It’s been a while since the artistic collective known as 44Flood put out a new comic via their publishing deal with IDW, and while I admit that the last effort to go out under their label, Ben Templesmith’s dystopian sci-fi nightmare The Squidder, is certainly a tough act to follow, if the first issue of the new four-parter Victorie City is anything to go by, it should be more than up to the task — even though I’ll be the first to admit that, perhaps more than any other comic out there on the stands right now, this one’s going to divide people on a purely aesthetic level almost instantly.
First, though, a few words about the story — writer Keith Carmack appears to be constructing a deceptively standard-issue hard-boiled noir here, with our ostensible “hero,” police detective Hektor Ness, playing the role of one good cop in a city full of crooked ones. He’s finally decided that he’s had enough of the corruption and sleaze his co-workers (particularly his partner) engage in as a matter of course, so he’s taken it upon himself to clean up the force single-handedly, one dirty cop at a time. Needless to say, his superiors are less than thrilled about his little endeavor and soon enough he finds that he’s the one in hot water rather than everybody else. Honestly, though, that’s probably the least of his problems, because a violently psychotic (and as yet unnamed) serial killer has just hit town, and he’s leaving a trail of bodies in his wake that would make a third-world military dictator blush. He really seems to relish his “work,” as well, given the blood-curdling dialogue that literally oozes from his mouth and the clinical calculation with which he goes about wreaking havoc. These two principal characters are on a collision course from the outset, then — even if they don’t know it until the end of this issue, which closes with a striking and memorable double-page splash of them facing each other down.
Hmmm — what could possibly be so “divisive” about all this, then, you ask? Well, I’m tempted to give an easy answer here and simply say “the art,” but truth be told, Vincent Nappi’s scratchy, rapid-fire, visceral illustrations, combined with the pared-down color palette he employs, are only a part of the overall “DIY” ethos of Victorie City. Jessi Adrignola’s lettering is likewise about as far-removed from the industry standard as you can imagine, and when you put all this under either of the book’s visually-arresting-but-highly-unconventional covers (Ben Templesmith’s wrap being at the top of this review and Nappi’s “B” cover being shown directly above), the result is something that wouldn’t look or feel out of place on the ‘zine rack of your local punk record store 15 or 20 years ago. The fact that it’s happening in the here and now is certainly worth getting excited about if you’re an old-school indie publication fan like me, but if you’re used to a more professionally-executed look to your reading material and frankly can’t abide anything else, well — this just ain’t gonna be the book for you.
To which I say “tough shit — your loss,” even though I know it’ll make me sound like an asshole (or maybe that should be even more of an asshole). Honestly, whether the look of Victorie City is something you’re wholeheartedly on board with, or something you need to “get past,” the simple fact of the matter is that the story here doesn’t just “grab you,” it straight-up punches you in the nuts right from the opening page, and it doesn’t let you up once you’re writhing on the ground. You say it “looks ugly”? Well, that’s kinda the point, because the world it’s showing you is ugly in the extreme, as are most of the people in it. Go find your dose of “feel-good” someplace else, friends, because it’s not happening here.
And so, now that we’ve sent everyone else scurrying back to their Marvel and DC four-color capes-n’-tights “reassurance therapy” sessions, I can safely tell you few misanthropic troglodytes who remain that Victorie City is almost certainly the comic for you. It’s as subtle as a sledgehammer to the skull and as welcoming as a brass-knuckle sandwich. It’s the kind of book that waves its hand at you and says “howdy neighbor!” with an evil-ass grin while it’s standing on its side of the fence and pissing on your lawn. If a comic book could walk right up to you and tell you “hey, that teenage daughter of yours gets prettier and prettier every day when I see her walking home from her school at 3:30 in the afternoon to your house at 1432 Elmwood Lane, I might just have to introduce myself to her one of these days” — it would be this one. No prisoners are taken here and no fucks are given about it.
Am I “all in” for the next three issues? You’d better believe it.