“Wolf,” is a new comic (script by Ales Kot; art by Matt Taylor) in which we follow Antoine Wolfe, a hard-boiled paranormal detective, down the sun-kissed streets of a noir-infused Los Angeles. The streets are indeed sun-kissed and beautifully harsh thanks to the intense colors by Lee Loughridge. Like any good crime story, we savor the details. One excellent moment simply has Antoine approach an anxious German Shepherd in his path with a mellow, “Meow.” From the start, we know this is going to be one weird tale as we begin with Antoine covered in flames one moment and completely unscathed the next.
This original fantasy/horror/crime saga is worthy of comparison to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The narrative rolls along quite smoothly as the plot develops. Antoine is steadily revealed to be adroit as well as a bit out of his depth as we find him caught up in something of apocalyptic proportions. Ultimately, his fate will be linked to that of an orphaned teenage girl. And, through it all, we have a compelling clash between fantasy and gritty crime drama. For instance, Antoine may have supernatural powers but, as an African American, he is regularly reminded that he is not welcome in some places. And Los Angeles is depicted as a twisted wonderland, an amalgam of wilderness and concrete jungle. And full of magic. Wait until you meet Antoine’s pal, Freddy, a most Cthulhu-like fiend.
I am often asked where the best comics are coming from and the short answer is Image Comics. A perfect example is Wolf.
WOLF #1 is available as of July 22nd. It is a 64-page comic priced at $4.99. For more details, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.
Las Vegas. It’s a dead end for some and paradise for others. Maybe it’s a little of both for Bonnie Brae. It’s 1957. A lot of water under the bridge since things heated up a couple of years ago. The plan had been to go incognito, start a new life in San Clemente as Marie. But, no, Marie was not going to be left alone so easy. If you were a fan of Hit: 1955, or if you’re new to the party and looking for some good noir comics, this new Hit series is for you.
You’ve got the team of writer Bryce Carlson and artist Vanesa R. Del Rey back to deliver more. Each page is teaming with intrigue graced by Del Rey’s fluid line and Carlson’s gritty narrative. Los Angeles is one big corrupt mess. We find our anti-hero Detective Harvey Slater pushing back on Domino and his Syndicate. He can’t catch a break from the boys in Internal Affairs. And Bonnie Brae is missing. But that is only the beginning. We have ourselves here a deep and dark tale unfolding. Much transpires. A new killer on the loose. And, of course, you didn’t expect Bonnie to just sit still all this time, did you?
Good crime fiction needs to establish a rhythm quickly and then maintain it. Set up your hooks and beats. Cue the atmosphere. Lower the shades. Carlson loses no time creating a pattern and evoking a certain kind of melancholy. You need doomed characters who don’t know they’re doomed. Carlson rolls out our ongoing theme: “Things change. But people don’t.” Del Rey works wonders with her brush: scribbles here form a shadow, overlapping lines there build up to loose crosshatching signifying lust, despair, and a cavalier stare back at death.
“HIT: 1957 #1” is available as of March 25. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.
“The Fade Out” is the new noir series from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It opens up with a recollection of the “phantom planes” over Los Angeles, the Japanese bombers imagined but never actually in the air, following Pearl Harbor. Hearing them up above became a nervous habit hard to break. And so the world of Charlie Parish, a schemer and a screenwriter in Hollywood, seems to be just one big bad habit.
Vanesa R. Del Rey is an artist with quite an intriguing sensibility. She loves what she does and leaves us in awe with her dangerous women being all bad and mysterious. BOOM! Studios is showcasing that bewitching talent in the debut issue of an exciting new series, focusing on bright new talent. In “Hit: Pen & Ink,” you’ll get your Del Rey fix and then some.
You drink the wise blood
You’re gonna hear about it
You’ll be taken down brick by brick by brick
Burn the orphanage
You’re gonna pay for it
They will purify block by block by block
From “Demons” by Sleigh Bells
“Burn the Orphanage” is a bold and sexy beast of a comic. Created by Daniel Freedman (Undying Love) and Sina Grace (Not My Bag), it gives you lovable dead-enders on their way to hell. Now, that’s entertainment.
