It isn't uncommon for creators to accomplish their world-building by approaching their story from two disparate ends, with the intention to have them meet somewhere in the middle. Setting two different storylines on a collision course is a valid choice for story construction, but things become problematic when one of those threads simply doesn't hold up to the promise of the other. This is where The White Suits #1 falls short.
The issue focuses on two narrative spaces. The first focuses on an unnamed amnesiac who, between catching glimpses of a violent memory in the former Soviet Union, notices that he's being pursued by a mysterious woman. This is where The White Suits #1 really sings. The uncertainty of the narrator's headspace makes for compelling reading, and the thematic chaos is followed through in Toby Cypress' bold, distinctive artwork. Cypress' impressionistic rendering of the story is abstracted and refracted through the prism of faulty memory, appropriate for a narrative about an uncertain and unreliable mind, particularly in this Cold War milieu (which will always be fertile creative ground, especially in comics).
Cypress approaches the issue with a free-flowing, gestural aesthetic, incorporating collage, high-contrast lighting, and jagged, inky black shadows that pushes comic book dynamism to an exciting place. The exaggerated edginess, boasting a high-contrast black and white and red palette rendered by Cypress himself, is a keeps things kinetic and engaging, even when the story shifts into an unpleasant, shallow place. When the issue catches up with the titular gang of sartorially matching enforcers, they bust in on the criminal underworld and mete out wanton violence. That's all there is to this lengthy middle section. The script by Frank Barbiere, who does fine work in his raucous and fun Five Ghosts series at Image, veers from the haunting and hard-edged mystery of the first five pages towards a completely in-your-face gorefest that lacks any real depth or sense of atmosphere. The entire middle section of the issue lacks any subtlety, and frankly engages in a violent and cynical way to establish the violence and cynicism of the world of The White Suits, without adding much more of substance. It's violence for its own sake, and the cavalier attitude is simply uninteresting. The difference in tone between the first section of the issue and the second is so stark that they don't feel like they're coming from the same story. There is the slightest connection between the early pages and what comes immediately after, but if it weren't for Cypress' art moving things along, there wouldn't be much to truly latch onto.
The damage done by the second act is so great that when the story shifts back to the first two characters (the amnesiac and his pursuer), any interest is drained and the cliffhanger the issue ends with lacks all resonance due to all the page space wasted on the pages of dismemberment and gangland posturing. The story may be shooting for "badass," but it lands closer to "ill-defined" and "shallow." It's a shame, really. The White Suits #1 starts off beautifully, promising a fascinating treatise on memory and Cold War intrigue, but devolves into a stock action piece that suffers from a jarring change in tone. Barbiere and Cypress will have to do a lot in the next three issues to redeem the apparent missteps in The White Suits #1, but considering the good they do in the first five pages of this issue, that task is not impossible. At the very least, Cypress' art should continue to thrill and mesmerize.
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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch
As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well. You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.
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