The Eisner-award nominated digital comic High Crimes from MonkeyBrain Comics, has finally conquered it’s 12 issue summit. But does this mountaineering crime series hit the highest heights with it’s grand finale, or should it be cast off into a ravine to never be seen of again?!
Publisher: MonkeyBrain Comics
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Ibrahim Moustafa
Price: £0.69/$0.99 from ComiXology
Disgraced former snowboarder Zan Jensen has spiralled into a world of self-destruction and self-pity, finding herself working in Kathmandu for Haskell Price, who recovers the bodies of dead climbers from Everest and exploits money out of their families back home. However when they attempt to recover the body of a mysterious man known as Sullivan Mars they take on more than they anticipated, as he was no ordinary climber – he was a spy who was looking to disappear and take his decade old secrets with him. As the dastardly Strange Agents appear in Nepal and look to climb Everest to recover Sullivan’s secrets, Haskell and Zan end up caught in a race against time versus the Agents and nature itself to recover Sullivan’s mysteries in one of the most hostile environments on earth.
As with all great crime stories the lead characters are fundementally flawed which makes their actions all the more compelling. Haskell makes his money from grieving relatives, while Jansen is a self absorbed ‘board rat’ who masks her failings with drink and drugs. Their unlikely friendship is what makes the core of the book work so well, yet it is their flaws that hinder them at every stage. Sebela’s use of flashback and multiple narratives fleshes out the characters of Haskell and Jansen, while also giving us a glimpse into the shadowy world of Sullivan Mars and reveals why the Agents are in pursuit of him. Ultimately it’s a McGuffin to get our character into their crampons and climbing up Everest, and it is the father/daughter-esque relationship between Jansen and Price that makes High Crimes tick and gives the series a very satisfying conclusion although not necessarily one you would expect.
Away from the mountain High Crimes is a fairly standard crime noir, with a dash of espionage thrown in for good measure. However once the ascent beings it is this unique mountain setting which is High Crimes’ most unique feature. The use of Everest as a location gives the whole story a sense of claustrophobia and threat as it is not just the agents who are the danger Jansen and Price – it is the mountain and mother nature too. Sebela and Moustafa have clearly researched their work well as the detail and minutia of mountain climbing etiquette and techniques are pored over and analysed as Jan and Haskell use their expert knowledge of the mountain as an ally against the Agents. But not even they can tame the mountain and end up in perilous predicaments.
In perhaps the highlight sequence of the whole series, both teams are caught in an avalanche which sees artist Moustafa flip the orientation of the book to landscape and bleach out the pages with a superb use of white space that creates a truly disorienting feeling for the readers, replicating the ‘white out’ the characters are experiencing on the mountain.
As well as this stunning sequence, Moustafa’s artwork is brilliant through out. From the stunningly designed covers, through the tight compositions that give the whole story a taut sense of drama, to the epic mountain vistas that give the book room to breath, High Crimes has a highly polished slickness to it, despite the slightly sketchy nature of the artwork.
“Sebela and Mustafa create the first ‘mountaineering noir’, a book which is made so much more interesting by it’s beautiful, yet lethal locale. Complex, compelling and completely original, High Crimes conquers the summit at last and manages to reach the highest heights!”
Author: Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.