“Frank Miller’s Big Damn Sin City” is just what the doctor ordered, if he has a decidedly dark side. “Take one volume of Sin City and repeat until you have completed the omnibus.” Big Damn Sin City collects Frank Miller and Lynn Varley‘s seven stories: The Hard Goodbye, A Dame to Kill For, The Big Fat Kill, The Yello Bastard, Family Values, Booze, Broads, & Bullets, and Hell and Back. That totals 1,344 pages. All in time for the much anticipated Sin City sequel, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” set for August 22, 2014.
“No Clue” is a sly mix of comedy and noir. Comedy is a funny thing, isn’t it? And noir might be an even funnier thing, to get right, that is. So, to mix the two, and be sly about it, is pretty impressive!
It is so great to see Andy Diggle and Jock working together again. “Snapshot #2” (of 4) kicks this noir adventure into high gear. And all in glorious black & white! Yes, if you’re familiar with these guys, you know that b&w is the way to go. The premise: A young man picks up a smartphone in the park and nothing is ever the same again. This isn’t like just calling up the owner and having a million thank-you’s thrown your way. No, this phone is connected to the world finance underground. Once you’ve tapped into that crazy shit, well, you don’t come back.
Now, let me talk to Andy Diggle and Jock fans and, if you’re new, please join in. Okay, so you know why you love Andy Diggle, right? The guy knows how to juggle clues, keep the plot moving, and make you glad you’re not the one running for your life in the pages you’re reading. And, Jock, we love the guy. Talk about a straight edge style so sharp along with a fluid sensibility. This guy loves what he does. He has a signature style that fits just right for that Diggle gritty worldview. If you haven’t gotten a chance, pick up “The Losers” and all this will totally make sense. Think mayhem with style. Andy’s crisp crime writing is in full effect in “The Rat Catcher” so pick that up too. You’ll also want to get Jock’s run on “Detective Comics.”
What a tight story this is. One false move, and our main character, Jake Dobson, a 19-year-old who works in a comics shop, is found accused of murder while being pursued by killers. It seems like he can’t loosen the noose around his neck but, so far, he manages to avoid a number of close calls. He can consider himself lucky but he would much prefer not to need the by-the-skin-your-teeth-you-were-just-about-to-die kind of luck. But he’s not alone. In this issue, he meets a teen girl named, Callie Twain, and she’s much deeper into this mess.
All Callie wants is to find her dad. It’s been a terrible time for Callie. Her mom passed away. She knows her dad loves her and she has always relied upon him. Trouble is, her dad is tied in with some very bigger players in world finance and he somehow stumbled upon some things he shouldn’t know. Now, he’s missing; Callie’s life is in danger; and you already know that Jake’s life is totally in danger too. It is so hanging by a thread that you wonder how he will survive the pages of the next issue.
If you enjoy a story where all hell breaks loose within a thoughtfully crafted story, then “Snapshot” is for you. If you are entertained by dramatic car chases and exquisitely drawn explosions, smashed cars, and all manner of chaos, well, there you go…”Snapshot.”
“Snapshot #2” (of 4) is a March 6 release. Visit our friends at Image Comics.
“Bad Medicine” episode: Director Darin Scott, Actress Christine Donlon, Writer Steve Kriozere
Steve Kriozere is a writer/producer with an impressive resume that includes work on “NCIS,” “Castle,” and “Femme Fatales.” If you have not gotten a chance to try out “Femme Fatales,” it is a show worthy of your consideration. You can leave any preconceived notions at the door, and start out with “Femme Fatales: The Complete First Season,” which is now available and you can purchase here. You can read a recent review of the show here.
The following is an interview with Steve Kriozere where we discuss what “Femme Fatales” is all about from various points of view. We also talk about “Elvis Van Helsing,” (review here) an offbeat horror graphic novel that Steve co-wrote with Mark A. Altman, who is also a writer/producer involved with, among other projects, “Castle” and the co-creator, with Steve, on “Femme Fatales.” We wrap up with a discussion on the writing process and what lies ahead for “Femme Fatales.”
