In Review: Noir #1

The cover: This is not a sight you’d want to encounter in real life. The Black Sparrow and the Shadow are in an alley looking at the reader in the worst possible way: she readying her whip and he pointing his pistols. I like the image and I like the blues and reds of the coloring, especially in that red sky. Good job by Ardian Syaf. Overall grade: A

The story: The Black Sparrow is the book’s focus with the Shadow making a first issue appearance to launch this series. Victor Gischler gets things going in excellent style with a museum robbery and confrontation, which then smoothly transitions to Lamont Cranston’s mansion as the Black Sparrow has broken in and is holding Margo at gunpoint so that she might speak with the man of the house. Though this scene only lasts two pages, everyone’s dialogue is awesome with Margo’s cracking me up. Esmeralda reveals she needs the Shadow’s help through a flashback and Cranston’s response to her story is awesome. The two agree to join forces and go to a new, ancient setting whose history also requires a flashback. I thought this a solid opening story, even if it seemed there were a lot of flashbacks and limited characters to pin an antagonist badge on. I was unsurprised with whom the baddies were, but I still enjoyed the plotting. I wasn’t happy with how the Shadow and the Sparrow part ways, but it was necessary to get him out of the series and introduce the next headliner in the final two panels. Overall grade: A-

The art: I knew in the first two pages that I would not be disappointed by Andrea Mutti’s art: the museum is an excellently rendered locale and the policemen investigating the theft even better–Great emotions on their faces and I love the whip work going on. The transition between panels five and six on Page 2 w2ould do Stanley Kubrick proud. I was also pleased with Margo being held captive by the Sparrow; her face told a story without any dialogue. Anyone that’s craving “good girl” art should be pleased by Esmeralda’s flashback tale. As often as my eye looked at certain…uh, details in that sequence, I was very happy to see that Mutti made the object of desire very obvious; something I should have been paying attention to had I not been so distracted. This book looks great throughout and I’m going to be seeking out Mutti’s work on other books. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Really nice work is also done by colorist Vladimir Popov. For a book titled Noir I was essentially expecting a book in black and white, aping the style of movies I associate with that word. I was happily surprised that Popov can create a noir atmosphere with a full palate of colors; the best being the large panel on Page 19: I loved the blue-purple night and how the Shadow’s scarf and Sparrow’s flesh stood out against everything in the latter two panels. Excellent work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The expected letterer’s trio (dialogue, narration, and sound effects) done expertly by Rob Steen, who delivers some of the best sounds I’ve seen in some time. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Noir is a welcome addition to Dynamite’s roster of classic hero books. An engaging story with some stand out visuals are going to make the mysteries of the night fun to follow. Overall grade: A


Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years. He’s since moved to a high school where he’s taught 9th grade and currently teaches 10th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.

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