Review: Baja (comic)

The Story

A thriller, Baja tells the story of Hil and Zack — a beautiful woman and a man who should know better — on the run down a desert road, from a stalker whose fate is tied to their own.

Hot in More Ways Than One

Artist Nathan St. John with writer Ben Wagner tackle this across state lines Noir about a man whose life goes off the rails after a short stint in the limelight for thwarting a robbery.  The book succeeds, for the most part.

Let’s first discuss the successes.  Ben Wagner’s story is classic Noir with the character of Hil (Hillary) as an irresistible femme fatale who pulls our main lead Zack into her dark world of fake hope and false promises of better days.

The story jumps back and forth in time by way of a series of flashbacks that reveal a bit more of our main characters backgrounds.  We follow them on what at first seems like an easy going road trip down to Mexico, but quickly turns into a deadly cat and mouse chase down the winding roads of California to Central America.  A faceless assailant is stalking our couple down a lonely freeway, but all is not what it seems.

Wagner deftly reveals his story in an appropriately moody and slow burning manner.  If you’re a fan of Noir and dark drama, you’ll love the way things play out.  Narratively speaking, Ben knocks this one out the park and by the time the story fades to black, I found myself cheering the demise of <names withheld>.  I’ll be keeping a close eye out for whatever this guy works on next.

Since this is a comicbook, we have to mention the artwork and Ben’s writing is aided to mostly fine effect by artist Nathan St. John whose dark, almost aimless art style lends itself to the overall atmosphere and confusion of this constantly unraveling tale.  Unfortunately, the art is also the books biggest problem.

Not enough to ruin the overall read, but noticeable enough to make it (at times) an aggravating flip through.  Nathan has a very loose grungy style of drawing which as mentioned, lends well to the mood and atmosphere, but at times is way too loose making it difficult to read the scenes and what is happening.  The color palette, composed of flat gray/black/white/red further lends to the confusion.  The characters at times disappear into the backgrounds, especially during close-up and claustrophobic sequences.

Also, not particularly helpful is some of the lettering work.  Tom B. Long is credited as the letterer on the copy that I read and he chose to go balloon-less.  Without word balloons to separate the text from the artwork and because of the similarity in art color and text color, you have several instances where the text literally fades into the art.  You subsequently find yourself guessing at conversations during possibly important moments in the story.  I only encountered this problem on a handful of scenes, but again — while not a complete deal breaker, it does detract from the overall enjoyment of the book.

Bottom line, this book is a good time.  It’s worth the price of admission, but the overall experience tends to fall a tad short on account of the artwork and lettering not quite living up to their purpose.


A grade for story

C+ grade for art and lettering

Overall grade of B.  The story is well worth picking up the book, but the shortfalls in the art and lettering keep the book from getting the A it should otherwise have deserved.



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