Drums in my brain. Jaw bruised from the sock Teddy Dubbs gave me at that no-account Chinese dive. Not that I didn’t deserve it. Not sure whose bed this is and even less sure that I want to find out. Open my eyes, slowly. A Studebaker flashes its high-beams right at me. No, something else. It’s the sun. Been a while since I’ve seen that old friend.
Oh hey! Bryton here. Salt Lake Comic Con left me feeling good about the future of the local comics scene, but the Con Flu (it’s thing, look it up in any medical journal) left me feeling awfully bad. As a result I missed a day of work and the latest episode of the podcast, but being laid up did allow me to catch-up on a lot of comics, and I read a lot of good stuff. One book that felt like a particular revelation was HIT, on BOOM! Studios.
I’ll save you some trouble if you don’t feel like reading the whole review: Like James Ellroy? You know, L.A. Confidential and all that? Pick up HIT. Like the video game L.A. Noir? Roman Polanski’s Chinatown? Pick up HIT. Like the movie Gangster Squad? I don’t know. I didn’t see Gangster Squad.
HIT is set in the seedy underworld of Mickey Cohen’s Los Angeles. Mob-rule is stronger than the courts, it seems, so the LAPD runs a super-secret hit squad of its own lead by Harvey Slater, taking out the bad guys that the justice system can’t touch and leaving no witnesses. Slater is everything you’re looking for in a pulp-protagonist: tough-as-nails, cool-as-ice, and quick with a quip. We don’t see too much of his partners but get enough of a glimpse that they flesh out the story nicely. And of course there’s a femme fatale in Bonnie Brae, a blonde bombshell who knows her way around a shotgun and sets the plot into motion.
Bryce Carlson writes. From what I gather he’s primarily an editor at BOOM! and this seems to be his first foray into writing a wholly original series. In 22 pages he manages to create a world that feels familiar and hits all the right notes for a pulpy noir gangster story, without making it feel like a standard, by-the-numbers homage. The 1950s Los Angeles Gangster Story has been told thousands of times. Personally I’m not sure I’ll ever get sick of it but it’s easy for this kind of story to have a “been there, done that” feel. HIT doesn’t have that.
Vanesa R. Del Rey provides the art (with Archie Van Buren on colors) and boy is it a doozy. Her loose, scratchy style perfectly evokes the smokey bars, the neon reflected in the rain-soaked streets, the palm trees and street lights standing as mute sentinels over the grim brutality below. Her art style wouldn’t feel out of place in a print ad from that time period. Perhaps if I knew more about design I’d have a name for it. I don’t know of her doing any other sequential work but there are a lot worse ways to spend your time than checking out her Tumblr, especially if sexy illustrations of sexy dames is your thing. With this book she went from an artist I’ve never heard of to one of my favorites, and I hope to catch up with her at a convention someday and grab some original art from her!
By all accounts HIT did well at the comic shops, but hopefully you can still find a copy on the shelf and if you do you should grab it immediately. It does a more than admirable job filling the hole left by Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal, without feeling like it’s stuck in that books shadow. Above all else, maybe the very best praise I can give it is that I simply cannot wait to see what happens next.