Review: Lady Hollywood #2 (Cult Empire Comics)

Lady Hollywood #2 picks up from the cliffhanger ending of issue #1 with our heroine Kate in the clutches of a despicable gangster who has done something horrible to her buddy Nicky. Her captors are interrupted by the police and her partner Randy, and she is saved from a grisly fate, but this sets Kate on a dangerous journey to find her captors which takes her further into the LA underground and sees her cross paths with an eclectic band of underworld gangster types as well as delve more into the honey trap case she is working in.

Publisher: Cult Empire Comics
Writer: George Lennox
Artist: Russell M Olson
Price: TBC from Cult Empire Comics

This second issue continues the twists and turns from the debut as Lennox and Olson continue to compile a very intricate and labyrinthine tale. While this shows great ambition it is not always the easiest to navigate, and this is made worse by the long gap between issues and the lack of any catch up on the opening pages. While being thrown straight into the action can often be a good thing, in this case we found ourselves spending much of the first read of this book trying to pick together the story from last time and remember who all the characters are.

Fortunately, the book is of such a high quality that it warrants and earns multiple readings. Once you get your head around what is happening (or revisit issue #1 for a catch up), then things really begin to take shape. Lennox cherry picks the best crime noir tropes and stitches them together to create a really compelling world, packed full of intriguing and enigmatic characters. They all have secrets and hidden agendas and all manner of dark sides, and it makes trying to second guess what is going on impossible. However there is a constant sense of the book having a few too many ideas going on for it to really make total sense when read in isolation.

While this book has felt like a slice of classic 80s noir up to this point, it takes a bit of a tonal shift in the second half of issue #2 as Kate begins to develop into more of a vigilante than a detective. If this is now the long term direction of the character then it works well and should set the series up for a strong future as it gives the character a kind of Hit Girl style look and motivation. However it does feel a bit odd to be taking such a turn at this point in the story. Hopefully once we have gauged the long term plan for the story it will make more sense.

Visually, the story looks exceptional. Gateway City’s Russell Olson continues his run of phenomenal work (such as the critically acclaimed Black Iris for example) with these pages feeling tighter and more on point than ever before. He manages to capture the pace and nuance of Sean Philips, giving everything the pace and depth of an HBO mini series. However it is also packed with the vintage inspired personality and expressive faces of Darwyn Cooke or Bruce Timm. Whether it is simple talking heads, action packed explosions, or quiet moments of contemplation Olson can do it all and each panel is packed with little touches or imaginative flourishes that help every page really zip along with a real pace. Perhaps our favourite spread of the whole books sees him introduce the various gangs in LA across a double page (see above). It is divided into tight columns, each belonging to a different gang member – from bikers to nazis to rappers – and is a supremely smart composition and the brilliant characterisation sums up why he is such a good fit for this series. It really helps give the story a sense of quality that makes it really stand out from the small press crowd. And with everything going on he never misses a beat, managing to cope with whatever new direction or concept Lennox throws at him.

This is a bit of a difficult second issue for Lady Hollywood, a complex and intriguing tale that looks amazing and is packed with potential, but doesn’t quite work as a standalone issue. Fingers crossed the continuation of the story will help remedy this as it looks set to head off in new and exciting directions, but we also hope we don’t have to wait another couple of years to find out what happens next!