We begin by discussing the tricky position that this show finds itself in. It’s a show on Cinemax. That carries a unique set of issues. For instance, the concept of “less is more” can be a hard one for the network to grasp. The creators and writers on the show must find ways to deliver the goods, the sexual content, in new and creative ways while also building up a show. Here’s the thing, this is, at its heart, a clever show. There are so many things going right with this show, from its charismatic host, Tanit Phoenix, to its exploration of genres and, well, embrace of geekdom. The show, at the end of the day, retains its potential which, by all rights, should remain forever elusive.
The full interview with Steve Kriozere follows and includes the podcast at the end.
Barbara Stanwyck and the Billy Wilder 1944 classic, “Double Indemnity,” are forever linked. Barbara Stanwyck is the ultra-sexy little spitfire that gives this noir masterpiece its heat. Talk about femme fatales. Stanwyck was the queen of them all. Fred McMurray seems to be the only man who can handle her..or can he? This movie is the beginning of noir where doomed characters get on a track that stays “straight on the line” all the way to “the last stop, the cemetery.”
Ernest Hemingway. Dashiell Hammet. Raymond Chandler. James M. Cain. These writers ushered in what was to become noir. Hemingway with his austere style. Hammet with his gentleman’s elegance. Chandler with his refined style. Cain with his grit. Billy Wilder, the young brash director, took the Cain novel and, with Raymond Chandler, brought to life a whole new tradition in film of the hard-boiled plot, viewed in low light and shadows, with characters of questionable morals. No judgement was made on how these characters chose to live. But, as luck would have it, there was a price to pay for such sinful behavior. If nothing else, the Hays Code, the Hollywood morality police of the time, would see to that. Some even think that the morality restraints helped, in their own clumsy way, to make art. It seems to have worked out that way for this film.
The noir world is both strange and familiar. It is not supposed to mirror the good citizen and yet it reveals his or her darker side. Back when “Double Indemnity” was still struggling to be cast, few in Hollywood wished to be associated with such characters. Fred MacMurray was reluctant even though it led to his greatest performance. Even the more daring Barbara Stanwyck was unsure about it. Now, it is hard to imagine the movie without her. She exudes a strange sexuality in this film that ranks up there with other great dark sirens, like Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, or Bette Davis.
The chemistry between MacMurray and Stanwyck is rather surreal. They never seem like a good match. It’s not that you couldn’t imagine them in bed together. The film convinces you of that. But, even for 1944, you can sense how wrong it is for those two to have ever gotten involved, aside from the fact Stanwyck’s character, Phyllis, is already married and she and MacMurray’s character, Walter, are plotting to kill her husband. It feels more tawdry than in a Hitchcock film. And maybe more real, more intense. That’s certainly what Billy Wilder hoped to acheive in order to put his rival, Hitchcock, in his place.
Rounding out the picture is a dazzling performance by Edward G. Robinson, as Barton Keyes, who it is believed was a character patterned after Billy Wilder himself. He’s a fast talking little guy who always gets his way. Wilder did a similar thing when he cast Jimmy Cagney in 1961’s “One, Two, Three.” Keyes is an insurance man through and through and has taken Walter under his wing for many years, too many years. Walter is good at selling insurance but is basically drifting through life. In the best twist of all, it is the love between Keyes, the mentor, and Walter, his reluctant pupil, that is the only true sign of humanity to be found in this film
Delicious strangeness. That’s what noir is about. Unlikable characters behaving badly, very badly, that we root for in the end. And why? That’s the strangest thing of all: because they are us.
Be sure to check out Fred McMurray in another role where he gets to play a baddie that rivals his role in this film. That would be another Billy Wilder classic, 1960’s “The Apartment.” As Jeff D. Sheldrake, MacMurray appears to have lost all his morals and placed the burden upon the weak shoulders of Jack Lemmon.
And you may have heard that Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder did not get along at all during their time together as co-writers to the script for “Double Indemnity.” But you’ll be happy to know that, while Billy Wilder got his revenge on Chandler by depicting him as the troubled alcoholic in his next film, 1945’s “The Lost Weekend,” Chandler went on to write another iconic noir film, 1946’s “The Blue Dahlia.”