio)

"We could use some help with the rent this month."

You could spend hours arguing (rightfully or wrongfully) about the disappearance of the middle class or how millenials are destroying the economy by not spending. The fact of the matter is that the cost of living rising higher and higher makes it even more difficult for anyone to be able to make ends meet. In Snap Flash Hustle #1 from Black Mask Studios, one character is inadvertently forced into a terrifying situation to make a little extra money. The issue is written by Pat Shand, illustrated by Emily Pearson and lettered by Jim Campbell.

Haley Mori, a downtrodden alternative-model, happens upon a secret society of elite models in NYC that are using their platforms to sell narcotics. Seeing a possible escape from a lifetime of crushing debt, Haley becomes involved and works her way up the ranks, making new alliances and enemies alike while getting a taste of a power she never knew she craved.

Haley Mori is a very intriguing protagonist mostly because there are facets of her situation that are easily relatable to most readers. Shand knows that not everyone is an alt model who stumbles upon a criminal enterprise, but he uses her dire financial straits as a means of compelling her to make compromises with her morality. The issue is certainly exposition dense as Shand presents the scenario to the reader, ensuring that they fully grasp both the consequences of Haley's life as well as her further decision-making. Shand also does a great job of tapping into the social media zeitgeist with dialogue that feels contemporary enough to give the book a dose of reality. The premise of the book as a whole is Breaking Bad inspired, but Shand doesn't let the book become just a clone of the inspiration for it.

Pearson does a marvelous job on the illustrations in that her approach feels more artistic than comic book illustration. Considering there's quite a few pages of nudity in the book, Pearson does a great job of presenting it in a way that gives it a bit more gravitas--likely enough to mimic what a lot of models nowadays believe they're accomplishing when they pose. The character designs are simplistic and accentuated by thick, black lines that give them a weight when compared to one another. Some of the panels feel a little crowded by dialogue just because there's so much, but Pearson does a good job of accommodating the text bubbles in the smaller panels. The watercolor approach provides darker colors throughout the issue that mirror the darker atmosphere of the story itself.

Snap Flash Hustle #1 is a very sobering reflection of a major aspect of today's society in terms of social media appeal. Haley is struggling to make ends meet and relies on her looks as a means of attracting payment from fawning audiences, but even that profession comes with a price. Shand's script is sound and painfully self-aware in that it seems to be drawing attention to real-world exploitation of women in general with a focus on those in the modeling industry for the purposes of the story. Pearson's illustrations provide the perfect accompanying visuals to convey to the reader the intensity of the situation Haley finds herself in. Snap Flash Hustle #1 offers a poignant look at how we value physical beauty through the lens of devices and how the models will go to great lengths to ensure their safety.

Snap Flash Hustle #1 is available now.