The White Suits is the strongest offering I’ve seen from Dark Horse in months, probably since the first volume of Dream Thief wrapped up last fall. Frank J Barbiere and Toby Cypress have created a comic book that works on multiple levels. I appreciate the intense action sequences, the cathartic violence, the creative layouts, and the unique artwork. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of detective stories or plots focused on organized crime. I was also disappointed by the rapid, dialogue intense denouement.
The titular White Suits are violent gang, and more of a plot catalyst than significant players. When the White Suits appear, each member gets a close up portrait panel showing off each character’s personal style. This suggests to me that Barbiere and Cypress have developed some details and back story for each White Suit, but not included this information in the current volume. I could see myself being interested in another series focusing on the history of the White Suits exclusively.
The primary point of view characters are Prizrak, a ‘derelict amnesiac’, and (former) FBI agent Sarah Anderson, who believes that the White Suits are responsible for her father’s disappearance during the Cold War. Prizrak and Anderson work together to resolve their pasts, meanwhile there is also a slightly convoluted subplot involving organized crime in New York City and Russian mercenaries. The first few issues bring the various characters together and lay the ground for an intense action sequence climax at the end of issue 3.
Ultimately, the details don’t impact the outcome of the story. The mystery of the White Suits, questions about the disappearance of Anderson’s father, and lingering ambiguity around Prizrak’s past are all explained away with lots and lots of words in issue 4. While the actual explanations are relatively satisfying, the rapid crash course in Barbiere’s revisionist history was somewhat jarring. I would have preferred to unravel the mystery slowly. Cypress already does an amazing job with visually supporting a complicated story; he could have aided the reader in learning the secrets of The White Suits using a more subtle method than an expository dump.
Cypress provides stylized art in black and white, with red accents and a few fleeting hints of additional color. The lines are loose, gestural, organic, and suggestive of movement. The layouts are varied, show details when necessary, and keep the reader well oriented in larger action sequences. My favorite example, in the third issue, two separate timelines are subtely distinguished by background color. and contrast each other brilliantly on opposing pages. Independent of the story, the artwork is beautiful and justifies checking out a few issues.
I must point out that Cypress has a very definite style in The White Suits. This means that there is a slight adjustment period when you pick up the book. Don’t try to pick up an issue after bingeing on Bat-X-Man-Original-Injustice, or whatever you mainstream kids are reading these days, approach this artwork with a fresh pair of eyes. If you read this on your computer, make sure you have a screen large enough to appreciate the spectacular two page layouts. If you try to read The White Suits on your phone I will punch you in the face.
In addition to creator and scripter, Barbiere is also credited as letterer. On the one hand, the lettering stands out well from the artwork. On the other, I felt that the lettering didn’t mesh with the artwork well, seemingly an afterthought. It's a small complaint, but contributes to the sense that Cyrpess is best part of the book.
If you like crime drama, action, stylized violence, unique artwork, and creative layouts, then I would recommend the first volume of The White Suits. If you're looking for subtle story telling and a satisfying reading experience, maybe take a pass.