Friday, December 2, 2016

Review: Blue Estate Volume 1

Blue Estate Volume 1 Blue Estate Volume 1 by Viktor Kalvachev
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m referring here to the first two collections of the series. I like the second a good bit more since the first is almost too frenetic to follow, but the success of the second is built on clarifying some of the chaos of the first. So, together, they work better than either would apart.

It’s hard not to get distracted – generally in a good way – by the art here. Despite its Varga like covers, its page art is quick and caricatured. Things move, and there are occasional multi-frame wordless passages of violence or movement. I can’t always follow the action, but the motion is striking. You get the feeling you’re watching a movie that can’t quite pull of its special effects but that deserves credit for trying them.

The story is, eventually, worthy of such art. It’s tangled: movie star Bruce Maddox wants to kill his ex-movie star wife. Her brother is involved in a transaction with the impulsive (and not so bright) son of the town’s leading Mafioso, who is in turn dealing with a shaky peace with the Russian mob. Maddox wants to make the murder look like an accident, so he’s hired a fall-guy in a private eye who’s a frustrated cop and the son of one of the city’s top policemen. And that covers something more than half of what’s going on.

Things work because they insist on playing with the genre, giving us goofy characters with sometimes arbitrary motives. It’s fun but self-conscious fun. For instance, when Tony, our dim-bulb mafia scion, wants to turn a quick profit, he buys a mansion on the cheap only to discover – too late because of his haste – that it’s termite infested.

Ultimately that self-consciousness makes it seem a little hammy. It gives too clear a sense that the writers are proud of themselves for pulling something off.

The best graphic novels – for me, currently, that’s almost anything by Brubaker and Phillips – feel like good movies rendered on paper. This, while fun, feels more like a guilty-pleasure TV show. I’m in for at least volume three (already ordered) so there’s something to it, but, for now, it’s better than most but a notch or two beneath the best in the field.

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