Writer: Lucy Shaw
Art/Letters: Daryl S
Colours: Tommie Kelly
New York City, 1945, Post World War 2…
A society still shaken by the horrific events and catastrophic loss, attempts to rebuild it’s faith in humanity. None more so than Detective Joseph Roberts, having survived the war and returned to duty at the Brooklyn Police Department, Roberts will face his greatest challenge yet!
Haunted by the memories of his time in service Roberts encounters a new enemy. A sadistic killer is at large, leaving their victims mutilated beyond recognition. Can Roberts and his rookie Jacobs find this monster before they strike again? Or like the victims they so brutally slaughter, will they remain faceless…
Detective 1945 brings us a noir tale of a spree of murders where the faces of the victims are removed and it is up to our heroic duo of Detectives Roberts and Jacobs to put a face to the killer (see what I did there ) before the body count can grow any further. Roberts is the older of the pair, newly returned from the way, and he is no stranger to war, bloodlust, and horror, while his partner, though he too served, seems younger and possibly more innocent.
The opening pages neatly set the scene, and the tone, for us. A faceless body is found, one detective – Jacobs – is shocked while the other – Roberts – makes a joke which, in the best traditions of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy, is really cheesy and almost a pun. Speaking of traditions the closing panel of page 2 gives us our first look at the killer, with a line reminiscent of Norman Bates that makes you know that this one is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
I don’t want to spoil too much but I will say that there are some nice clues along the way that shine a light on who the killer might be but I don’t think that the idea behind this was so much a whodunit as a hardboiled crime story.
As that sort of story it works really quite well. The dialogue is reminiscent of its time and, as I mentioned above, follows the traditions of hardboiled and noir fiction of the 20th century. There is also a second story line, told in flashbacks, which shows us a glimpse of Robert’s experiences of the war, and a very telling phrase that haunts him: “save us”.
There are some creepy panels throughout this issue: the victim’s skinless face; the killer licking the knife; and the ‘family’ arrayed so neatly in the basement (for the record, just like in the movies, if you are hunting a killer never – NEVER – split up!) to name a few.
Panels brings us on to the artwork. This is a comic filled with clean lines and precision work which is precisely what the artist is best known for. When combined with the full palette of colours that Kelly brings to the table it is definitely a treat for the eyes.
Now, as no review can be completely positive I will say that I am not sure that the pacing was correct in issue 1. I think that we were shown a little too much in one go and, as such, the trepidation and suspense wasn’t built up enough; seeing the first victim, being introduced to the leads, getting to the first twist, and finding out the identity of the killer and what they wanted was a lot in one go. I would have liked to have seen it go a bit slower but that may be personal taste.
The artwork, while really rather lovely, was maybe too lovely, and the colours too bright. When I first heard of this comic, and its subject matter, I was expecting artwork to go with the dark contents – maybe something similar to The Walking Dead in the harsher line work. There was also almost too much sparseness in the panel work, and I’d have preferred to see some more ‘busy’ backgrounds and even chances taken with layouts. The colours, as I said, were bright and vibrant and, for some scenes, maybe something harsher would’ve worked better; I’d definitely have liked to have seen a clear delineation in colour palette used for the main story and the flashback, and especially for a scene where a character is drugged, where colours could’ve been used more to show the effects happening.
However, small niggles aside, this was a well-crafted story, with the script and artwork showing a level of professionalism you don’t often see in a debut comic.
I will definitely be coming back for issue 2 and if it is as good as this – but hopefully even better – then they will have a sure fire hit on their hands.
Detective 1945 is out 1st October 2014.