Detective Curt Delatte, at the end of his rope following a string of personal tragedies, is put on the case of a spree killer that has already amassed six bodies and counting in two days. There seems to be method behind the random selection of victims, but Delatte only has days to get to the bottom of the case before a predicted hurricane touches down and destroys all the evidence.
We live in a time of plenty, most needs are catered for, usually at the touch of a button, and not too many of us in the western world have to go without the small luxuries. No more is this culture of plenty represented as well as in the comic book world; where once you had to go to extreme lengths to find anything that was not of the fashion, there are now hundreds of publishers, mainstream and otherwise, that are bending over backwards to fill any gap in the market place.
Marvel and DC are of course still the frontrunners in sales and books of the superhero medium, but thanks publishers such as Image, Dark Horse, Avatar, Viz, IDW, Dynamite, DC Vertigo, Archania, Top Shelf, Oni and hundreds of small press studios, genres as divers as sci-fi, fantasy, horror, western, historical, supernatural, action, sports, fairy tale, suburban drama, war, crime and cross breeds of all the above are available to us through comic stores, book shops and any number of online outlets. And if all this, even the small press stuff is too mainstream for you, there are hundreds, if not thousands of individuals producing their own web comics.
Surprisingly, the less glamorous genre of crime is seeing a high point amidst all this choice, thanks in no small part to DC Vertigo and its current crop of excellent ‘Vertigo Crime’ original graphic novels and Image’s willingness to dip their toe in any and all genres; and so it is that Image and writer/artist Kody Chamberlain this month usher in the softcover release of their Spinetingler Award winning series, Sweets: A New Orleans Crime Story.
What is immediately noticeable about Sweets is the rough an’ ready style of art that on first glance one could accuse of being unfinished and a million miles away from what would be acceptable in the average superhero comic; that is though, only to the intolerant eye.
First, what should be understood about this scratchy, gritty, warts an’ all style is that it works especially well for crime comics, channelling that stale coffee and alcohol stench and crumpled atmosphere of desperation that works so well in books and movies about bottom of the barrel detectives. Think, Ben Templesmith minus the dreamlike creepiness. Second, the amount of dedication required to be both the writer and artist (not to mention colourist, letterer and designer, in this case) on a comic, that you have conceived, is immense. It’s not like the paycheck for producing an indie comic is staggering (unless you’re lucky enough to sell the rights to Hollywood), so if what you see on the page maybe isn’t as professional looking as you are used to, the passion evident in every panel of every page more than makes up for it. You are reading a story that the author feels deserves to be told, and they have the enthusiasm, savvy and balls to make it happen. This is most certainly the case with Sweets.
For the majority of the book we are presented characters and a plotline that if not unoriginal certainly have a ring of familiarity. There is the heavy drinking cop, overcome by the death of his daughter and an impending divorce, who is being given one last chance to redeem himself before being kicked off the force, his long suffering partner that is doing his level best to act as buffer between his buddy and the blowhard boss that has to be a hardass because the damn mayor is on his back, then there is the faceless killer who’s motivations are a total mystery.
Would this have been the case until the very end, the book would’ve been a fun but forgettable read of little note, but Sweets contains an investigative element that will have you somewhat intrigued until the slightly ambiguous climax that may turn the entire story on its head, alter the genre in which you think you are reading and begs you to reread the book with this information in mind.
Not having yet reread the book as of this writing, I am not at liberty to state if the plot is a work of great intelligence or riddled with holes, but the very fact that I am wanting to give it another read means that it has accomplished something that very few comics ever have, to my mind at least.
So, potentially a work of greatness or lazily written, on first inspection Sweets is an entertaining, atmospheric and passionately told crime story. Maybe the artwork won’t be to your tastes, but if nothing else you’ll come away with a killer recipe for pecan pralines.
B grade – for originality
B- grade – for storytelling
C- grade – for artwork
B grade – for potential
Overall grade – C+ (but could possibly be better)