We’ve a special mini indie round-up this week as we look at a couple of highly original crime tales from Aussie writer Ryan K Lindsay and Finnish artist Smi Kivela. First up is the blood soaked and sun-baked surf noir of Chum from Comix Tribe and then we also look at the truly unique Deer Editor, a sublime slice of classic crime noir with a utterly unforgettable hero!
Chum #1-3 (Comix Tribe)
Our rating: [star rating=”3.5″]
Surf noir is the new crime sub genre from Ryan K Lindsay and Sami Kivela created for their 3 issue mini series Chum. No strangers to the world of crime noir, writer Lindsay and artist Kivela have given the genre a really fun shot in the arm with this sun baked, blood soaked tale of love, violence and sharks. Instead of being set on the city streets of New York or London, it is based on the beaches of Kingsford Island (a kind of Aussie/Hawaiian back water), where we are introduced to a motley cast of beach bums and bad guys, including gnarly crime boss Penny, laid back cop Standard and femme fatale bar owner Summer – who happens to be Standard’s ex-wife and having an affair with Penny (things won’t get complicated here will they?!) When she persuades beach bum Gus to kill a dodgy looking guy in her bar, only to find he has a bag full of money, the inevitable crime cogs start turning as we discover he is actually an undercover cop working with Standard who beings to investigate his missing colleague while dealing with the breakdown of his marriage.
Although it’s more Point Break than Point Blank it doesn’t rely on dude-tastic sky diving to move the story along, instead it relies on it’s strong central characters and their dysfunctional relationships to make things happen. The world of Kingsford Island is both idyllic and unsavoury and is the perfect setting for Lindsay’s refreshing take on this very familiar genre. It’s mixed up bunch of eclectic characters fit their roles perfectly and make for a fantastic crew for this really solid debut series. Unfortunately the story they are involved in lacks a bit of coherency, jumping from one scene to the next (particularly from issue to issue) in a way which makes the story tricky to follow at time. As you’d except from a crime story of this ilk, it’s very word heavy and requires a couple of reads to get to grips fully with the events, so on one hand it is a good thing that it is only 3 issues long – but at the same time it feels like it could do with some more space to allow the story to breath and the character actions to be fleshed out a bit more.
Lindsay is working with Deer Editor artist Sami Kivela on Chum, which has an amazing set of red and black covers that really embrace the blood and surf nature of the series to give it a very slick and original look that should definitely draw curious comic fans in. However this unique style doesn’t follow through into the inside and the artwork is fairly work man like and lacks the spark of originality that the covers suggest. It’s a shame because the idea is really strong and Lindsay and Kivela are great pairing who can create some really interesting work so let’s hope they return to the beaches of Kingsford Island again and manage to catch a big wave to surf noir awesomeness!
Deer Editor #1-2
Our rating: [star rating=”4.5″]
The product of a couple of highly successful Kickstarters, Deer Editor is a superb slice of classic comic book noir in the vein of Brubaker/Philips’ Criminal or Greg Rucka’s Scene of The Crime. When intrepid reporter Buck gets a bit too close to finding out the mayor’s secret he gets dragged into the strange underbelly of the city, and like all great noir he encounters some very unexpected results along the way. It features all the classic crime tropes that you would expect from a book like this, but handled intelligently and articulately by Lindsay who clearly has a knack for this kind of story-telling. While artist Sami Kivela creates a fantastic shadow covered world with his stylish throwback artwork which has a really classic style to it and is coloured with a simple greyscale wash which makes it read more like a newspaper strip than a standard comic. It’s also rendered in landscape which both appeals to our pro-digital mindset, but also continues that throwback feel.
Oh, and did we mention the main hero is an anthropomorphised stag man?! No? Most have slipped our mind!
The reason we haven’t mentioned it up to this point is that although this is is Deer Editor’s unique selling point, it shouldn’t be what defines it. Deer Editor is primarily an awesome crime story, not just a gimmick book with a quirky lead. So don’t prejudge it. In fact, we think you should embrace the weirdness! It’s a pretty crazy choice for a lead character and requires a few leaps of logic when reading the book for the first time (for instance, how does he cope with doors?!), however thanks to some smart scripting from Lindsay, it ends up as a very readable adventure and a unique approach to a well-established character type.It definitely helps the leap of faith, that Lindsay includes his deer like skills as an asset (heightened sense of smell and skewering people with antlers for example) but also that it is superbly drawn by Kivela who manages to make Buck look like both a brilliant looking person, but also an incredibly textured and well rendered animal (he must have been doing a lot of research for this book!).
It is testament to both guy’s skills as creators that a concept this surreal does not take you out of the story for one instant, (or feel like it is a parody or a piss-take) which means we can confidently declare that Deer Editor is the best crime noir book about a man/stag/journo ever!
You can find out more about Deer Editor at deereditor.tumblr.com