Think of Hollywood and you’ll most likely imagine a wonderland of film stars and high rollers, basking in big city lights. Of course, all of the bright lights, make the shadows seem all the darker. It’s into this seedy underbelly of LA’s Tinsel Town that we venture in Lady Hollywood from Cult Empire Comics.
Publisher: Cult Empire Comics
Writer: George Lennox
Artist: Russell Mark Olson
Price: £3.99 from the Cult Empire Store
While the stylish cover immediately invokes memories of the golden age of Hollywood of the 1940s and 50s, this is actually a present-day story. Kate Holloway is, an LA based private investigator specialising in Honey Trap stings. Her work doesn’t make her popular with her targets but as we quickly learn, she’s more than capable of taking care of herself. When Kate’s friend and business partner learns of a new job which comes with a big fee, she’s more than happy to take it on. As her partner warns her however, this job is also going to bring down considerable heat.
Accepting this job is a catalyst which throws Kate deeply into a complex game of mystery and violence involving a big-time movie director with one too many gambling debts; a mob boss not above killing to get his way; and a sinister new figure whose motives are unknown. This multi-faceted story leads to an exciting read, with more twists than some thrillers deliver in a whole story, let alone an opening issue.
The characters themselves, particularly the leads, are well developed. While each has attractive skills and abilities, their limits and vulnerabilities are also laid out on display. There’s also a good allocation of time to properly establishing character relationships and shared histories. This context is nicely spaced to avoid slowing the pace of the story being told and never felt intrusive to the narrative. All of these leads to the creation of well fleshed out characters from the outset, giving the reader a more balanced set of heroes to root for. Similarly, the villainous intentions of the story’s antagonists and the methods they use to pursue them are both well considered, and brutal, leading to some effective and shocking moments of action throughout the issue.
Design wise, Russell M. Olson’s character work is striking, as is his cinematic composition of panels, particularly in moments of action. Perhaps the most effective element within the art however, comes from the use of lighting and colour palettes. There are several examples here, from the neon pinks of a club scene to the gloom of a shady warehouse, most effective when viewed in comparison with one another. It’s a great attention to detail which elevates the artwork and quality of this book to the next level. These subtle touches such as the shadow of the detective agency lettering in the window casting across their office, enrich even non-action scenes and add nicely to the tone and feel of the book.
Overall, Lady Hollywood is a strong opener to a series that shows great potential to grow into an essential Neo-Noir thriller. Smartly written and with an eye catching visual flair, it’s certainly a series worth getting into on the ground floor.