(Boom! Studios, 2014)
Written by Bryce Carlson
Illustrated by Vanessa R. Del Rey
Colors by Archie Van Buren
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
I’ve gotten past the idea that the awesome cover art that peeks over the dividers on comic store shelves matches the art inside. My younger self was burned more than once on the deal. With Hit 1955 I was pleasantly surprised. The awesome cover art only opened into pages and pages of similarly awesome interior art.
Bryce Carlson (Fanboys vs. Zombies, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) has revived the 50’s crime novel with this trade from Boom! Studios. Carlson has written a comic that reeks of noir, from the stench of stale cigarette smoke to last night’s spilled whiskey.
Detective Harvey Slater is a man’s man. He one tough-nosed son of a bitch. Drinks and smokes, does all the things that we in the 21st century know is a really unhealthy way to live, and doesn’t care a whit about it. Harvey is about neck high in trouble, with a dump truck full just above with a load. He is a member of a shady group of cops who provide an essential service to the city of Los Angeles; they kill those men who are a problem to the city. Mobsters, pimps, hustlers, anyone who may bring down the property value has a price on their head that’s been put there by Slater’s boss, Captain Blair. But like all good detective stories, we slowly learn that Blair has more than just the interests of the city in mind, and it comes down to Slater to figure it out.
Carlson embraces the noir genre whole-heartedly. The tropes in this book are those that you would expect in one of those novels with the “trashy” covers, one with a scantily clad woman and a smoking gun. The characters are stereotypically wonderful, and the twists and turns, although tough to guess, make sense and when you look back on them, are kind of predictable. Of course hindsight is 20/20, and because Carlson is embracing a certain genre here, the plot twists and turns work perfectly and only serve to enhance the story.
Vanessa R. Del Rey (Creepy, The Empty Man) brings her not inconsiderable talent to this book. There was a moment when I opened the PDF and, upon seeing the cover, thought, “how cool would it be if the whole book was done in this style?” Del Rey did exactly that, recreating the feeling of those 50’s cover images inside the book. Of course that style is only accentuated by the masterful coloring work of Archie Van Buren (Soldier Zero, Deathmatch). The muted tones and deep shading creates accents on Del Rey’s pencils that soften the edges while bringing great focus to the whole image.
Hit 1955 feels like the Mel Gibson flick Payback, in that Harvey Slater doesn’t take no for an answer, and will do what he must to get the answers he seeks. This is a comic that reads like a novel, and is wholly satisfying through to the end. Bryce Carlson, Vanessa R. Del Rey, and Archie Van Buren have captured the 50’s crime novel and can hold it there as long as they wish, because I’ll keep reading this book until they decide to take it out. (Preferably with two quick ones to the noggin.)
Reviewed by Brad Gischia (@comicwasteland)