The smartest man on The Outhouse Eli Katz reviews Sweets #1 from Image Comics!
Credits & Solicit Info:
SWEETS #1 (of 5)
story, art & cover KODY CHAMBERLAIN
32 PAGES / FC
A spree killer terrorizes New Orleans days before Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. Detective Curt Delatte just buried his only daughter, and he’s in no condition to work. But when the bodies pile up, he masks his grief and joins the hunt through the bowels of the Big Easy. It won’t be long until his city—and his evidence—gets washed away.
CHAMBERLAIN, a native of southern Louisiana, makes his writing debut with this dark and gritty miniseries.
RETAILER WARNING: MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES
Watch a few episodes of LAW & ORDER or catch an old Steve McQueen movie, and you'll see just about every major cliché in detective fiction. The drunk cop, the divorced cop, the tragic cop, the cynical cop, the loyal partner, the hard-ass boss, the sleazy lawyer and, my favorite, the cop with the outrageously expensive sports car. A good crime story will take one or two of these clichés and twist them unexpectedly in a new direction. An adequate crime story will rely heavily on one or two clichés to propel the story forward, but will add a few interesting touches to make an overly familiar story feel somewhat original. A bad crime story will string a number of clichés together and, in the process, remind you of all the better books and movies that it's copying.
Kody Chamberlain's new crime comic, SWEETS, falls somewhere between adequate and bad. The first issue takes the cop clichés I listed above and manages to squeeze them all into twenty-two pages. The story centers around two New Orleans cops, Detectives Jeff Matthews and Curt Delatte, as they hunt down the most overused villain in crime fiction, the anonymous serial killer. Matthews is a stylish tough guy, who drives around town in a 1970s muscle car -- a Plymouth Barracuda fastback, if I'm not mistaken -- and listens to classic funk. His partner, Delatte, is a hard-drinking detective whose daughter has just died and whose wife is about to leave him. The two of them shuffle around a dangerous city that is days away from being hit by Hurricane Katrina.
There is nothing particularly terrible about this set up, but there is nothing particularly engaging about it, either. We've seen this all a million times before: The serial killer leaving behind a signature at each crime scene -- in this case candy -- to show the police that the murders are related; the cops under pressure by a foul-mouthed lieutenant to solve the murders or risk losing their badges; the city's political elites more interested in covering their asses or jumping into bed with hookers than in doing their jobs; and the cops unable to trust anyone besides themselves and their streetwise snitches. It's too early, of course, to dismiss SWEETS entirely. This is just the first issue in a five-issue miniseries. So the rest of the story might blow apart the clichés that have been introduced in issue 1. But, man, there sure are a lot of clichés to blow apart.
Now, while the story is unimpressive, the art is downright amazing. Chamberlain's illustrations are at once realistic and highly stylized. He draws rich, detailed backgrounds that show us what New Orleans really looks like, and at the same time he uses a mix of splatter spots and free-hand lines to show us that this world is fragile, ready to come apart. It's really the perfect style for a dark, disturbing crime story. And so however this project ends, as either a masterpiece or an adequate but ultimately uninspired miniseries, I hope that Chamberlain has a long career illustrating crime comics. Based on his work here, he could be the next Sean Phillips.
So, is SWEETS #1 worth picking up? To be honest, it's too early for me to pass judgment on a book that looks formulaic but has hints of greatness. I'll let you know after issue 2 comes out.